The entrepreneurial spirit was glinting in Ed Relf’s eyes even as a schoolboy growing up in the St Anne’s district of Bristol in the 1980s.
As a pupil at St George’s Community School, he nearly put the school canteen out of business by responding to a healthy eating drive on the lunch menus by setting up his own tuck shop selling sweets, fizzy drinks and crisps. After three weeks of bringing in a healthy profit from his school peers, his headmaster forced him to stop trading.
Many entrepreneurial ideas alter and just two years ago, Ed was walking down a high street when he passed a traditional laundrette-cum-dry cleaners.
“You have an industry with 13,000 independent high street businesses and two or three big franchises, like Timpsons and Johnsons, but it struck me that there’d been no real innovation – these were businesses that had changed little in decades, and many of the family firms were more than 100 years old.
“I thought about how strange it was that here was an industry that still hadn’t yet been disrupted by technology,” he says. He quickly set himself to the idea of doing exactly that – and so Laundrapp was born.
Laundrapp brings to laundry what the big hitters of the gig economy – Uber and Deliveroo – bring to taxis and take aways.
The app can be easily downloaded by customers who can use it to arrange a time when their laundry or dry cleaning can be picked up from their home. Laundrapp then works with local, pre-existing laundry and dry cleaning firms to clean the items, before delivering them back.
It sounds like a simple idea – but it’s something nobody else was doing, hence Ed has seen an exponential growth – just 24 months from its launch, the service is now available in more than 100 towns and cities across the country, including Bristol, and Ed’s focus is now on going global with the brand.
The app focused platform has been named The Times’ business of the year and has been downloaded 250,000 times to date.
Before Christmas Laundrapp launched in New Zealand and Australia, and Ed is taking it to 15 other countries in the next few months. He says that by the end of next year it will be active as a franchise in more than 40 countries.
His ambitions for the app seem to know no bounds.
“Our competitor is not really the high street dry cleaners,” he says. “Our competitor in the years to come is going to be the domestic washing machine.
“We’ll make it easier for people to have their laundry picked up and brought back cleaned than it is to use a washing machine.”