Ilch and Djiana Mickovski and The Eco Laundry Room
Three years ago, Ilch and his wife, Djiana, were exploring new business opportunities to be involved in. Djiana was keen to own a laundromat, reasoning that it would fit well with their work commitments. They started researching coin operated laundry businesses and found most were dark and tired with out of date machines using heaps of energy. Ilch soon realised that he had to understand the whole laundromat business environment, so he broadened his research. Once he decided to go ahead with the business he found a supplier, who was able to work with him to develop the Eco Laundry Room technology. This technology reduces electricity, water and gas usage. A normal domestic top loader uses 120 litres of water or more, depending on the wash cycle, while a comparable machine at Eco Laundry Room averages about 60 litres. Eco Laundry Room has one machine with the capacity to do 4 basketloads in one wash, in half an hour, creating energy, water and time efficiencies. When you combine this with a drying machine that can dry the load in half an hour the time saving for a busy household is extremely attractive.
For Ilch, Eco Laundry Room name isn’t just a trendy branding exercise. Every aspect of the business has been examined to find ways to make laundry more customer, environmentally and economically friendly. Energy savings have been driven by smart and clean technology, drying machines are gas driven not electric, while washing machines run on standard electrical supply and don’t need 3-phase power.
The Eco Laundry Room already plans to integrate the next generation of technological improvements arriving soon. Sensor based technology in the dryers, for example, will stop the drying cycle as soon as it senses the fabric is sufficiently dry, preventing over-drying of the fabric, and further reducing energy wastage.
Ilch says “The customer wants a great wash experience and I ask myself, what are we doing to help the environment? I’m always looking for ways to improve what we are doing. The first bio-degradable detergent we used was the ‘Rager’ brand detergent. Eco Laundry’s machines handle all detergents so customers can bring their own if they prefer.” Ilchs’ attitude is that “It’s their place, their laundry!”
Ilch believes in listening carefully to all his customers and uses social media to engage them into providing regular feedback. This focus on the customer has led to a business that prides itself on supplying a laundry environment that is bright, clean, fun, and community oriented. He understands for example that customers have many and varied requirements of their detergents, such as looking after allergy sensitivities. He recognises how important his customers rate safety and ensures this with daily cleaning and sanitising of all machines, CCTV both inside and outside the business premises and Free Wi-fi to keep customers connected and entertained. He talks about funny things that happen in laundromats and the Eco Laundry website hosts some video clips of fun laundromat activities.
Establishing a business in the local community
Any one who lives in Altona would understand that there might be difficulties for a new business settling into Harrington Square after the previous shop owner, Jill Brooks, was violently assaulted. He says, “It was a tough time. However, this site provided the car parking capacity and ease of access that a laundromat requires.”
To allay local community fears Ilch featured beefed up security in his Laundromat, including CCTV and bright lighting. Ilch further identified the need to engage the local community and reached out to Sports Clubs, the Traders Association, business networks, and schools to communicate the benefits of the laundry room in that vicinity. In April 2014, Eco Laundry participated in the Hobson’s Bay ‘Arts in Public Places’ festival and the laundromat was turned into a bookshop for the duration of the arts program.
Ilch advocates CCTV in certain areas to help protect customers. The CCTV can be monitored remotely and security activated instantly. The remote technology extends to automatic opening and closing of the laundry room.With visions in my mind of frantic clients locked in at 11pm, Ilch laughs and says, “Clients can’t get locked in – there’s a handle on the inside of the door!”
Business values and future plans
For Ilch, running an eco-friendly business is a personal values statement. This business is governed by technology and Ilch believes that sustainability is not only about having the most eco-friendly equipment and consumables, but also about being fully connected and active in the community as a business, creating strong connections with your customers to ensure the brand continues to maintain a strongly positive identity for the business. Does it cost more to be sustainable? Ilch believes his sustainable and eco friendly investment will definitely pay off.
What does the future hold? Ilch hasn’t stopped yet. He has plans to:
- Use solar energy and new high performance solar battery energy storage to further reduce energy costs; (currently in development.)
- Improve the equipment technology.
- Develop improved eco friendly detergents.
- Continually improve and refine the customer connection.
- Launch a new logo to make sure people recognise the brand and what it represents, remember it and that it resonates with them.
Eco Laundry opened their first Laundromat in Harrington Square, Altona 2 years ago and has recently opened one in North Melbourne. http://theecolaundryroom.com.au