Dirty Laundry Got You Down? There’s An App For That

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Juan Dulanto ImageWe know what you’re doing. You’re staring at that big ole’ pile of dirty laundry, letting it accumulate, wishing that someone would just pick it up and do it for you. Well, Washio founder Juan Dulanto knows how you feel, and he started a company to do just that. 

1. What were you doing before you came to GA?

I was living in Argentina where on a whim I started buying antiques and selling them on ebay. I saw that there was a lot of room for innovation, particularly in the gastronomic world, so I opened Pura Vida, a juice/smoothie bar, the very first health food chain restaurant in the country.     

2. What brought you to GA?

I moved back to the U.S. after the economy tanked in Argentina.  My background was in the restaurant industry, but I didn’t want my revenue in future projects to be limited to the number of seats (in a restaurant), so I wanted to get into the tech industry.

I moved to LA and started working on what would become Washio, and knew I needed an edge. I had heard amazing things about GA, and though I couldn’t afford it at the time, knew I had to make it happen—and it was one of the smartest decisions I could have made.  Growth hacking has been a huge aspect of our success and I owe it all to the skills I learned in the User Acquisition course.

3. Have you always wanted to start your own business?

Yes, I have been working on different ideas/businesses since I was in elementary school, most of which never got past the idea phase. I’ve got this composition notebook I’ve had since college with all my “Business ideas.” The older I got, the better I became at actually executing on these ideas.

I love being in charge of my own destiny and being able to try to do things the way I envision them, and also having the freedom to fail, and get back up. Although it sounds weird, I’m motivated by the naysayers who usually hate during the early stages of any entrepreneurial project.

4. Tell us about Washio.

Washio is on-demand dry cleaning and laundry—Uber for laundry.  You place an order online or through our app, select where and when the pickup should occur, and one of our friendly ninjas comes to pick up your items in our reusable garment bags. They even give you a cookie!  24 hours later they return your order, and you’ve just saved yourself a couple hours of hassle.

We offer premium quality, competitive pricing, and ecologically friendly cleaning.  We will also collect your unwanted clothing with your regular order, wash it, and then give it to the needy. Washio has a strong focus on customer service and satisfaction and we are trying to turn the garment cleaning industry on its head. We originally launched in Los Angeles, and we have since expanded to San Francisco and Washington, D.C. and will be in more cities by year’s end.

4. Where did the idea for Washio come from?

My Co-founder, Jordan, and I met in Buenos Aires. He also had a chain of restaurants (California Burrito Company), and we were always throwing ideas around.  When I returned to the US, my first crash-pad was his house and we immediately began brainstorming ideas.  Living in L.A., he always saw people driving around with dry cleaning hanging in from back seats, so he’s been thinking about the idea of on-demand laundry for a while.

In Buenos Aires, everyone sends their laundry out, and we’ve been doing it that way for years. The idea of going to the laundromat was so depressing; we started thinking about how we could implement Uber-like logistics to the old model of the dry cleaning industry.

5. How do you currently promote Washio?

Washio has had a lot of success with targeted ads on Facebook.  We were also lucky to have some influencers on board from the beginning who came across the service and wrote about it in their blogs and blasted us on Twitter.

The main way we acquire customers, though, is through word of mouth. I think the quality and product needs to be immaculate for that approach to work, as well as our dedication to upholding our high standards of customer service.  You can do your laundry anywhere, we’re really trying to improve the entire experience, so you’ll never want to go back to the old way.

6. Any challenges that you didn’t expect?

One of our first major issues was outgrowing our partnered neighborhood cleaners. We started out with local cleaners in every neighborhood, but we grew too fast and had to move to bigger cleaners/plants that were not always centrally located. We basically had to change our whole model and create distribution centers to aggregate all of our orders and inspect them post-processing for.

Our latest complication has been weather.  In Los Angeles and San Francisco, the weather has been been smooth sailing, but the fickle D.C. weather has been a whole new challenge. The day we were supposed to launch, D.C. got the most snow it had seen in three years, and we had to push back our launch. 

8. Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Just do it. It will never be perfect, and while you’re busy worrying about every little detail, the guy next door is launching the exact same thing.  If you’re not embarrassed by your first product, you waited too long to launch.  Also, surround yourself with people you admire.  There are a lot of naysayers, so make sure to be around positive influences and people that make you better and can help you when you need advice.

Washio has been featured in ForbesNY TimesWashington Post, and  TechCrunch, and is currently available in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. 

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