Posted: Thu 11th Jun 2020
When gyms and restaurants closed, 1 Stop Wash's contract business dried up overnight. The company also operated a coin laundry system, but confusion around lockdown restrictions made them wary of staying open.
"We were an essential service, so we could have opened. However, there was so much uncertainty and the government didn't do a great job of giving people clarity," director of operations Rohit Dhillon explained.
Like many small businesses, 1 Stop Wash has used the closure of its premises to reassess its options. They were in the process of scaling up and hiring new members of staff, but that's no longer the priority. Instead, Rohit has found new ways to connect with customers.
Rohit started exploring how the company could offer contactless cleaning to fit around social distancing measures.
The idea was to let customers book a time slot for collection through an online app, then have clean items delivered back to the doorstep 48 hours later. This meant moving away from the company's traditional coin-operated business.
"Building the website was difficult. I worked alongside a developer and did quite a few simple courses on HTML and CSS. Udemy was super useful for marketing. For development, it was more about making subtle changes. I wasn't going to become a coder overnight," he said.
Digital marketing was a new challenge for Rohit too. He didn't have any experience in the area, so he's spent lockdown finding out how to drive traffic to the site. That meant learning about Google and Pay per click advertising, as well as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram ads.
"The ads have been going well. I'm quite patient and know the traffic isn't going to come overnight. We're just getting our first few conversions. Once you build something, you have to wait for customers, see if there are issues and iterate," Rohit explained.
"We've been open for about a week and a half, which has given us feedback to improve the website. Speed has been a huge thing and we're also trying to find the right creatives. We need to understand the fundamentals."
If you're trying to market your business locally, Rohit recommends using Nextdoor. You can make two or three business posts a month and it gives your company good exposure in your local area.
For the B2C side of the business, Rohit thinks the switch from traditional laundrette to online service will be permanent. He wants to be able to cut out the middle man and go direct to consumers.
"Dry cleaners usually aren't technically savvy, so they use a middle man app. I don't blame them because of the struggle we've been through! But we want to go direct to consumers. It'll be cheaper because there's no middle man and we can be eco-friendly," he said.
Rohit wants to keep their B2B services, but it's a waiting game to see how quickly restaurants and gyms can bounce back. Half of the company's staff are still on furlough, so Rohit's hopeful that there will be work available by the time the furlough scheme ends.
Around 80% of the company's orders now come through the online app. Rohit believes that the transition to an online service was inevitable - the lockdown just gave them the time to execute it.
With things gradually returning to normal, Rohit is starting to come to terms with how much coronavirus affected the business and industry.
"It's really starting to settle in what a big impact it had. But I try to stay positive. It was a global pandemic, so we should be thankful we're alive. Adapting is the only thing you can do in that situation. You have to keep adapting and build your service for today, not yesterday," he said.
Enterprise Nation has resources and case studies to help small businesses of all types reopen and trade successfully during the coronavirus pandemic: