Dry cleaning — a mature industry that accounts for $10 billion in sales each year —wasn’t primed for a revolution. That is until Wayne Wudyka, CEO of the Certified Restoration Drycleaning Network in Berkley, expanded on an idea that tilted the marketplace using mobile technology.
“I’ve been in the back of a thousand drycleaners, and when I hear about a great idea, I bring it back to Detroit and try to get it implemented,” says Wudyka, who is also CEO of Huntington Cleaners and Shirt Laundry in Huntington Woods and Wesch Cleaners in Birmingham. “Once we refine it, study it, and develop a plan, we take it to our partners.”
After buying the rights to 1-800-DryClean last year, Wudyka hit the road to promote the brand and solicit ideas. His goal was to find a more innovative business model for what had become a static service of directing people to drycleaners. From a visit with a franchisee in San Francisco, he learned about a local cleaning company that had set up secure lockers in high-traffic pedestrian areas inside large office buildings, residential towers, gated communities, and parking structures.
The idea is simple. After creating an online account with their credit card information, customers place their dirty garments in one of several lockers, close the door, and punch in a four-digit PIN on a small keypad. Once the lock is set, the customer alerts the local dry cleaner to pick up the contents via a text or email (listed on each locker). When the clothes are picked up, the driver scans a bar code, which sends a text alerting the customer that their order is being processed.
The next day, the clean clothes are placed in the same set of lockers (it doesn’t matter which one), after which a driver enters a new four-digit PIN. Working in reverse, a text with the new code and locker number is sent to the customer’s phone, which alerts him or her that the garments are ready for pickup.
“As it turns out, the company in San Francisco didn’t have retail outlets; they facilitated the drycleaning at their plant,” Wudyka says. “But they didn’t have the resources or the franchising expertise to expand out of the regional marketplace, which is where we came in.”
The new venture, called Bizzie, seeks to establish a footprint in the United States, Canada, and Europe. The plan is to lease sets of lockers to building owners while working with drycleaning franchisees to support and market the service. Bizzie also will be marketed to hotel chains, medical facilities, and cruise ships.
Wudyka doesn’t consider the new offering “disruptive.” “We don’t foresee a lot of cleaners buying new trucks to service Bizzie, because most already offer delivery services,” he says. “But if you provide added convenience, customers will likely use a service more often.”
Besides lockers, Bizzie accounts can be set up at a home or an office. In addition to tapping laundry services, users can get their shoes shined. A related offering allows customers to schedule an appointment for cleaning drapery and light upholstery. db