Are you tired of lugging your laundry to the cleaners, especially during the cold and wet winters and muggy summers? This was the thought that SpotlessCity co-founder Sonny Bajwa had before thinking that there must be an easier way to take care of his laundry errands. So he created SpotlessCity.
SpotlessCity lets people find every dry cleaner and laundromat in their area, and schedule pickups & deliveries from the cleaner of their choice directly through the site. The pickups and deliveries are absolutely free, so customers always pay the same exact amount that they would if they dropped their clothes off at the store themselves. It’s sort of a GrubHub.com or SeamlessWeb.com for your laundry and dry cleaning.
They launched the site a few weeks ago in Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn and planning to expand to more neighborhoods throughout NYC soon. We caught up with Sonny recently:
Q: Why did you decide to start in Dumbo/BK Heights?
A: Our company is based in Downtown Brooklyn and our entire team lives in Brooklyn, so we always knew we wanted to launch the service here first. When it came to choosing neighborhoods to start in, Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights were natural choices. Even aside from being the two residential neighborhoods closest to our office, which made them convenient, a number of reasons make them a great launching pad for SpotlessCity.
Dumbo is a very entrepreneurial neighborhood that is full of professionals, which means that there are many residents who need their dry cleaning and laundry done and who are willing to try out new services online. In fact, it’s not only the residents who are entrepreneurial; we found one of our first partner dry cleaners in Dumbo — a very savvy and forward looking cleaner that was excited about being part of something new.
Brooklyn Heights is another great neighborhood with a large number of professionals, but none of the people living in those beautiful brownstones and townhouses have doormen, so they could definitely use our service.
We’re planning to expand further in these neighborhoods and then throughout NYC.
Q: How did SpotlessCity begin?
A: I came up with the idea for SpotlessCity late last year after my wife and I divided up our errands and I got stuck with taking care of the dry cleaning. I noticed pretty quickly that while I was out lugging laundry down the street in the snow, she was able to handle all of her errands — like getting the groceries and ordering dinner — by curling up with her laptop and placing orders online. Naturally, I tried to trade chores, but when she wouldn’t let me, I just kept thinking, “why can’t I do this errand online too?”
I ran the idea by some friends, started doing research and talking to dry cleaners. Pretty soon, we got a team together and raised some seed money. Now we’re proud to welcome everyone to SpotlessCity!
Q: What are the challenges you are or will face in growing SpotlessCity?
A: When trying to launch a lean startup, every day brings new challenges that we have to figure out how to tackle! I’ll share a couple —
First: getting our message across to customers effectively. Explaining our concept has been a little trickier than we thought, perhaps because it’s new. Some people confuse us with “Internet dry cleaners” — companies that have swapped a brick-and-mortar storefront for a website. They’re essentially dry cleaners on the Internet competing with local dry cleaners.
We don’t compete with local dry cleaners, we partner with them. In fact, we don’t actually do any dry cleaning or laundry. We’re more of a SeamlessWeb of dry cleaning and laundry. Our mission is to help local dry cleaners connect with their customers online, and let people choose a dry cleaner and schedule their pickup and delivery online.
Second: communicating with some dry cleaners. Earlier this year, we hit the streets and started talking to dry cleaners to get feedback on our idea and whether it was something they’d be interested in signing up for. We learned pretty quickly that a huge number of New York dry cleaners are originally from Korea and weren’t interested in talking to what they perceived to be door-to-door salesmen (I guess that’s what we looked like!).
After getting the cold shoulder a few times, we stopped and recruited a Korean-American friend to come out with us on our research trip. Before we knew it, he was chatting it up with the dry cleaners in Korean, shaking hands with them, and we got all the feedback we wanted.
Congrats to Sonny and SpotlessCity on their launch. If you want to try out their service, you can get 10% off their dry cleaning and laundry with this code: DumboNYCReaders (valid until 1/31/2012 + pickups & deliveries are ALWAYS free). Also see BrooklynHeightsBlog’s article about them.