Most of the buzz in dry cleaning today centers on big fish from other industries' ponds. But dry cleaning veterans like Siamak Ghazvini also want to transform the business. Ghazvini, 42, has run a popular dry cleaner in the heart of Silicon Valley for seven years. "The #1 thing is that we're not new to this industry," he boasts.
Three years ago Ghazvini was running a traditional seven-store dry cleaning chain based in Redwood City, Calif. He eventually added pickup and delivery services for his high-flying, high-maintenance clientele. In 1999, Ghazvini and his brother, Payman Rafii, started SiliconValleyCleaners.com to offer customers the ability to request dry cleaning services on the Web. "It's a convenient way of keeping in touch with sophisticated customers," he says.
Now Ghazvini has completed a new business plan to take his Bay Area concept national. He calls the company AmeriCleaners.com and hopes to create a 1-800-Flowers-like network of independent dry cleaners by providing them a national brand and technology infrastructure. Ghazvini claims to have lined up 20 partner operations to form a network from Los Angeles to San Francisco and has even signed on a few partners in other cities, like Atlanta and New York.
Customers will submit dry cleaning orders on the Web, and AmeriCleaners will forward the lead to the closest cleaner in its network. That shop will then pick up, launder, and return the garments within 36 hours. "We believe that dry cleaning is a very local business and should be operated locally," Ghazvini explains. "All we'll do is maintain the portal and provide expertise to dry cleaners on how their customers behave online."
Ghazvini says he'll promote the AmeriCleaners brand name heavily, although at this point his funding includes no outside investors.
But Ghazvini remains confident. A bunch of dilettantes invading his turf, he says, are no match for his years of toil in a brutal industry in one of the most demanding consumer markets in the country. "You know what happens to those big-hype companies," he scoffs. "They deflate like a balloon."
MIKE HOFMAN was previously editor of Inc.com and a deputy editor at Inc. magazine, which he joined in 1996. The site was nominated for a National Magazine Award for Digital Media in 2010, and was named the best business website by Folio Magazine. In 2006, Hofman was part of a team of writers nominated for a Webby Award for best business blog. He lives in New York City. @mikehofman