As far as productivity is concerned, what I have learned is that when you figure out how to connect with your true purpose in life and you are doing what you were born to do, every single thing you do is productive.
Phillipe Christodoulou is the founder and co-owner of The Eco Laundry Company, a sustainable dry cleaning and laundry service headquartered in New York City. Christodolou launched the business in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2010, becoming the first environmentally friendly laundry and dry cleaning business in that country. He soon partnered with Jean Calleja, the co-owner of The Eco Laundry Company, to open its second location in New York City, now the headquarters of the company. In January 2015, Eco Laundry unveiled a targeted franchising opportunity to expand the business and share its mission with a wider audience.
The Eco Laundry Company is a pioneer in both the laundry and franchise industries, becoming a certified B Corporation, a business certification granted by the non-profit B Lab to a handful of companies that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
Additionally, the company gives back time and money to impactful organizations, including charity: water, WeForest and 1% for the Planet.
Prior to realizing his entrepreneurial dream and starting The Eco Laundry Company, Christodoulou spent a decade as a senior consultant and recruiter in the tech industry.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
For me, the moment of realization was a rather precise meeting point of a number of different stories that had been developing in my life – the most significant of these stories being entrepreneurship and sustainability. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to create my own business and I knew that whatever I built had to be a vehicle for positive global change. Those ambitions were built into my DNA, so it necessarily followed that they would be built into the DNA of my business.
All that was missing was the vehicle, that precise idea. One day, this was more than five years ago now, I was standing in line at my local Laundromat in Buenos Aires and I suddenly became hyper-aware of my surroundings. I started calculating water consumption, energy consumption, plastic bags, bleach and other toxic chemicals. The business opportunity, as well as the problem to be solved, became immediately clear. That very day, I started writing the business plan for The Eco Laundry Company.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
There is really no such thing as a typical day in my world. Firstly, because I commute between Buenos Aires and New York, my physical location changes dramatically depending on where I need to be. And, The Eco Laundry Company has been an evolving process. At the very beginning, my days were filled looking for our first store. Later, they were filled serving customers and washing clothes. Then, they were filled replicating the model in New York. After that, it was the B Corporation certification process and then it was franchising.
In short, it’s constantly changing. As far as productivity is concerned, what I have learned is that when you figure out how to connect with your true purpose in life and you are doing what you were born to do, every single thing you do is productive. Every action brings you a step closer to realizing your dream and hard work becomes somewhat effortless. The only thing I do consistently is consciously express gratitude for what I have.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I think the most difficult challenge any entrepreneur faces is something no one ever talks about. It’s about developing one’s intuition and relationship with their own inner voice. What happens when we develop this more spiritual side of our intellect is that ideas arrive quicker and more clearly. As your inner response mechanisms are more highly focused, you get a sense very quickly of whether something is right or not. If it feels right, then I don’t waste a second. I go for it. Once the goal is in sight, it gets the attention it needs until it comes to life.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The sustainability trend excites me immeasurably. Not least of all because of the extraordinary business opportunities that it creates, but that it is necessary for the evolution and survival of our species. We get to be a part of a major paradigm shift. What could be more exciting than that?
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I tend not to overthink things. I trust my intuition and, when a necessary step becomes clear, I move to action quickly.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I once did door-to-door sales for a cable television company. Knocking doors was soul destroying. We had to work in the evenings because that was when decision makers were home from work. People were understandably very suspicious of sales people at their door at night, so getting inside was incredibly challenging. There were nights in winter when it was freezing cold and raining and door after door was being slammed in my face. It was brutal.
