GONE are the days when dry cleaning was reserved for the less educated. We now have university graduates in the lucrative business. One of the most popular ones right now in Lagos is Clean Ace. Established five years ago by Eniibukun Adebayo, a graduate of Economics from Ondo State, ENCOMIUM Weekly had a fruitful discussion with the father of three in his office, at Maryland, Lagos, on Thursday, January 20, 2011. He revealed what makes a professional dry cleaner, challenges in the business and more.
Tell us about Clean Ace.
Clean Ace is a one-structure responsible body. A structure that is constantly redefining service standard, and when you are talking of service standard, you are looking at what others hold as the benchmark of the industry. We always look for opportunities, redefining them, making them better and improving on them. We take care of a lot of things, like shoes, bags, hats, towels, leathers, anything that has to do with fabrics. One of our mission statements is that we want to be perfect, and service is our guide by the principle of being perfect. By perfect, we mean we want to be polite, efficient, patient, respectful, cheerful and kind in our delivery. Our quality service is same time and every time. What I mean by this is, we don’t want you to return your clothes, that we didn’t do it well and you are returning it to be re-done and re-done all over. We want to satisfy first time and everytime by giving the best attention to all works, to fulfil the customer’s expectation. We have never settled an issue on clothes damage. We try to be professional.
A professional dry cleaner is actually a businessman that is standardly structured. The customer service must be structured, the staff training well structured, the equipment layers are properly positioned and the operations, everything intact. It is not just a business where you have a big advert saying, ‘Hey, this is what we do.’ Actually, when people go to some people’s houses, you enter their kitchen, you might not be able to drink water. Why? Their sitting room could be beautiful, but the kitchen and the backyard might not be so. But for us, our inner hands and back hands, are excellent. Very, very professional. The chemical we use is perfect, but you know, a lot of people call themselves dry cleaners when they don’t understand what the art of dry cleaning is. Something is easily put in water and they still think it’s ‘dry cleaning.’ But in all, having gone through our factory, you know that there is a big difference between boys and men. We are professional in the chemicals we use and we are professional in the training of our staff.
How old is Clean Ace?
Clean Ace is five years old.
When you started, what were the challenges?
The challenges were based on capital and the quality of staff. These were the key challenges, and power problem and location. We generate a lot of dirty water and how to dispose the waste water is a big challenge.
Where do you see Clean Ace in five years?
I thank God for what He has done in the past five years and I am very excited for what is going to happen in the next five years. In the next five years, Clean Ace must have an office in almost every local government in Lagos, even in every state capital in Nigeria. We are targeting all the Western states: Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti.
How many branches do you have now?
At the moment, we have six branches spread all over Lagos.
Where are they located?
We have one at Marina (Lagos Island), Bode Thomas in Surulere. We have two in Festac Town, one in Anthony and the head office, which is at Maryland, Lagos. In the next three to six months, we should be opening branches on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi;1004, Victoria Island and Lekki.
What informed the name, Clean Ace?
Ace is the most potent card in a pack. If you played card while you were growing up and you had the ace, it’s like a joker. It’s the best amongst the cards and the number one card. We want to do a cleaning business that is number one in the industry. For us at Clean Ace, we want to give you a special treatment that you won’t get anywhere else.
How customer friendly and affordable is Clean Ace?
Like we have in our mission statement, our service is competitive, driving. Those on the same level with us, we are about 30 to 40 per cent cheaper than they are. Then, we want to give an excellent rate. We want as many people as possible, provided we are rendering excellent service.
Would we be right to say unemployment is responsible for people parading themselves as dry cleaners?
Truly, in the past one or one and a half years, especially with the banks down-sizing and the global economic meltdown, we have had more people coming into the dry cleaning business more than ever. And a lot of these people are not professionals. But as many people who are into this industry, so many people have also shut down because they don’t know the nitty-gritty of the industry. A lot of them just want to steal our staff. But, the business actually is more than that.
In just five years, you are doing very fine. For those who want to do your kind of business, what’s your advice to them?
My advice to the upcoming entrepreneurs, first, you must know your passion, appreciate who you are, your gift, you must know your strength, your weakness, the opportunity that lies ahead of you and also the challenges of this industry. No business nowadays makes profit overnight. You have to put in a lot and be patient.
Approximately, how many customers does Clean Ace deal with?
We deal with between 10,000 to 15,000 customers. But if we are looking at how many transactions we do every month or every year, we can say it’s in hundreds of thousands, even far more than that.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Eniibukun Adebayo, I am an Ondo man, a washer man by every degree. I call myself an educated Alagbafo (laughs) and I enjoy everything I do with every passion in me. This year will be the 20th year that I have been in the industry and I thank God. I have been able to consult the best dry cleaners, consult for the best hotels, their laundries. I have been able to position properly. I am an economist by training, I attended extensive management and business seminars and schools within and outside the country, like Lagos Business School. I am married with three children. I love my staff and they love me and I love jazz and classical music.
What was growing up like?
I was a bad boy with capital BAD. Maybe it’s because I have been a Lagos boy for long. That’s where I actually developed this interest. We grew up to become designer freaks and we wanted to take care of clothes and manage them.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, January 25, 2011