Editor's Note: The photograph taken by Issa Villarreal of a shoeshiner in Monterrey, Mexico, who is marketing himself via YouTube first appeared on the blog Ocho Cuartos [es]. She follows it up with an entry on her blog Issa [es] where she interviews the shoeshiner about his reasons for using citizen media to help his business. This is a translation and republished with permission.
Photo by Issa Villarreal. The sign reads, “Search on YouTube or Google for The Shoeshiner with Two Brushes”
It is easy to distinguish Juan Luna from other shoeshiners in downtown Monterrey, Mexico. His stand, located at the intersection of Escobedo and Padre Mier, has a sign inviting passers-by to search on YouTube and on Google for his video titled, “The Shoeshiner with Two Brushes.”
“It was my idea,” he explains while attending to one of his clients. “The idea was to promote myself to reach more people. Break free from old customs.”
Juan is ambidextrous: he takes a brush in each hand and shines a shoe with each one. He considers himself skillful and also innovative for the way that he works: he adds teflon to the polish so that water and dust slides off the shoes. That way, the protection can last 2 weeks and he still charges the same as the rest.
In his YouTube video, one can see how he uses two brushes, as well as his daily inspiration: a photograph of his family. This short clip – a minute in duration – has been online for six months and has already drawn 4,500 visits since May 2008.
He has ten years of experience as a shoeshiner. It was a few months ago, when he looked for a sponsor (a wedding company in Monterrey) to record and edit his video of his stand in the heart of the city, where he has been for a year.
“My clients encourage me because there are no other that shines with two brushes because I am ambidextrous. We are going to make other types of videos and not just the funny ones that are on YouTube,” said Juan.
“Clients have arrived because they saw me on the internet,” he explains when asked about the impact of publishing his video. “Someone recommended (the video) or they saw it by chance and they became curious to see him in person.”
“The best shoeshiner in the world” is his promotional slogan. He says he goes online once or twice a week. He also visits YouTube to watch funny videos.
Juan is not shy when it comes to talk about his strategy and about his confidence that he has with the digital media. “One of the reasons (for the video) is that everyone who appears on YouTube is that you never get to meet them,” he said, “and I am the only one that you can see in person and meet me.”