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A Fresh Idea: Arik Levy '96

Written by: 
Deblina Chakraborty

Arik Levy’s unique business grew from a pretty typical problem: Long hours at the office were making personal errands difficult to accomplish. Finding time to retrieve his dry cleaning was a particular chore.

“It drove me nuts,” he says. “Dry cleaners were out of the way, never open, and only took cash or check. I knew there had to be a better way.”

The Class of 1996 alumnus envisioned a service that would allow people to drop off and pick up laundry at their convenience. His entrepreneurial venture – Laundry Locker – debuted in 2005.

“It was an idea that made a lot of sense, and I couldn’t find anyone who was doing it,” says Levy, who at the time was working as vice president of operations for consumer electronics company PNI Corporation, located about an hour outside San Francisco.

The premise is elegantly simple. Customers leave laundry in lockers the company operates in stand-alone kiosks, apartment complexes, office buildings and retail stores around San Francisco. After dropping off clothes to be laundered, customers send a text message or online order to alert the company. Once the items are cleaned and returned to the locker, the client is notified by text or email.

“Technology and the Internet are a huge part of what we do, and that really sets us apart,” notes the former Computer Information Systems major.  “Many dry cleaners focus on how the clothes are cleaned – and that’s important to us as well. But our business from day one was about making the customer’s dry cleaning experience much more convenient.”

Customers’ enthusiasm has fueled growth, with the company expanding from drop-off sites in eight buildings to more than 150 locations throughout San Francisco.  A recent partnership with Chase provided an additional boost of visibility. The financial services giant featured Laundry Locker in a series of print ads highlighting innovative new businesses. Levy’s plans call for a rapid nationwide expansion.

“To run your own business, you have to be able to do a lot of things: finances, payroll, HR stuff, marketing, operations, and so forth. The well-roundedness of my Bentley education has helped me do this,” he says. “I’ve been able to do a lot of things on my own that may be a challenge for other business owners.”

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