Ask any Siem Reap expat, and they’ll lament a favourite shirt, dress, skirt or top that was ruined at the hands of a bristled brush and a bottle of bleach. Laundry has been a long-standing issue for both westerners and native Reapers alike, but three business-savvy Belgians are here to change all that.
Chef Carlo Toye, web designer Christophe Borgers, and teacher Jessie Tielens put their heads together to come up with a western concept they could apply in Siem Reap. Laundry Like Home was born.
Laundry Like Home, which opened last month, gives your garments the kind of treatment your mum might provide. Unlike most Siem Reap laundry services, the new enterprise uses washing machines and dryers, and has a pickup and delivery service.
With their unique ribbon system, you’ll never have to unknot woollen laundry tags again. Plus, for those who want a little added luxury, ironing is available for an extra 50c per kilo.
“Tourists and expats don’t want to bring an $80 shirt to a laundry where they’re not sure if it’ll be cleaned properly, or even if they’ll get it back,” said Toye. “So we figured let’s do a laundry but let’s really do it good, everything back, on time, and it’s all washed by machines.”
Though providing a premium service, Toye said they keep prices low at $1 per kilo to remain competitive. “Even though we pay for the machines and the electricity, it’s Cambodia. People have the choice, so if it’s more expensive, they won’t come.”
Despite being originally pitched as a service for expats and tourists, Toye said they have been surprised at the uptake by Khmer customers. “About 20 percent of our customers are Khmer,” he said.
Toye said the laundry applies several European concepts and systems: from branding and design to their 10 percent loyalty card for staff. “At the moment we employ three staff. They all have a day off, they have music in the shop, and overhead fans, we want to be good for them. Just like in Europe, if you’re good to your staff, they’ll stay a bit longer."
Unlike Europe though, Toye said that starting up a business in Cambodia is an easy process. “Over here they say ‘If you want to invest in our country, give our people work, just do it.’ To set up a business like ours in Europe, you’d need $20,000 to $30,000.”
So what’s his advice for other would-be entrepreneurs? “I’d say just go for it. Don’t think about it for too long...If you have a good idea, something we don’t have here but is successful in the western world, then why not try it? Siem Reap is ready for western ideas."
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