Small Business Interview Series with For the Love of Laundry: Singapore's Greenest Laundry Service
Founded in 2011, For the Love of Laundry has made a point to offer high quality laundry services with minimal environmental impact. The business is 1 of 2 laundrettes in Singapore to use liquid silicone instead of perchloroethylene, a chemical that has been linked to cancer. By using liquid silicone, For the Love of Laundry is able to offer a laundry service that is both less damaging to its customers' clothes and less harmful to the health of its employees and the environment. On top of that, the business incentivises customers to return plastic hangers for re-use by donating 5 cents per returned hanger to the Cambodian Children's Fund, which is another indication that the business is committed to making a positive social impact. We interviewed For the Love of Laundry Learn to learn more about their journey to environmental and business success. Whether you are interested in environmentally sustainable businesses, social impact investing or even entrepreneurship, we believe there's some interesting lessons you can take away from their story.
When, why and how did For the Love of Laundry begin its operations?
For the Love of Laundry was established in 2011. We set out with the mission of being a trusted dry cleaner in Singapore and to provide the best care for our customers and their beloved items. Our founders learned of the liquid silicone cleaning technology as an alternative to the petroleum-based solvent Perc from their travels. While looking for a dry cleaner in Singapore that cleans with this technology, they realised no one offered it and decided that the technology had to be introduced to Singapore too.
What makes your process and ingredients more environmentally friendly compared to other dry cleaners?
Most dry cleaners use a petroleum-based solvent (Perc), which damages clothes over time and also poses severe health and environmental risks. The use of Perc is banned in the state of California and has been classified as a toxic air pollutant and potential carcinogen by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
For the Love of Laundry was the first to use GreenEarth technology in Singapore, and we are still the only company in Singapore to clean purely with GreenEarth, a toxin-free technology that is better for you, your clothes and the environment. Liquid silicone is an all-natural cleaner that biodegrades non-toxically to sand (SiO2) and trace amounts of water and carbon dioxide.
Our plastic carriers are made from biodegradable plastic, and we aim to reduce disposable plastic usage by using one plastic cover for up to four items instead of individually bagging items.
What else does For the Love of Laundry do to be environmentally friendly and keep its prices reasonable?
We are constantly challenging ourselves to be more environmentally friendly as it's not only better for our environment, but also makes perfect business sense. We also keep a keen eye on our overhead and operating expenses, tracking the numbers and investigating anomalies.
For example, we track our electricity and water bills to ensure they reflect our operations. Anomalies are raised to our team so we can work to ensure we only use what's necessary. We also work with an FSC-certified printer for our collaterals and print internal documents, when necessary, on recycled paper. We also encourage our customers to return their hangers for reusing or recycling.
How do you measure your business's impact on the society and the environment? How would you rate your progress so far? What are you most proud of, and where could you improve the most?
We are currently tracking the number of plastic hangers returned to us, and provide an incentive to our customers for returning them by donating to a good cause. For every hanger returned to us, we donate 5 cents to Cambodian Children's Fund, which helps Cambodia’s most impoverished communities by delivering education, family support and community development programs. The number of hangers returned hence directly influences the amount we donate to our charity partner.
Since we've started tracking the number of hangers returned, we're proud to have tripled the number of hangers returned. We are, however, still working to increase this as we believe in pushing ourselves to do the best we can.
We're most keen to improve on reducing our usage of disposable plastic at present. While hangers play a significant role in this within our operations, we have not forgotten the plastic covers we use to protect garments during transportation and would love to tackle this issue soonest. We are currently exploring ways to minimise our use of disposable plastic covers by looking to reusable garment bags.
Do you have advice for other small businesses in that seek to adopt sustainable practices?
Sustainable practices do not necessarily have to mean additional cost. In fact, we've found that they often lead to cost savings. We would recommend starting by tracking an aspect of the business that is currently a pain point (e.g. high cost from high quantity of hangers purchased), finding a creative way to ease this (e.g. collecting hangers for reuse so order frequency can be lowered) and incentivising the implementation of the solution (e.g. donation to a cause to incentivise customers, incentives for team members involved to encourage customers).
ValueChampion aims to educate entrepreneurs and small businesses about best business practices, especially about financial topics. With that in mind, we are interested in For the Love of Laundry's financial journey. How did your business first obtain funding?
We have been very fortunate to be self-funded by our 4 founder-shareholders.
Did For the Love of Laundry ever require additional financing later (e.g. working capital loan, asset purchase loan, equity, etc.)? If so, why?
We required additional financing when we relocated our main facility in 2016. We had to take a loan from a financing company and required additional capital investments from our directors. This was necessary for the move as well as for the investment in new machinery.
Did you consider any alternatives to traditional financing, such as crowdfunding? If so, was it helpful? If not, do you think it have been more helpful than the type of financing that you ended up getting?
While crowdfunding is a great tool for certain businesses as it gets the word out for the company and allows the funders to feel a sense of ownership in the company's growth, we feel this may not be the most suitable type of financing for us. This is due to the fact that the dry cleaning business does require significant capital investment, which will be difficult to attain from crowdfunding alone.
To learn more about financing your small business, read our guide of the best SME loans available in Singapore.