On-demand laundry has proven a tough business for some. Washio folded up its business last year, selling its assets into competitor Rinse. At the time Washio’s founder Ajay Prakash told TechCrunch the on-demand model wasn’t the most efficient or economical way to handle the dirty business of cleaning clothes.
But now Mulberrys, a new cleaning competitor in the Bay Area, hopes to prove him wrong by mixing old-fashioned brick-and-mortar stores with an on-demand platform.
Mulberrys just launched out of beta this week with 10 physical locations and a fleet of drivers to serve the city of San Francisco, but it’s been up and operating in Minneapolis for the last few years.
Founder Dan Miller started the business as a McKinsey consultant but soon left to go to the School of Drycleaning Technology to learn how to press all those fancy suits he’d been wearing up to that point.
“I was consistently amazed by how far behind the dry cleaning and laundry industry was from what you’d think of as just modern best practices. A lot of dry cleaners don’t even have a website,” Miller said.
He soon built himself a more modernized operation but with a twist. Mulberrys offers dry cleaning on top of laundry service and Miller’s business controls the pipeline from pickup service to cleaning and delivery. All cleaning is done in-house and workers are employees, not contractors.
This may have been where Washio fumbled as there is a high cost in turnover and retention of third-party workers in the on-demand space. We should point out Rinse also hires within rather than trying to recruit contractors.
Miller is to a point now where, along with the Silicon Valley rollout, he’s looking to raise some smart money for his startup — to the tune of around $20 million. He might have a good shot at convincing investors. Unlike a lot of other startups in Silicon Valley, Miller says his business didn’t take VC dollars. It’s been profitable for years. According to Miller, maintaining control over every aspect of the business has helped to increase Mulberrys margins while providing a seamless customer experience.
Mulberrys works like a lot of other laundry startups. You pick a day and time for laundry pick-up and a Mulberrys worker comes to take it, cleans it and hands it back to you usually within the same day. But, unlike Rinse, you can get a Mulberrys driver to pick up your laundry morning or night, not just within a two-hour evening window.
So how does that experience actually fare? I tested it out while it was in beta. There were a few kinks, as to be expected. The driver tried to pick up my laundry twice in one day and the app didn’t have the day I wanted for my area. But all of that seems to have been solved with the launch this week. You can choose any day or time for pick up in your zip code now.
They also dry cleaned a purple blouse for me, getting most, but not all, of the oil stain out. The Mulberrys delivery person explained to me she’d be able to get all of it out if they had another day but that next day was impossible. Though she did readily offer to clean it again for free to get the job done.
Miller also points out his cleaning business uses environmentally-friendly cleaning products. And each bag of laundry you submit goes through a 10-point inspection process so you shouldn’t find any…odd…items in your bag when it’s delivered back to you.
Will this one make it? Mulberrys will have to compete with at least one other service in the Bay Area for now, but there seems to be plenty of tech workers willing to pay for someone else to do the cooking, cleaning and washing of clothes for them at the click of a button in SF.