What it taught me was resilience, persistence and, most importantly, how to get someone’s attention within the first few seconds of meeting. When you step inside a person’s front gate and start walking up to the door, you have only a few seconds to glean information from what you see around you and you need to be able to use that information to try and find a way to connect with the person on the other side of the door. That skill comes in extremely useful as an entrepreneur.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If I had the chance to do it over again, I’m not sure that I would go it alone. The stress and anxiety of starting up a business alone is off the charts. To have someone to shoulder some of the burden and bring capital into the business as well would have made those first few years far more tolerable. Having said that, now that I’ve made it through, I’m glad I survived with full control over my business. But be that as it may, If I knew then what I know now I don’t think I would willingly go though it again. You have to have nerves of steel to keep going when things get rough and nothing makes sense and it’s just you. The risk to the mental health of the entrepreneur is another one of the great unspoken challenges in starting a business.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Follow your gut. My story was particularly crazy because I followed my intuition and started with no experience in business, in a country where I didn’t speak the language, where rampant inflation affects small business in ways that I couldn’t comprehend – and I did it alone. But, my intuition was strong and my vision for The Eco Laundry Company was very clear and I trusted it. What followed was akin to extreme sports and there were a thousand moments along the way where I doubted myself, I doubted my vision and I doubted my inner voice, but I didn’t give up.
I know two things for sure. If you have done the work to engage and develop your own intuition and you trust it and follow it and don’t ever give up, even when you’re in your darkest moment, you will succeed. You will have everything that you dream of, but it will take everything you have and then some. The second thing is that if I can do it in a country where I didn’t speak the language, which is considered to be one of the most difficult places to do business in the world and where inflation sits at around 40 percent and credit doesn’t exist, you can definitely do it too.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
The number one thing that has helped to grow our brand is that the business has a higher purpose. I wouldn’t call it a strategy per se because the business was built with its purpose at its core. Having a mission, or purpose, has made us relevant in today’s evolving marketplace, which has helped tremendously as far as growth is concerned. I truly believe that in the very near future businesses that don’t serve a purpose or help to solve social or environmental problems in some way will be left behind.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Before I started The Eco Laundry Company, I created a business plan for a private members club in Buenos Aires. The project required a lot of capital and I was attempting to raise money to build it. There was a lot of interest, as Buenos Aires was a hotspot at that time and people were flying in from all over the world to meet me. It was looking good and there was a lot of excitement about what I was trying to do. But, it was late 2007 and as the year was drawing to a close the global financial crisis was beginning to unfold. Just as we were beginning to get verbal commitments, the whole thing started to fall apart. By the time the first few months of 2008 had past, the project was basically dead. To add insult to injury my business plan was stolen by someone whom I had given it to and the project was later launched by the group that person works for.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Interestingly – and most frustratingly – no one is providing many sustainable supplies into the dry cleaning industry. Given that the laundry and dry cleaning industry is an $11 billion yearly industry in the US alone, there is a considerable opportunity to provide products to the industry as it continues to evolve. We will certainly do business with any new businesses in this field!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a really good friend a set of hot chocolate drinking glasses so he could share hot chocolate with his kids. It made me very happy.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I’m an avid twitter user and am also active on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. The thing I love most about those mediums is how easily they allow us to share and exchange ideas across the world in real time. More specifically with Twitter, which I love the most, is that it’s a medium that forces users to get to the point: It’s hard to waste a lot of time with meaningless information on it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Master Key System by Charles F. Haanel. This book was life changing for me because it taught me to understand the law of attraction through which I learned to manifest everything I have created. If you can come to understand that you have the power to create anything you want in this world, and follow the simple exercises needed to sharpen the skills through which to do it, there is nothing you can’t achieve.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
@piamancini and @santisiri are modern day heroes for me. What they are doing with @democracyOS is a global game changer and I couldn’t be more excited about their vision and how that vision is coming to life. They have basically redesigned democracy for the digital age, making the jaw droppingly obvious point that we are 21st Century citizens being governed by 19th century institutions. If you haven’t heard about them you should see what they are working on. Its mind blowing – check out DemocracyOS.org. They have shown me that crazy ideas are the best ideas and that the world is ready to listen.
Phillipe Christodoulou on Twitter: @happytalist
The Eco Laundry on Instagram: @theecolaundry
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.