My Big Idea: How suits stress inspired former Dell worker to create Hailo-style dry cleaning service
Published 03/12/2015 | 02:30
Evan Gray (30), from Sandymount in Dublin, is the founder of dry cleaning delivery service Laundrie.
"I previously worked in corporate finance for Dell and while I loved my job, I always knew I wanted to own my own business. I was constantly tinkering around with ideas for companies.
"The inspiration for Laundrie was actually a problem I experienced at work. I wore suits a lot which had to be professionally laundered, but my local dry cleaners was usually closed by the time I left work.
At the same time I was starting to notice the emergence of "on-demand" apps, like Hailo for taxis, a fantastic service. I realised the Hailo model could be easily applied to laundry. The idea has been successful in other markets so I knew it could work in Ireland.
The result, Laundrie, covers all of Dublin county. Users download the app, sign up and can instantly request one of our vans to pick up their laundry, which will be delivered back after a professional cleaning, 48 hours later.
Prices are the same, or in some cases cheaper, than traditional laundry prices; €14 for a suit, €3 for a shirt or €25 for ten shirts. I commissioned a software development company to build the app in October 2014 and left my job at Dell in March of this year to pursue the business full time. We launched in August. It took quite a bit longer than anticipated to develop the app; that was one of the biggest challenges. That experience taught me the importance of being very specific and prescriptive when it comes to contracts. But we got there.
I originally worked with an Indian company on the technology side because I had great faith in working remotely from my time at Dell, but have since switched to a company based in Limerick.
There is a lot to be said for being able to physically meet with your developers.
My business model relies heavily on partnerships. Laundrie's employees don't do the actual laundering, that is handled by independent, carefully selected partners who have been in the business for years. What my team does is essentially logistics, the ordering and delivery process.
The tech stuff is actually the easy part, it's the logistics side which businesses like ours grapple with every day, regardless of what they are delivering.
We use contracted drivers with their own vehicles, meaning I didn't have to invest in a fleet early on. That is the only way to scale a logistics business without spending crazy money, I think.
Finding the right laundry partners was difficult; a lot of businesses in this sector are very traditional and were not interested in hearing about a new business model. I was also very selective in terms of quality. There is a lot of trust involved in handing over clothes.
The response to Laundrie so far has been fantastic, particularly in and around Dublin city centre. The business now employs five people.
The first month was admittedly slow - I had assumed digital advertising would be enough for a digital product but it wasn't. We got a better response from traditional advertising, particularly radio.
I have financed everything myself but will look for investment next year to expand, in other Irish cities and into Europe. I am always looking for dry-cleaning partners who would be interested in working with us."