Taking the plunge 10 Jul 2017

The well-trodden path from drycleaning to wetcleaning has seen many an experienced business owner gain a fresh perspective on the professional textile care industry.

taking the plunge laundry business services news

Ben King

However, as the demand grows for ecofriendly alternatives to solvent-based cleaning, more and more new business investors are looking to take advantage of the possibilities offered by wetcare when starting out in the sector. the sector. Such was the case for Ben King, 26, an ex-product designer from Maidstone, Kent, who was determined to use his inheritance to start a new business.

King began exploring possible options with help from his father-in-law, who came across the Electrolux Professional’s lagoon® Advanced Care wetcleaning system at the LCT CleanEx exhibition last year. The pair immediately recognised its investment potential.

King explains: “There are a lot of people who work in London but live in Maidstone because of the short commute. They’re professionals who don’t want to pay London prices for their garment cleaning, so we could both see the business opportunity in meeting the needs of those commuters.” 

King opened Elite Professional Laundry Services in April. The shop is located in an arcade in the centre of Maidstone, with a healthy passing trade and plenty of clothing shops nearby. King designed the shop himself and the result is a stylish and upmarket premises with a boutique style shop front. All the new equipment is located onsite, but King’s design means that it’s all behind an insulated and soundproofed wall at the back of the shop.

lagoon electrolux washing machine business service news

The lagoon® Advanced Care system has been leased for the new business venture.

Enter the lagoon

King has leased a lagoon® Advanced Care system, including: a 15kg washer and dryer to handle the majority of garments, a 6kg washer and dryer to process a few small items without having to use the larger machine, and an ironing table to put the finishing touches on the process.

The machines were up andrunning two weeks before the shop was due to open, giving the team time to train. He continues: “It didn’t take long to figure out the equipment.

We began by practising with our own garments, just in case anything were to go wrong. We cleaned whatever we could get our hands on, but even so we had no problems dealing with anything we came up against.

Then, our first-ever customer brought in a 100 per cent wool wedding jacket – there was quite a lot of tension as we put the garment on the finishing table, but it came out brilliantly.

“We’ve cleaned wedding dresses full of beading and other garments with acrylic feathers – garments that drycleaners just won’t touch – and all of them have turned out perfectly.”

King says that understanding the different types of garments and materials out there is something he is still learning.

However, with his background in product design, attention to detail is in his DNA so he’s enjoying the challenge and the satisfaction of receiving in garments and finishing them to a very good standard.

Like a duck to water 

King’s new business is very much in its infancy. As well as being new to the industry, he’s also new to running a business. So, alongside learning about garment cleaning he’s had to get to grips with everything that running a business entails – including the accounts, marketing and building up a customer base from scratch. 

Elite’s launch campaign focussed on canvassing the immediate local area with flyers and actively using Twitter, Facebook and his website to make people aware of the new business. King is now also looking for commercial contracts to build the business. “This has become my drive,” he says. “There is so much scope to the business, and it’s so easy to see how much we can grow – we’re already planning a delivery, pick-up and drop-off service. “It’s been challenging, for sure.

elite laundry business news ben king

Elite’s stylish, boutique style shop was designed by owner, Ben King.

Most businesses that offer wetcleaning have switched over from drycleaning after 15-20 years in the industry. “If you’re already in the industry, I can’t see any reason not to switch to wetcleaning. Not only is it better for the garments and better for the environment, but you can get your cost prices down immediately. 

And if you’re looking for a new business venture, it’s not a difficult industry to get started in if you have the ambition and the vision.”

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