This Former Hedge Fund Analyst Wants to Launder Your Clothes

DashLocker spreads in NYC

Here’s how DashLocker works: Hennessy affixes a bar code onto each bag of wash and fold and every garment to be dry cleaned, entering all the information into a computer system. The software allows him to track the laundry as it makes it way through the process—from the trucks that pick it up at DashLocker to a distribution warehouse in Long Island City, N.Y., that hands it off to individual vendors to the return run back to the locker. Customers can track their items online. (If they email DashLocker with a question, they get a callback.) Hennessy has even arranged for each and every piece of clothing headed for the dry cleaners (that’s 11,950 items in his database to date) to be photographed, just in case an item goes missing.

For all that, DashLocker charges its customers what Hennessy calls “the high side of average,” at least in New York: $1.25 per pound for wash and fold, $7 to dry clean a blazer and $9 to shine a pair of shoes, for example.

“Our ideal customer is 28-ish, female, active and upwardly mobile,” Hennessy reports. They are customers for whom a six-figure salary might still be a dream but also those for whom, as Hennessy likes to put it, “their time’s worth more than their money.” (The formula has already been proven to work in this particular city, home to the crosstown cab ride for the bargain price of $30.)

DashLocker is just the latest business of its type to pop up in what has not only become a service economy but also a convenience economy—and not just a convenience economy, but a why-didn’t-you-get-it-to-me-yesterday economy. And while they may be among the most hard-to-please people around, New Yorkers are hardly the only busy people in the world, nor is New York the only city where convenience has spawned such businesses. Take TaskRabbit, which enables consumers to go online to find someone to run their errands for them and which has set up shop in nine markets, including Boston, Chicago and Austin, Texas. Amazon Lockers lets customers pick up their shipments at a time and place convenient to them, in cities including London, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, retailers from Walmart to L’Occitane (along with the likes of Amazon and even Google) have begun experimenting with same-day delivery in select markets.

As for DashLocker (which is not yet profitable), it has experienced success and challenges in its first year. On the one hand, the population of New York is on the upswing (up 2 percent versus 2010) as the city continues to create jobs in the tech and finance sectors­—businesses known to employ the young, the busy and the well-compensated who constitute DashLocker’s bread and butter.

Also in Hennessy’s favor is the fact that most New Yorkers choose a laundry provider according to its distance from their homes, not out of affection for a particular operator. With brand loyalty less of a factor, DashLocker can entice customers simply by making a burdensome chore much easier. (As one customer review enthuses: “It is super convenient to have a dry cleaner and wash-and-fold place that picks up and delivers. You never have to worry about getting there while they are open, which, if you work long hours, is pretty much impossible with most dry cleaners. These guys make it so easy.”)

Still, in a business that’s all about convenience, Hennessy has learned that reducing the distance between the front door and the locker door necessitates changes to his business model.

Continue to next page →

Adweek Blog Network