With business doubling every year since inception 3.5 years ago, Mr. Timesaver is on course to become number 1 dry cleaning pick-up and delivery service in The Netherlands. We met with founders Kevin Zara (31) and Xayenne Tromp (30) to learn about their journey.
Kevin and Xayenne moved to The Netherlands 11 years ago from sunny Aruba. After graduating from the Rotterdam Business School and doing a masters in Entrepreneurship, Kevin got a job at an oil & gas company. His busy working schedule and short opening hours of the dry cleaners made it impossible for him to get his clothes dry cleaned. Xayenne was still studying at the time, so she took on the task of bringing Kevin’s clothes to a dry cleaner. However, she soon got tired of it. There just had to be a better way. From their personal need, the idea of Mr. Timesaver was born.
Kevin gave notice to his employer and in the months that followed, Kevin and Xayenne invested time and resources in market research to avoid entering the market blindfolded. They analyzed opening hours of traditional dry cleaners, potential target groups and areas.
They decided to focus on The Hague and surroundings, because of its large expat population. “The Dutch like to keep things the way they are.” explains Xayenne. It would take time before the locals would be convinced to give Mr. Timesaver a shot. “For expats, the pick-up and delivery dry cleaning service is quite normal, especially for people from US and UK. It is something they are used to back at home but miss when they move to The Netherlands.” adds Kevin.
Kevin and Xayenne learned the theory behind marketing and branding during their studies. However, as Xayenne puts it, “Reading about it and actually doing it is totally different”. After launching the website, the business did not pick up immediately. They had to teach themselves how to successfully employ social media marketing strategies and use Google Ads.
According to Kevin, adoption is a big challenge. The concept of Mr. Timesaver is new to the Dutch market, “When people see Mr. Timesaver for the first time, they are a bit skeptical. It takes time. People check out your Facebook or Google reviews and they see them grow over the months. Then they finally decide to give it a try.” Stellar reviews is something Mr. Timesaver can be proud of. They have managed to score a 4.9 average on Google and Facebook, based on over 170 reviews.
When it comes to marketing, one of Mr. Timesaver’s strengths is its social media presence and great audience engagement. Xayenne, who is in charge of social media, mixes it up with memes, fun facts, and videos, “I try to add something fun to the life of the customer when I post something. Not just, ‘Hey did you order today?’”
Mr. Timesaver has a forward-thinking and open approach when it comes to innovation and staying relevant. They have recently started testing traffic generation through videos. “We have to prepare for the future and keep up with marketing trends. In the future, 80% of traffic to websites will be through videos. We have to adapt.” explains Kevin.
One thing’s for sure, Kevin and Xayenne are not afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. Looking back at the first year, Xayenne says, “It was trial and error in the beginning”. After realizing that the original logo does not connect well with the target audience, they rebranded. Xayenne explains, “In the name, there is a mister, but you did not see a mister in the logo.”
They took the time to learn more about the impact of images and colors. Inspired by a retro theme, Xayenne redesigned the logo and the website herself, “What most people do is they hire an outside company to do their branding. You don’t feel the connection with the branding they come up with. You just pick from a selection of logos and colors they present. It doesn’t feel personal.” After successfully rebranding Mr. Timesaver, website traffic and order numbers significantly increased.
Even though, they have mastered digital marketing, Kevin and Xayenne do not underestimate the importance of traditional word-of-mouth marketing. When asked how important word-of-mouth has been in building the Mr. Timesaver brand and generating new business, they both respond with “MOST important”. Xayenne explains, “With social media you have to show 100 people to convince 2 people. However, if one person tells 8 friends about Mr. Timesaver, all 8 will automatically perceive Mr. Timesaver as trustworthy.”
“These days, a lot of working people do not come home at 5, and probably not even at 6” says Kevin. However, most dry cleaners in The Netherlands close at 5. Many take a few days to dry clean your laundry, which does not fit in today’s instant gratification culture. Moreover, the new generation is used to ordering everything online, from clothes to groceries, and having it delivered at their doorstep. “People are shifting more towards convenient services” explains Kevin. He feels that traditional dry cleaners are a dying business, because of their lack of adaptability.
Kevin believes that adaptability and flexibility are key in today’s market, “We will be there for our customers when it fits them. People do not want to hear the word ‘No’.” This is why Mr. Timesaver is open from 7am to midnight and customers can choose a 1-hour time window for pick-up and delivery. Delivery can be arranged as fast as 24 hours after pick-up.
When asked to analyze what played a crucial role in the success of Mr. Timesaver, one of the things that Kevin and Xayenne emphasized is the importance of relationship building, “We have built a close relationship with our customers. We actually got to know our customers.” Their friendly and open attitude is partially influenced by the Aruban culture they grew up in. Back in Aruba, they also worked in the hotel industry which gave them a lot of experience when it comes to customer service and putting a smile on a customer’s face.
Kevin and Xayenne take the time to listen to their customers and understand their needs. As a result of customer feedback, Mr. Timesaver now offers shoe service, clothing repairs, and tailor service. Kevin believes that any business should be open to change, “You constantly have to reinvent yourself in order to succeed. What can we do to better ourselves?” Customers play an important role in providing direction for reinvention.
The business model behind Mr. Timesaver is very smart. It allows Kevin and Xayenne to focus more on customer service and relationship building. “We are not doing the cleaning. We are doing the logistics. This way we can focus more on service.” explains Xayenne.
In order to concentrate on what they are really good at, Mr. Timesaver chose to partner with carefully selected dry cleaners, tailors, and cobblers. They tested them to ensure that high quality standards are met, even under time pressure. Some companies passed the test, while others could not handle the pace. As Mr. Timesaver grows, this business model helps facilitate that. Partnering with companies means that they can scale quickly without investing in extra cleaning equipment or a larger facility.
One of Mr. Timesaver’s trademarks is their 1-hour pick-up and delivery window, which customers can choose. To live up to customers’ expectations, Kevin and Xayenne investigated smart solutions to help them stay on schedule. One of those solutions is a route optimization app which they are currently using.
Quality and consistency are extremely important to Mr. Timesaver’s reputation. This also applies to Mr. Timesaver’s employees, who act like brand ambassadors. Employees are responsible for ensuring that customers have a positive experience. With every pick-up and delivery, customers are greeted with a warm smile and a handshake. Employees always engage in conversation with customers which makes the experience very personal, but at the same time, uniform to the Mr. Timesaver brand.
At the moment, Mr. Timesaver offers their services in The Hague, Rotterdam, Leiden, Delft, and the small towns in between. In the coming month, they plan to conquer the whole of South Holland region and move towards Amsterdam.
Kevin and Xayenne have already done market research in Amsterdam and are currently testing the logistics. Amsterdam is proving to be difficult, because of heavy traffic, narrow roads, and driving hazards (read: crazy cyclists). Nevertheless, Amsterdam is an interesting market. Kevin explains, “Amsterdam houses are small. Many people do not even have a washer or dryer.” In addition, Amsterdam, like The Hague, has a large expat population.
Expansion most probably means that Kevin and Xayenne will need to loosen the reigns of control and allocate some regions to their growing team. However, with everything they have learned over the past 3.5 years, and a great team of people to support them, they are undoubtedly ready for this next step.
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