How I Built an On-Demand
Laundry and Dry Cleaning Service
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Deyan Dimitrov, CEO of Laundryheap, an on-demand laundry and dry-cleaning service founded in 2014.
The app offers time-strapped individuals the opportunity to get through their daily chores without having to compromise on other responsibilities. All customers need to do is book a collection slot with us and their laundry will be washed, ironed or dry cleaned, then returned to their door, all within 24 hours. People’s free time is now more precious than ever, and they don’t want to waste it doing errands and chores. Laundryheap offers a practical, quick and convenient solution to a common problem.
Laundryheap was established after one fateful evening that left me standing outside closed dry-cleaners, with my suit on the wrong side of the doors. I became frustrated by the lack of alternative options available and the idea for Laundryheap was born.
Laundryheap has been ranked as the 18th fastest growing tech company in the UK (Deloitte) and 73rd fastest-growing company in Europe (FT2020).
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I come from fairly humble beginnings, having started out in roles within e-commerce and business development. In 2014, I bit the bullet after my experience with one dry cleaner left me soaking wet and without my suit. I’d always wanted to have my own business and spotted an opportunity.
The idea for the business was born out of the idea that, in what’s becoming an increasingly digitised world, consumers want services that are quick, efficient and fast. We have access to anything within lightning speed, and that demand from consumers will only increase with time, forcing businesses to become smarter, faster, efficient and more reliable than ever before.
In the early years, Laundryheap was a bootstrapped start-up, meaning the brand started with no external funding, just my own personal funds. This was tough, but we had low overheads and I didn’t take a salary when the company first started. It makes me really proud to see how far we’ve come.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Looking back to the early years, Laundryheap’s first office also acted as our warehouse, which soon turned out to be impractical and unsustainable. We ended up changing offices three times that year and having to source new warehouse space. This wasted valuable time and money that could have been spent helping the business grow, so this was frustrating.
However, I’m fortunate that the experience has taught me to take smaller, more practical steps in growing the business. This approach has gone on to become instrumental to Laundryheap’s steady success.
We’ve also found that, as a start-up, there seems to be a real focus in securing venture capital funding. For us this wasn’t an option in the early years because we wanted the business to grow sustainably, so a lack of VS backing was one of our biggest challenges when we first started.
The pandemic has also presented a big challenge for our business, but it has also presented a real opportunity; so much so that we’re actually preparing to launch in a few new locations around the world in the coming months. So watch this space!
Who is your target market?
Our target market is working professionals who don’t necessarily have the time to do their own laundry, or have to get items cleaned with a tight turnaround time. Although this is our primary target market, we have an eclectic mix of customers from different age groups and professions. But most of them are based in cities.
We’ve found that, although we have a clear idea of who we want to sell to, there’s such a range of people who use our services: from busy working mums to time-strapped professionals. During lockdown, we actually noticed a surge in families using the app when washing machines were broken. We’re always happy to be able to help.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
We use a mixture of paid, earned and owned media to promote our services. So far, we’ve found the most effective marketing methods have been social media and PR.
The conversation around cleaning and hygiene was huge during the pandemic, so this offered a great opportunity for us to showcase our expertise and knowledge in the space. This meant we gained exposure in major national publications and lifestyle magazines. Being covered in those types of publications is great for our visibility and credibility as a brand.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
From day one we’ve always believed that great customer relationships are built on trust and reliability. This is something we’ve always been able to deliver on with our 24 hour turnaround guarantee. Because we’ve consistently delivered on this promise, our customers always come back for an affordable, reliable, quick service.
Laundryheap wasn’t completely unique when we started out with the likes of Laundrapp and other on-demand laundry services starting out. But fast forward 6 years and we are the market leader. Our competitors have either been bought by bigger brands, or gone into administration. We believe that our market share is partly due to the way in which we’ve grown. We started off by ‘bootstrapping’ our business, where we reinvested profits and my salary back into the business, enabling us to grow sustainably.
In terms of our relationship management with clients, we find that effective, consistent communication is essential when it comes to happy customers. In practical terms, this means regularly updating customers with their orders using their preferred communication channel, being consistent, and being reliable. It’s a case of being one step ahead of customers by predicting their needs.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
We started off small, in a warehouse based in London where we also kept the orders we processed. We’re now a team of 55 and expanding globally.
The Laundryheap team is made up of some of the most hardworking, talented people I know. I knew attracting people to the world of laundry wasn’t going to be the sexiest sell! But taking the time to find the right mix of talented people has meant I’ve been able to grow a brilliant team who make Laundryheap what it is.
We’ve built a culture that recognises everyone’s unique strengths and skills. We recognise each individual’s strengths and set goals accordingly. At the end of the day, we all work better when we are respected, challenged and allowed a work-life balance, so this is the attitude we adopt across the business when we communicate with each other.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
One thing I’ve learnt is that you should always take things slow and steady and try everything on a smaller scale, in a controlled environment, before scaling it up.
I’ve also learnt lots of important lessons about funding. Before I started Laundryheap I didn’t realise how many ways you can grow your business without VC funding.
We bootstrapped for three years. Without a large number of external investors to keep happy, I was able to put more back into my business and concentrate on building a profitable model whilst retaining equity and integrity.
This meant that we were ready to accept VC funding when the time was exactly right. This set us apart from our competitors and established us as a leader within a crowded industry, which has led to a huge amount of business growth in recent years. I’ve learnt huge lessons along the way about sticking to your guns, trusting your instincts and remaining true to your vision.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I’d say my favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur is being able to learn and grow all the time. You have to learn quickly and think on your feet because you never know what’s coming next. Of course, this can be challenging, but being an entrepreneur was never meant to be easy!
As well as this, there’s never a dull moment. It’s a fast-paced, challenging, exciting endeavour that forces you to bring your best self, every day.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
At the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I would say the worst part for me was the uncertainty. You’re essentially taking an idea and trying to make it valuable. The uncertainty of that at the beginning could sometimes be stressful, particularly when you’ve got a team of people to look out for. But what might’ve been worse is not starting at all.
For me now, the least favourite part is knowing that you won’t always get it right. A large part of being an entrepreneur is taking risks at the right time, and sometimes they don’t always pay off. The uncertainty that comes with being an entrepreneur can be challenging, especially when you’re passionate about what you do, but every mistake is a learning curve.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
I think in the next two years we will be focusing on expanding the business globally, to introduce our service to new cities. We also want to attract new talent to the Laundryheap team as we grow, to help with our ambitious plans.
We’ve talked about the ways consumer behaviours are changing, but it’s important to note the ways business operations have also shifted. More than ever before, we’re seeing businesses use on-demand services like Laundryheap to add value to their offering. These behaviours are likely to become the norm, and my vision for Laundryheap sees greater collaboration between these industries.