AN innovative Ballinlough native is turning his passion for sneakers into a viable business after he established Sneaky Clean - a premium sneaker cleaning service.
At the helm of this clever new business is Nicky Dunlea, 26, who originally hails from Ballinlough but is now living in Watergrasshill.
Sneaky Clean is a passion project turned ultimate success story for Nicky, who also works as a full-time care assistant for adults with intellectual disabilities.
"I’ve always loved collecting sneakers and looking after them properly.
"Around six years ago my aunt gave me a cleaning kit.
"I began posting before and after pictures on my personal social media and it piqued interest amongst friends and family.
"A close friend of mine then came to me and encouraged me to start Sneaky Clean.
"In October I officially set up the business and it’s grown slowly but steadily since then," Nicky told The Echo.
Indeed, 'steady' is the operative word with close to 3,500 people following Sneaky Clean on Instagram.
"I've had people messaging me asking if the page is real because they think the results are so good.
"They think that we are just buying new shoes for the 'after' picture, but that's definitely not the case!
"Of course, some shoes are beyond a deep clean and we have to state that but there’s a lot that can be done to revive and revamp a pair of sneakers," Nicky said.
Nicky has joined forces with another Ballinlough business, Barber Shop, 16a which is located opposite the church on the Ballinlough Road as a drop-off and collection point for customers.
"It’s really easy, there’s no appointment needed.
"People can send us a DM on social media to see what can be achieved from a deep clean.
"They then drop the shoes off at 16a and are given a docket and contacted when the shoes are ready for collection.
"Generally, it’s 1-3 days."
The Sneaky Clean enterprise isn’t just limited to runners either.
"As the business has grown, I look after a wider variety of shoes including football boots, golf shoes, kids' shoes and high heels.
"Initially, the target market was 18-25 but now I’m seeing a wider spectrum of ages get in touch.
"The cleaning process then depends on what the shoe is made of and I also do minor repair work," Nicky said.
Nicky is also hoping the new business will have a positive impact environmentally as Sneaky Clean is all about repairing instead of constantly purchasing new shoes.
"Rather than constantly buying shoes and contributing to fast fashion and the detrimental effect it has on the environment, I think revamping items in your wardrobe is a great idea and something which more people are getting on board with.
"A pair of Nike runners can cost up to €250, which is a lot of money.
"The standard deep clean I do is just €20 and it can give a pair of shoes a whole new lease of life."