Hilary Barr is the Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of Sudzy, an on-demand laundry and dry-cleaning app. Sudzy is based in New York City and has partnered with cleaners in cities around the United States and Europe. Hilary has a degree in Neuroscience from Yale University.
Q: What does entrepreneurship mean to you, and what underlying characteristics do you see in successful entrepreneurs?
Hilary: To me, entrepreneurship is the mindset that I can create something from nothing that people will use and want.
A person who sells ice cream in the street, a real estate developer who turns a village into a city, and a musician who sells recordings of their songs online are all vastly different examples of entrepreneurs. Yet most entrepreneurs share one common factor: the desire to carve their own destiny by creating something new that others find meaningful. This kind of hunger for innovation requires a comfort with uncertainty since there are many risks along the entrepreneur's path. But the hope of creation is so strong that when the entrepreneurial bug strikes you, it is an insatiable need.
Q: What are you most proud of in your professional career?
Hilary: I am most proud of building a service that has freed people's time so they can focus on what matters to them. It feels good when we get a note from a customer thanking us for making it possible to spend her Saturday catching up with a friend instead of doing laundry in the basement, or when our laundromat partners call us to tell us that they had their busiest day in the industry because of Sudzy.. It is exciting that the software I helped write is allowing our partners to reach dreams like taking their children on vacation or saving up for cooking school.
Q: If you could do something over in your life, what would it be?
Hilary: If I could do something over, I would have learned how to code when I was a child. Attending the DevBootcamp software engineering program several years ago was one of the best decisions of my life. Sudzy was only possible because I was able to contribute to all the layers of our early product. Knowing how to code also enables me to hire developers, write specs, and speak the same language as technical employees.
If I learned to code as a child though, there are so many ideas I would have been able to build along the way. Anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur should take online classes or attend a software bootcamp as soon as possible.
Q: Tell us about an instance where you had to go against the flow to realize your goal.
Hilary: My co-founder Roy and I noticed that on-demand laundry companies were growing rapidly and had raised millions in funding. Despite their success, we decided to go against the flow by building an entirely different business model.
Our competitors compete with local cleaners since they deliver themselves and outsource the cleaning to large factories in the suburbs. We went around talking to local cleaners and learned that their business is hurting because they don't have the technology to keep up. Several times a week, they see on-demand laundry trucks pick up from customers within a few feet of their store.
We built Sudzy around the finding that customers want the convenience of on-demand but the quality of local. If customers have a question, they know who to call and where their clothing is. We are also able to charge half as much as the on-demand companies since the local cleaners handle the deliveries. This Seamless model has been paying off. Both laundromats and customers are reporting high satisfaction rates and our repeat user rate is extremely high.
Q: Why should people use on-demand laundry?
Hilary: On-demand laundry is the most convenient way to have your laundry done. No more dragging your heavy bag to the laundromat, repeating your address and credit card every time you call for pickup, or spending your precious time at the coin laundry. Here are three reasons why people use on-demand laundry.
On-demand laundry saves you time: The average person spends ten hours a month on laundry. With Sudzy, you just click one button and your clothing is taken care of.
On-demand laundry saves you money: Doing your own laundry costs something like $45 when you factor in detergent, fabric softener and dryer sheets, machines, and your time. A typical load of laundry is only around $15 and a dry-cleaned shirt around $2.50 on Sudzy. We also offer $10 off the first order and many specials.
On-demand laundry entrusts your clothing to the experts: Sudzy works with local, certified cleaners to ensure customers get the best service.
Q: What drives you? How do you measure success for yourself?
Hilary: I tend to dream of ideas that don't exist yet and am driven by the need to bring my visions to reality. While I think big, I measure success by breaking down my plans into concrete, measurable, short-term goals. Examples of metrics that I find helpful are how highly customers and partners rate Sudzy, how many repeat orders we are getting, and how quickly we are able to reduce store onboarding time each week.
Success for me also means that I am surrounded by the right team. It is important to spend your time with people you can grow with and who you enjoy being with. Working with Roy and our other teammates has made me a better person. I also feel that success means giving back by mentoring others as well.
Q: If you were to give advice to your 22 year old self, what would it be?
Hilary: The advice I would have given to my 22 year old self is to view mistakes or struggles as learning opportunities. Specially, my first venture out of college, was an online platform for parents of children with autism. We didn't want to charge parents and realized that there was no clear way to generate enough revenue to survive on. At first, I was disappointed when we stopped working on it. But I realized that Sudzy was only possible because of the skills I developed from working on this first venture. There is no such thing as failure, only opportunities to enrich ourselves with new talents and develop new friendships that help us do better at our next endeavors.
Follow Hilary Barr at @GetSudzy, check out the other interviews in Going Against the Flow series at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charu-sharma/ and join this movement to empower 1 million female entrepreneurs on goagainsttheflow.com.