We talked to Deyan Dimitrov of Laundryheap about laundry and dry cleaning. The following is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Deyan Dimitrov: We’re doing well, thank you for asking. Despite the challenging circumstances, I’m very grateful to be surrounded by my family during this time. That said, juggling the demands of remote working, childcare, and schooling has certainly been a challenge!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Laundryheap.
Deyan Dimitrov: while I’ve always had a keen interest in business, the inspiration for Laundryheap hit me largely by coincidence. It wasn’t long after completing my Master’s degree in business management in London – and then later working in the startup space – that I found myself contemplating a business idea that would go on to become what Laundryheap is today.
My experience of standing outside a closed dry cleaner after forgetting to collect a suit on time led me to question why there were so few alternatives available to other time-strapped individuals like myself. I wasn’t the first and certainly wouldn’t be the last person to be in that situation, so I set out to establish an alternative. That same year in 2014, Laundryheap was officially launched in London.
How does Laundryheap innovate?
Deyan Dimitrov: We’re constantly monitoring consumer behaviors and trends. Having bootstrapped the company for 3 years, we’re very fortunate to retain a lot of control over the business and operate with a great deal of flexibility. Over the years, this has given us the space to innovate at a greater pace than some of our competitors.
Just last summer, we noticed that many of our customers were becoming increasingly concerned about their impact on the environment. While we already offered our customers the option of a delivery made via a green travel route, we knew that we needed to do more. As leaders in our field and a company delivering thousands of clothing items a day, we recognize our responsibility to ensure that our business is as green as possible. Taking our next steps as a fully committed, environmentally conscious business, we launched an eco-friendly e-bike service a few months later. With the capability to slash CO2 emissions from transport by up to 50%, our e-bikes help us reach more customers living in areas congested by traffic while slashing carbon emissions in the capital.
Likewise, amidst the pandemic, we’ve shifted operations a number of times to ensure we can keep our customers safe during a pandemic while lending that all-important helping hand. This has involved a virus-targeting wash service, contactless delivery, and key partnerships with those in the hospitality and charity industries.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Deyan Dimitrov: With the country ramping up its cleaning and sanitation efforts, our services’ demand grew during national lockdown periods. While it was a very fortunate position to be in, the demand also came with a responsibility to keep our customers safe and ensure that our services aligned with what they needed most during such a challenging time.
The pandemic had spotlighted on-demand businesses like ours, so we definitely did a lot of souls searching during the early months. We concluded that we ultimately wanted to offer our users a helping hand in any way that we could. If that meant going beyond our traditional services or working in collaboration with other businesses, then we would do just that.
As part of the process, we established a range of partnerships with charities and businesses working with vulnerable members of society and arranged for our services or cleaning supplies to be made available to them.
Alongside all of this, we launched in the US in September 2020, where a similar demand for on-demand laundry and cleaning services had grown. At the moment, we’re coping pretty well and are focused on perfecting our services in all markets, ensuring that we’re ready for anything 2021 throws our way.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Deyan Dimitrov: One of the most difficult and yet rewarding choices I’ve made was the decision to bootstrap the business for our first three years. Launching in 2014 amidst the on-demand boom meant that many of our VC-backed competitors were growing at lightning speed and, at times, it felt like we might never keep up. However, as we steadily reinvested our profits back into areas that meant most to our users, it meant that we were able to grow a loyal customer base that valued our services and unique way of doing things. I’m incredibly grateful for the decision we made and still appreciate the greatest lesson it taught me: patience!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Deyan Dimitrov: We have different competitors in every market, and given the strange circumstances we’ve found ourselves in over the past year, they often change. With new startups emerging every day, we’re constantly looking for new ways to innovate or set ourselves apart from the (growing) crowd. We’re proud to hold onto our guaranteed 24-hour turnaround, a promise that no other competitor is able to offer, and are delighted to be making strides in other areas, such as our efforts to be an environmentally responsible business. Our e-bikes will make their way across our markets over the coming months, and we’re excited to be laying the groundwork for further growth over the next year.
Overall, I think it’s our commitment to providing our customers with a personalized and reliable service that has helped us amass such a loyal customer base. It’s not by coincidence that the majority of our business is repeat custom!
Your final thoughts?
Deyan Dimitrov: Given the challenging times we’re living in, it’s never been more important for businesses to keep innovating. Retaining relevance with customers goes beyond just being there. It encourages us to provide the personal touches that no one else can and lookout for new ways to make things at home a little more manageable. During these uncertain times, it could be these very touches could lighten the biggest loads and keep businesses afloat.
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