By Mark Kapchanga
At the leafy suburbs of Westlands, opposite the Mall lies a conspicuous, neatly written banner: "Fabricare is our top priority."
The tranquility inside the premises housing Elgonia Drycleaners and Laundry Ltd is intermittently disrupted by the roaring of laundry machines — said to be one the region’s most modern.
According to Carol Chebitwey, the brain behind the firm tasked with laundry, dry cleaning, dry and steam press, repairs and alterations, it has not been a smooth ride. She says energy has been one of the major impediments to the growth of the business as in Westlands, power outages, is a norm, especially on Sundays. Carol Chebitwey controls the washing machine [Photo: Mark Kapchanga/Standard]
Carol Chebitwey controls the washing machine [Photo: Mark Kapchanga/Standard]
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"To remain in business and meet our customer expectations, we have been compelled to install a three-phase generator," she says.
But it is not just power outages that have threatened to tear apart Elgonia.
Water shortages, too, have had a huge impact on the running of its operations.
"Our machines are the region’s most modern. As a result, it is extra-sensitive to any impurities in the water. This, therefore, means we cannot contemplate using borehole water and if we should, then we would need costly purifying equipment," she said.
The entrepreneur says she had to install a heavy-duty purifier so that they constantly check PH levels and iron levels "because we do 80 per cent white linen which is sensitive to impurities."
But the challenges, she says, proved to strengthen the business, with new strategies deployed to tackle them. It is as a result of her robust entrepreneurial spirit that, today, Elgonia is fast increasing its market share in the laundry sector in Nairobi.
She says Elgonia Drycleaners commenced operations with one corporate client.
It then opened doors to walk-in clients in June this year. To-date, its corporate base has grown to more than 10 corporate clients and 280 walk-in clients.
Majority of the firm’s clients are from hospitality industry, learning institutions as well as leading political figures. They include 2012 Presidential hopeful and Gichugu Member of Parliament Martha Karua, Minister for Information and Kacheliba MP Samuel Poghisio, among other figureheads.
Questions now linger, on what is so special about Ms Chebitwey’s services that her laundry services are now a catch to the-who-is-who is the country.
"We offer exclusive personalised services, reliable pickup and delivery with impeccable finish offering competitive rates without compromising quality standards. Elgonia’s overriding drive is quality service supported by a careful selection of state of the art equipment, most reliable detergents and solvents, tested procedures to give the best finish to your garments, she says, adding: "Above all, its highly competent and ever friendly staff will give the optimum final touch to ensure fast, timely and reliable service."
The entrepreneur says Elgonia is continually building relationships with the top service providers in equipment, chemicals and services as it thrives to offer unparalleled service to its clients.
"We have a working relationship with the Norfolk Fairmont hotel to provide backup services for dry-cleaning and laundry services on need basis. Our main goal is to forge lasting relationships with our clients by providing them with reliable and affordable solutions. This is driven by our two main values that are; provision of quality services and on set timelines."
In what is likely to drive its popularity at a higher business radar, Chebitwey says the firm spent the last quarter of last year researching on market trends and putting in place the right basic infrastructure of the company.
"The company structure has been put in place to enhance quality service to our customers. The business is driven heavily on tested dry-cleaning and laundry processes combined with necessary equipment and a team of qualified staff members. The physical infrastructure includes washer extractor machines, dryer and state-of-the-art finishing equipment that comprise steam press and flat work," she says.
It is due to the growing demand for its world-class laundry services that Elgonia recently ordered another batch of laundry machines to help bolster quality services to its clients.
"A second order of laundry machines have landed in the suppliers go down in industrial area because of the growing demand for our service," she told Business Unusual.
With stiff competition in the laundry sector, Elgonia has a competitive advantage of operating round the clock— 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"We also constantly check trends on detergents such that our clients get the expected results. Many dry cleaners and laundry have run away from washing white linen because it’s a very tricky venture. But that is where we are good at. Again, we do free home delivery, repairs and alterations."