UTICA — Michigan’s most experienced air duct cleaner, Safety King International, recently opened its first international operation – Safety King Southern Africa. The new licensed affiliate owner Owen Mutetwa, a Zimbabwean and ultra-marathon runner, launched his new Johannesburg business late last year after successfully completing an intensive two-week, hands-on training course while still finding time to train daily to compete in the world-renowned Comrades Marathon.
“Since 1985, Safety King has been conducting air duct cleaning training courses from its headquarters in southeast Michigan for companies wanting to become one of our licensed affiliates,” Mike Palazzolo, founder, said. “Most of the students were people from other parts of the U.S. and Canada, but some have travelled from Singapore, Australia, the Virgin Islands and other distant locations. The trip to South Africa, however, is the first time we’ve sent someone overseas.”
Owen found the training extremely helpful, giving him the opportunity to put theory into practice under the watchful eye of certified trainer Christopher Nevens and paving the way for the launch of his new air duct cleaning business in December 2012.
“Chris was brilliant and highly passionate when discussing and delivering training,” said Owen, whose crew had never cleaned air ducts before but was able to demonstrate what they had learned on an actual job under Nevens’ watchful eye at the conclusion of the training. “I managed to quickly arrange a cleaning at a local pub. What an experience. Putting all the theory into practice, it could not have been any better. What a way of concluding our training. We came out of there more informed and able to proudly proclaim that Safety King Southern Africa is ready and open for business. Although we are small, the opportunities are as boundless as the sea and they are for us to harvest.”
Owen had a carpet cleaning business in Southern Africa and decided last year to move into air duct cleaning. After establishing his company late in 2012, Safety King International helped him build a website and worked with him by phone, Skype and email to help in the selection, ordering and installation of equipment for his new business. The new affiliate is expected to join the National Air Duct Cleaners Association as an international member sometime during 2013.
In addition to opening his new business, Owen also found time to train for the world-renowned Comrades Marathon, which he successfully completed on June 2, 2013. The marathon, which has been run annually since 1921 (except during World War II), is a race of approximately 56 miles in the Kwazulu-Natal Province of South Africa between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It is the world’s largest and oldest ultra-marathon race. In this year’s race only 10,188 out of 19,907 entrants finished the race, including Owen with a time of 10 hours, 47 minutes.
“Owen sent us an email message on June 5, telling us he had completed the Comrades Marathon and was now home in Johannesburg ‘and walking.’ We took his being able to walk as a good sign,” Palazzolo joked. “We think Owen’s completing this ultra-marathon shows a little of what he is made of and we anticipate similar outstanding performance from his new company in Johannesburg.”