Worry less about career path and climbing the ladder and just focus on being the absolute best at whatever you’re going to do.
Daniel Miller is President and Founder of Mulberrys Garment Care. Prior to founding Mulberrys, Dan served as a management consultant with McKinsey and Company, a global management consultancy. At McKinsey, Dan focused on improvements in the retail and service sectors, which he has actively applied to the dry cleaning industry.
Under Dan’s leadership at Mulberrys, the company has expanded from one store in Minneapolis in 2009 to 16 stores in Minneapolis-St. Paul and the San Francisco Bay Area. Mulberrys has been awarded Best Dry Cleaner in Minnesota numerous times and been voted to America’s Best Cleaners. In 2014 Dan was selected as one of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s 40 under 40 and in 2017 was profiled as a “Business Rock Star.”
Dan has a B.A. in political science from College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts and a Master of Public Policy (M.P.P) from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.
Where did the idea for Mulberrys come from?
I was consistently disappointed with my experiences at local dry cleaners. The service was subpar. The stores looked messy and smelled like chemicals. The store associates acted disinterested, and my clothes often came back damaged or were lost. One day, after I received a shirt back with a hole in it I said to myself “There has to be a better way.”
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I really don’t have a “typical day”, which is one of the things that I thinks helps me be productive. One of the things I always push myself to do is focus on the levers that I can pull that will really impact our business. Every day there are 200 things I could do to make Mulberrys better. The important thing is focusing on those 3 or 4 initiatives that will move the needle.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I always visualize the customer experience and ask myself “how would I want to feel at each step in my interaction with Mulberrys? What would be the ideal?” And once I have a clear image of the absolute ideal customer experience, I work backward step-by-step to make that happen.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The trend towards buying experiences instead of things really excites me. Life is so short and the more time we can spend having great experiences instead of just collecting junk the better. That’s a big reason I started my business. I was tired of worrying about my clothes, doing laundry, and making trips to the dry cleaner. I thought, “How great would it be if someone could have their laundry and dry cleaning done, shoes shines, pants hemmed, and rug cleaned with the touch of a button?”
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I limit daily travel as much as possible. In operations, there is a saying that “if you’re walking your wasting.” Meaning, that if you’re spending your day going from one place to another then you aren’t getting much done. I firmly believe that if you can avoid daily commute and avoid driving to meetings you can free up an astonishing amount of time.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Worry less about career path and climbing the ladder and just focus on being the absolute best at whatever you’re going to do. If you do that, the money and success will follow.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Dry cleaning and laundry at scale is one of the most difficult operational challenges that I’ve ever seen. That’s why nobody has done it.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
The biggest thing I tell people to do is “Think Lazy”. What I mean by that is that a lazy person always wants things to be easy and gets frustrated or annoyed when things are hard. It is this frustration that leads to innovation. Uber was founded by someone who thought lazy and was annoyed by the inconvenience of cabs. OpenTable was founded by someone who thought lazy and was frustrated with having to pick up a phone to make restaurant reservations. The best business ideas are built on the concept of solving someone’s problem. If you think lazy, the next time you’re annoyed or frustrated with something in your life, you’ll have a new business idea.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Put yourself in the shoes of the customer. It seems so simple, but it’s amazing how many business owners don’t take the time to just use their product in the same way the customer would. They don’t ask themselves “if I walk into the store as a customer what does it feel like”, “If I use this app, is it intuitive?”. They get so focused on their business plans that they forget to actually ask if this is something that people would want and enjoy.
10. What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When we started Mulberrys we wanted to use wood hangers, but because we didn’t have any scale they were way too expensive to just give away. So, we charged a hanger deposit, which would be returned when you brought your hangers back. I initially thought customers wouldn’t care because who wants a bunch of hangers in their closet, but they absolutely hated it. I overcame it by simply saying “we blew it”. I sent an email to our customers explaining we were wrong and that all hangers would be free. Then I got to work finding a supplier that we could order from in bulk. In the long run, it made us a much better business.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Blue Apron for kids meals
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Christmas presents for my niece and nephew. You can’t beat the look in a kid’s eyes on Christmas.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
We use a task management software called Asana. It is terrific for keeping track of all the little day-to-day tasks that make Mulberrys hum.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Walden Two”. It’s a book about a Utopian community very different from our own. I don’t agree with everything in it, but I think it’s incredibly valuable to look at the world through a different perspective.
What is your favorite quote?
If you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a hand full of mud either.
- Think lazy. If something bothers or frustrates you, there’s probably a business in solving it
- Prioritize. There are countless good ideas. Focus on the ones that will really move your business.
- Imagine what the customer feels. Put yourself in the shoes of the customer and make sure that every step of their experience with your brand is ideal.
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