October 23, 2013
When examining an industry, Vijen Patel and Drew McKenna look for three key signals that indicate it is ripe for innovation: lack of technology, the absence of a brand, and fragmentation. To them, dry cleaning hits on all three signals.
The question they pose is simple: Who among us dry cleans? The answer: Everyone. But they follow with an even more important question: How many of us love our dry cleaner? The answer: No one.
Pressbox was spawned from these simple questions combined with the need for innovation in the dry cleaning market. And, satisfying the three signals, Pressbox provides a technological solution, a solidified brand, and unity.
Patel and McKenna place lockers all over town in convenient locations for customers, like gyms, parking lots, and building lobbies. People put their dirty clothes into the locker and then text the specific locker number to Pressbox.
From there, all you have to do is wait two days while Pressbox picks up your clothes, cleans them, and returns them to another locker; you will receive a text with the locker number and an access code to pick up your clothes. And Pressbox offers this service 24/7.
“At the end of the day, all we’re doing is putting in the drop store, a place that’s more convenient for you,” says Patel. “And most dry cleaners don’t actually do their own cleaning anyway; they ship it out to a wholesaler.”
The idea is reminiscent of other on-demand platforms, like Uber, but provides more for the entrepreneurial community aside from clean clothes. Pressbox’s great lesson is that it shows entrepreneurship does not always need to center on creating brand new products.
“When a lot of people think about entrepreneurship, they think about Facebook, Twitter, and app creation,” says Patel. “But it also applies to cross-selling and product adaptation. People don’t give that segment of entrepreneurship enough credit.”
To Patel, a lot of people regard startups in a glamorous light, but the process is downright hard most of the time. Entrepreneurs are faced with the challenge of changing an ingrained way of behavior and mindset while also providing a top notch product that brings in revenue.
With Pressbox, people are used to going to specific locations, or to “their” spots, to interact, drop off, and pick up their dry cleaning. Plain and simple, it takes time to change that sort of habitual process.
And this is coming across when Patel and McKenna deal with their main competition in mom and pop dry cleaners. They are continually being pushed aside and viewed as the death stroke to a way of life, but in reality, the long-term goal is to partner with these stores and split the profits.
However, for Patel and McKenna, having a strong network of friends and family who can help and support them in these tough times makes all the difference. And with that support behind them, they will achieve their goal of expansion on a scalable model; all it takes is time.
Pressbox was featured at Tech Cocktail’s Chicago Mixer & Startup Showcase on September 26th.
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