Imagine if, in 1998, someone had told you that the chunky mobile phone in your hand would one day be responsible for washing your clothes… meet Edward Relf, CEO and co-founder of Laundrapp.
What is it the company does?
Launched in 2015, Laundrapp is one of the fastest growing British tech business that’s revolutionising the laundry and dry cleaning industry worldwide, with smart, on-demand, door-to-door technology. Laundrapp gives people the power to do their washing-on-the-go, by simply outsourcing their laundry or dry cleaning from their smartphone - put another way, we’ve turned the smartphone into a washing machine in your pocket.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
Being CEO is not about doing everything myself or making every decision for the company - it’s about building and leading a team of people with the right expertise and passion to drive the business forward. My main role is to ensure that the Laundrapp team has everything they need to be successful – whether that’s facilitating regular training for our fleet of drivers or encouraging innovation and risk taking in the product development team. My role is to lead and drive the vision, and ensure we have the team and resources to achieve it.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
Being a digital disruptor and entrepreneur, I’ve spent the last 18 years setting up disruptive businesses across the digital landscape. I love nothing more than taking an established market and turning it on its head, through leveraging the power of digital technology.
Entrepreneurs are fearless, they desire change and understand that it’s through facing fear that drives innovation. Whether it’s selling conkers in the school play yard or building and scaling one of the world’s most exciting tech companies, the qualities remain the same, you take a fail first approach to learning and have an engrained tenacity to improve.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
The key thing with being an entrepreneur is being fearless. I learnt long ago to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, so the market I operate best is disruption. Leaders support and inspire others, they lead by example and are first to admit their failures. They are not scared of ridicule and communicate a clear vision and path to success. Most importantly leaders build and grow those around them, they hire for their weaknesses and empower those around them to achieve.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Without doubt the biggest challenge for a new and disruptive business such as Laundrapp is changing consumer habit and behaviour. Laundry is an engrained habitual habit, through the power of digital we have an amazing opportunity to rapidly change this consumer habit and build trust. Laundrapp is taking war to the washing machine but more importantly we’re adding convenience to the lives of people across the country and freeing them from the daily chore of laundry!
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
As a business owner you quickly learn to effectively manage stress. Stress can be good or bad - personally I work well under pressure and therefore keep myself under pressure to achieve. It’s not stress that kills us, it’s our reaction to it.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Great question! My passion was technology, I coded as a child and spent my youth building PCs and creating video games. By the age of 13 I had already had a string of business ventures and failures behind me, whether it was the tuck shop that almost closed the school canteen or the short-lived conker business that failed with seasonality, I had the business streak from a very young age however it took me a few years to learn the word ‘entrepreneur’.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
My pet hate is anyone with a lack of passion for what they do. Passion eats experience for breakfast! Passion energises people and drives momentum; passionate people are like magnets and attract top talent. We’re not always right, however with passion and enthusiasm you’ll always find a way. If you lack passion then you’re clearly doing the wrong thing.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We’ve seen rapid growth in the two years since launch. The service has expanded to 100 towns and cities across the UK, and our technology is now licensed in Australia, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates, and shortly Brazil. The business will be live in 15 international markets in the next 24 months with our goal of being the default digital laundry technology in every major market within the next few years. We’re well on the path to achieving this and establishing Laundrapp as a major global British success story. There’s a lot of laundry out there and we’re ready to do it!
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Remember it’s not about ideas, it’s about making ideas happen! Great people can execute any idea; weak people can’t execute even the best ideas. Prepare to roll up your sleeves and forget about that work life balance – aim for a work life integration.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Jump off the cliff and build the parachute on the way down! Fear often stops us as individuals to achieving everything we want in life. I’ve learnt that by leaping, you always find a way.
Edward Relf, CEO and founder of Laundrapp, is speaking at The Festival of Marketing, 4-5 October 2017, Tobacco Dock, London