When Merewether couple James Barratt and Teri Waite left the corporate world to tackle James’ family business, they did so intending to innovate the local laundry industry.
Barratt’s Laundry on Llewelyn Street, Merewether, has been owned by James’ parents for over 40 years, and in that time, has seen little change.
“It’s always just been a self-service coin-operated laundromat,” Waite explained.
“We decided to buy it last year and bring laundry into the 21st century by developing an app which is like Uber for your laundry.
“That’s how Laundrily came about.”
Waite said that during COVID-19, the small Merewether laundromat had experienced a significant downturn in business, so the app was also an attempt to keep their business viable.
“These days, there are so many different online delivery services, yet no app-specific ones for laundry,” Waite said.
“Getting someone to pick up and deliver your washing isn’t new, but using an app is.
“We saw a gap in the market to bring laundry service into the 21st century … Laundrily is a way to give the people of Newcastle, Maitland, Lake Mac and surrounds that big city convenience that’s commonplace in places like New York.”
Waite said the app process was simple.
Before selecting a pickup date and time, clientele download the app and choose a laundry option, including anything from a wash, dry, iron, or bulk item service.
“Once people have ordered in the app, some people leave it at the door for us to collect,” Waite said.
For most services, this is done within a 24-hour turnaround time.
Waite said the response from the Hunter community had been overwhelming.
She said among the regular app users were a plethora of local businesses, including hairdressers, beauticians and Airbnb hosts, as well as new parents who work full time.
“There’s even one young woman who orders our service to her grandmother’s house, and ever since, her grandmother has referred to us as the ‘laundry fairies’,” Waite laughed.
“We’ve got another customer in her late 60s who has done her brother’s laundry for the past six years; now she just uses the app.”
Waite said that whilst laundry was a simple task, outsourcing the job alleviated pressure from local households.
“I know it’s just laundry, but it’s really rewarding to see that it’s making a difference,” she said.
Waite said they were currently in the midst of the NDIS application process, which will open the service for people in need in the Hunter community.
“We have a few NDIS customers and support workers who use the self-service option, although we saw a need to make the delivery service available to them as well,” she said.
“We have to go through the same application process as other NDIS providers, such as physiotherapists, so it’s been difficult.”
While it has been a long process to gain approval, Waite hopes Laundrily will be available for NDIS participants within the next six weeks.
Innovation process is no easy feat
Waite said that the initial research and development for the app itself wasn’t easy and that they had encountered a few “false starts” in the process.
“It took about six months to develop the app because, in the middle of that, we were home-schooling our three kids in lockdown, running the laundromat and running our marketing agency,” she said.
While the couple initially explored the process of developing their own app, they eventually outsourced it to a UK company with experience in Laundry services.
“When building apps, there are so many things you have to take into account, in not only entering products but ensuring what features are available,” Waite said.
“We just didn’t have the tech skills to do this kind of thing on our own.
And while the couple has big plans for the Laundrily app, Waite said they wouldn’t forget the laundromat’s humble beginnings and would always provide the coin machine option.