Things that are certain in life: death, taxes — and laundry. Piles and piles of dirty laundry often accumulate in your closet until you run out of underwear and panic sets in. We understand and so does Laundry Locker — a service based with a base in Atlanta that helps keep your clothes sparkly clean.
The process is easy — you drop off your laundry at one of the 24/7-accessible lockers around the city and you can pick it up when it’s ready with a unique code. Your favorite suit is safe and you have the added convenience of picking it up whenever its best for you, whether it’s during lunch or at 1 a.m.
Laundry Locker spawned two other companies after being founded in 2005: Drop Locker in 2009 and Luxer One (lockers for packages) in 2014. From there, Drop Locker started looking for partners in other cities to expand into different markets and provided on-site training and licensing before launch. PressBox is Atlanta’s branch of Drop Locker that’s independently owned by a local partner.
Despite the different names and locations, the promise is the same: keep your clothes clean or your packages harm-free, safe in a locker, and ready for pick up at your convenience.
Nicholas Sanderson, CEO of Laundry Locker and Drop Locker, sat with Hypepotamus at his Switchyards office to talk about his move from Silicon Valley to Atlanta, Laundry Locker’s incredible growth, and invaluable advice on picking the right partnerships.
How many employees do you have now?
On payroll, we have 55 employees total across all three businesses.
What’s Laundry Locker’s pitch?
Laundry Locker’s business is at the core of it, a dry cleaning business, essentially. We run a dry cleaning plant. We put lockers inside multi-family residential. We have over a 1,000 locations now throughout San Francisco. Typically, they’ll go inside a lobby or a parking garage of a big high rise apartment building and then we send out trucks everyday, picking up and dropping off laundry.
How did it all get started?
In ’05 in San Francisco. Our founder, just bootstrapped, built his own locker. He had a friend who was a property manager and just tried this concept out. Every challenge he came across, whether it was invoicing, scheduling drivers on routes, or any of the different functions that you need, he built them into an ERP called Drop Locker. “Drop Locker is the second business and the one that I’m overseeing now.
Essentially, our goal is to take our model that we’ve built in San Francisco and package it all up together — it’s not only the technology, but the lockers that we manufacture, the partnerships and best practices — all packaged together and sold as a license to other entrepreneurs throughout the country, or around the globe for that matter.
Tell me about more about Drop Locker and how its licensing works.
For Drop Locker, we have about 110 partners around the world that use our software and lockers under their own brands. Here in Atlanta, it’s called Press Box.
That’s the main difference between a franchisee and a licensee — we don’t tell them what to do, we just give them the software, tell them how we use it and what we’ve proven is successful for the last ten years. Do whatever you want with it, but we’ll help you support whatever business you want to go after. We’ll come onsite and work with their businesses to get it set up and build the brand around that with necessary marketing materials.
What about the partners, what are the backgrounds of those coming on board?
Most of our partners are not coming in with a dry cleaning background. They’re ex consultants, bankers, small business owners, or people that have finished their first career and wanting to start their next one. They come after the business in a number of different ways. I don’t have a background in dry cleaning operations, neither did the founder.
How do you find the right partners?
Finding the right business partner has been challenging. You’ll have a lot of people that are interested. In the early days, we wanted to launch as soon as possible, so we partnered with somebody who was a veteran in franchising dry cleaners and building other dry cleaning products and services like fire restoration — a great business.
We partnered with them to help us launch our product in the US, because they knew everybody, but we may have been too eager in doing it, because the partnership wasn’t as successful as we wanted it to be. Stepping back and reevaluating the longer term view of what that partnership could look like definitely has taught us a lot.
What are some things that you wish you would’ve known at that point when you were about to sign into a partnership?
We’ve partnered with all different types of businesses– storage companies that want to do on demand storage, mobile car washing at apartments, on demand dog walking– all ancillary services. Without a really strict framework for evaluating what is the value to the customer, to our core business offering, I think we’ve made decisions in the past that have resulted in watering down our core message and have not aligned with our values.
If our value is to provide clean, efficient, and high quality cleaning, that’s a pretty straightforward brand and we don’t have to always be connected to “lifestyle” brands that appear sexier. We’ve partnered up with lifestyle companies that provide clothing rental subscriptions, accessories, all with strong brands– but with this, they become the more important piece to our customers, not our core value proposition. I think sometimes we’re blinded by the light.
How does Atlanta weave into your story?
The main impetus for the move was Luxer One. Before I took over the Drop Locker business, I was developing our value-added-reseller network for Luxer One. We enable third-party businesses to sell our package lockers through this VAR network.
The big thing I noticed is that Atlanta definitely has a growing B2B kind of tech scene, which is why we’re at Switchyards. There’s a lot of great products that come out of here that we never see as a consumer.
I think one of the cooler things about moving here is the funding environment is not as strong as Silicon Valley and you can’t get funding for any ridiculous thing you want, you have to show a solid business plan with traction and profit over just adoption.
Any last words of advice?
Do it yourself until you can justify hiring somebody else to do it for you.