Ishmael Wilson, also known as Pastor Ishmael, is the CEO of Fresh Dry Cleaners, which is a chain of eco-friendly dry cleaners that has the distinction of being one of the few multi-site black-owned dry cleaners in the country.
Fresh is not a commercial franchise, but a family-owned chain that has expanded organically over the last decade. The chain has four locations that include its own production facility. Although they serve customers who visit their pick-up locations, they also offer dry cleaning services to hotels and other organizations.
Driven by the need to have an income stream, Ishmael decided to go into the dry cleaning business because he was looking for a type of business that was not trendy and had longevity.
“Dry cleaners, if they have the right tools and support, have the ability to continue to exist for generations.” Ishmael shares.
As an entrepreneur, Ishmael wanted to make his business recession-proof so as a man of faith, he sought answers and guidance from God, and after getting guidance he started his first location.
“I often tell people that I clean ‘souls and clothes.’ I later found out that my grandparents owned and operated dry cleaners in the 1960s. So I guess in a way, I’m picking up where they left off. I’m sure my success in this industry is living my grandparents’ dream.” He adds.
Fresh stands out from its competitors because they focus on quality over quantity. Volume is not their main goal. Their objective is to satisfy their customers with excellent customer service and quality dry cleaning.
“We don’t want to be known as a dry cleaner that simply cleans your clothes. We want to be known as a dry cleaner that cares about your experience and will go out of its way to make sure that every experience is one that you will want to repeat again and again.” Ishmael explains.
Like many other businesses, the emergence of COVID -19 posed one of the biggest if not the biggest obstacle to Ishmael’s business. But after the shock of it, Ishmael used his ingenuity to overcome the adversity that lay ahead by offering a service he didn’t have before.
“Covid19 was actually our biggest obstacle. When the country shut down the third week of March 2020 and we went from making thousands of dollars a week to a few hundred, it was gut-wrenching. But once I got over the shock of what was happening in the country, let alone my business, I quickly went into survival mode. We quickly moved our business from the counter to the customer’s doorstep. We offered FREE pick-up and delivery services and added a disinfectant for all clothing that killed viruses on the surface. That, along with our already established cleaning protocols, became a sure win.” Ishmael states.
All of this clearly paid off since just recently, Washington City Paper named Fresh Dry Cleaners the #1 Dry Cleaners in the area, in the midst of the pandemic.
For Ishmael, anyone who wants to start their own business should have an entrepreneurial mindset as it will help them process what is necessary for their business. In the same way, he recommends to people who want to start a business that one of the first things they should do is research.
“Researching various sectors will give you an idea of what suits you and what fits your overall vision. You also need to research the competition to get an idea of the market. I also advise you to identify your needs and your financial capacity. This will determine the budget, projections, and funds needed for the start-up. Finally, I would say that a business plan is necessary. This will ultimately be your project plan and provide direction.” Ishmael advises.
In the near future, Ishmael is focused on developing eco-friendly laundry detergent and cleaning solutions, opening two additional locations and teaching other entrepreneurs how to grow and scale their business through his training company, Success Geeks.
Learn more about Ishmael and Fresh here.