Even the busiest City workers will find time for their companies Christmas shindig this year, but when they go to retrieve that elegant ball gown or dust off the tux, what are they likely to find?
Most office workers tend to want to forget the annual work do almost as soon as they have staggered home, thrown their Christmas clobber into the back of the wardrobe or bottom of the laundry basket, and passed out on the sofa. They might even find that half of the clothes they’ve successfully managed to hide did not even belong to them. And, still worse, they might have to slip these same sweat, lipstick and booze stained items back on again this year, having forgotten to get them cleaned last year. Call it procrastination, call it a refusal to face up to last year’s drunken shenanigans, arranging the dry cleaning is rarely at the top of anyone’s Christmas to-do list.
This is just one of the pain points that Alison at Loveclean.co.uk is trying to solve. With LoveClean, you no longer have to lug last night’s finery down to the local laundry service, bleary eyed and walking at that peculiar angle all hung-over people walk at, eyes fixed on the pavement 2 feet ahead of you. You won’t need to pick it up either. LoveClean will arrange the entire process for you, you just have to tell them when it’s most convenient for you to have them pick up, wash, and deliver your clothes.
Having spent the best part of the past decade in banking and private equity, Alison yearned for a change. “I wanted to get my hands dirty with a new project”, says Alison. Whether she meant that literally or not, dry cleaning certainly fit the bill! After thoroughly researching the market, commissioning surveys and building a network within the dry cleaning industry, Alison believed she had a viable business proposition. Certainly her own experience of trying to fit dry cleaning into her busy schedule persuaded her it was worth doing. “I would often drop a load off and not pick it up for weeks, or worse, try to clean the clothes myself by hand and end up ruining them.”
So far, LoveClean covers most of Central London. Orders must be over £25 pounds. An itemised bill for the entire wash is presented after pick-up, payable online or by credit card before delivery. Incredibly, when she first started the business, Alison did most of the collection and delivery for her first few months.
“It really helped me figure out what my customers are looking for, and helped me refine our service proposition”, she explains. “Dry cleaners are rarely open at the right times, they are not really consistent about how long it will take to process an order, but it tends to suit them rather than the customer, and they don’t listen a lot to customer’s specific requests, how to wash a particular garment that needs special attention, that kind of thing. We tell our customers up front exactly what to expect, and we listen to them. People appreciate that!”
Alison’s methods obviously worked as she is seeing a high level of repeat business. The business is growing quickly thanks to her loyal customer base and new customers coming through referrals; is she worried she might lose some of the personal touch? “No”, she says, “customer service is our number 1 priority”.
Indeed, Alison would like to expand and launch in other cities as well; Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool are options. But there is another reason why she feels LoveClean provides a higher level of service to traditional dry cleaning services: Tetrachloroethylene, otherwise known as PERC.
PERC is mainly used as a solvent by dry cleaners, but it is not a particularly pleasant substance. PERC is classified as a Group 2A carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and it is a toxic environmental contaminant. You would have to inhale an awful lot of the stuff to be seriously inconvenienced by it, but all the same it is bad news for both workers and wearers.
Germany and France have acted quickly to phase it out of their dry cleaning industries, and its use has been banned in the state of California. The UK has been slow to react, however; the regulations are less strict and the majority of high street dry cleaners still use PERC as their main cleaning agent. A number of eco-friendly dry cleaning processes have been introduced over the past 10 years, but have been slow to roll-out in the UK. “I want to move the industry away from PERC to more eco-friendly and safe dry cleaning processes”, says Alison, “most users aren’t aware of the danger so I make sure I tell them! The ill effects are hard to dispute. I’d welcome a debate on the subject in the UK”.
LoveClean partners exclusively with eco-friendly dry cleaners. It can be a painstaking task finding out who does and who doesn’t use PERC, but Alison has leveraged her industry contacts so you can be sure that you and your clothes will be much better off if you decide to go with LoveClean, rather than running the gauntlet at your local dry cleaner.
LoveClean is one of those businesses that seem destined to work and to grow because it is a good business idea and it is run by somebody efficient with a modern understanding of why it is important to take care of our environment, and our health. So next time you wake up with a cracking Christmas hangover, a stranger in your bed, and you seem to have emptied your wardrobe of all of your most expensive clothes and poured brandy sauce all of them, relax, roll over, and let Alison take a load off for you.