In Mexico City, very few people own laundry machines of their own, and coin-operated establishments are virtually unheard of; it’s far more common for people to take their clothes to local laundromats for washing and dry cleaning. However, these laundromats can be very inconvenient for working professionals; they’re often only open during office hours, may not accept credit cards as payment, and have no guarantee against lost or damaged items. Professionals in Mexico City end up missing work or bringing their laundry in to the office—it’s inconvenient and frustrating.
Checkfront helped to us launch Lavadero in just a couple of weeks, to test our hypotheses and reach 600 customers
Lavadero, founded in early 2014 by Paulina Arreola and Ellen Dudley, offers an innovative solution to this problem. It is an on-demand laundry and dry cleaning service, with extended business hours and delivery/pickup for extra convenience. Rather than owning multiple washing machines, Lavadero works with the local laundromats in three zones within the city, so customer laundry is washed and returned within 24 hours. Orders can be placed online and paid for with credit card or Paypal—priced by the kilogram for most clothing, and by the item for dry cleaning. Lavadero is open 8am-10pm, seven days per week, and offers refund or credit for lost or damaged items. Rather than lug a bag of clothes to the office, customers can simply leave their laundry with their building’s doorman for safe pickup, and have it delivered to anywhere within a 2km radius of the laundromat that was used. Arreola puts it best: “We are a company committed to improving your quality of life and having an impact on your day by solving an activity as trivial as the laundry. We are working every day to improve your experience—not only the quality of the washing process, but to be the perfect solution so you never have to buy a washing machine in your life.”
“I have always been interested in creating and starting things from scratch, so the obvious path for me was entrepreneurship,” says Arreola. “After working at a business accelerator with dozens of entrepreneurs, I knew it was time to be on the other side and start my own company. This happened at the same time that I met my co-founder and we saw the opportunity to link a traditional dry cleaning and laundry service with an “Uber”-style model, the rest is history.” Arreola studied business at the University of California; Dudley comes from a background in biomedical engineering, but has worked in startups all over the world.
While looking for references from other tech entrepreneurs, Arreola found Checkfront on a directory called Angellist. They have used the system right from the beginning: “We wanted something we could use without writing any code ourselves,” she says. “Our main goal was to find an existing system to process our orders rather than develop our own. We wanted to prove that there was an interesting business opportunity and an existing market, without investing time and money. So Checkfront helped to us launch Lavadero in just a couple of weeks, to test our hypotheses and reach 600 customers. The knowledge of the industry we got from the fast launch was invaluable.”
That information has proven useful on many different levels. Lavadero is able to provide their laundromat partners with monthly data reports, customer feedback, and business advice—resources that are normally unavailable for such small establishments. Since Lavadero takes less than half of a laundromat’s capacity, this means that the laundromats are able to increase their independent revenue and improve their business overall.
What does Lavadero like about Checkfront? “Obviously the revenue tab! I also like that you can add tools, like new payment methods or analytics on Facebook, to make better marketing decisions—and everything is ready with just a couple of clicks,” says Arreola. They’ve also been grateful for the recent Conekta gateway integration, which gives customers a local option for payment.
Female entrepreneurs can sometimes face different challenges in the business world, but Arreola sees nothing but clear skies ahead. “I see an advantage being a woman in the tech industry, because you’re the person that is different in a group full of men. People are interested that there are more women with startups, so they give you more space to talk about your company in the media, or better access to sell your product. My business partner and I have not felt a direct bias because of our gender, so there is no excuse to not get started and create something, girls!”