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Matt Connelly, CEO and Founder of ihateironing


Matt Connelly started ihateironing in 2014, and has since grown the company into becoming the leading dry cleaning service, with over 70 dry cleaning partners and a growing head office team.


Prior to this, Matt established Shoreditch’s first co-working space, The Hatchery, and developed an entrepreneurship network of 12 East London universities. He also led the Tech City Bootcamps for Digital Entrepreneurs.


In 2022, Matt won the Entrepreneur of the Year award at the British Business Awards for his role in successfully leading ihateironing through the pandemic and continuing to support local businesses across the UK from going under.


What's your industry?

Dry Cleaning and Laundry Delivery


How did you end up sitting where you are today?

I’ve always believed that at the core of being an entrepreneur is a willingness to find potential; be it the potential for a new business in the market, the potential for individuals to grow, and the potential to create tangible impact on people’s lives. My parents came from humble and hardworking backgrounds; my Mum was brought up on a farm in the Highlands, and my Dad came from a mining family in Scotland. I was brought up with a hard working ethos, and was granted the freedom to navigate my creativity without being restricted.


Before I founded ihateironing, I worked alongside start ups in London to support their growth and development for 8 years. Along with providing consulting and training to a portfolio of early-stage business in South London, I also founded and managed a variety of start-up programmes, creating the very first coworking spaces in the Shoreditch/Tech City sphere and then going on to support the development of one of the fastest growing dance schools in the UK.


I learned so much from the inspiring entrepreneurs and team members I worked alongside for those 8 years, and was able to realise my own motivation to create a business that can really take a certain hassle off people's hands using successful tech systems and a convenient service.



What kind of work does your daily role involve?

As the founder and CEO of ihateironing, my daily role involves overseeing all operations and making sure everything is working the way it's supposed to. Beyond managing the team, I am pretty hands-on with dedicating time to each of our departments. In my day to day, I work closely with team members to analyse how we're doing and find points of improvements, areas where we could be doing better, and learning from tactics that work. I have a fixed slot on Fridays to set priorities for the following week and arrange meetings with different departments to go over targets and current projects.



What gets you excited about your industry?

We’re in the industry of making people’s lives easier and saving their time. Time is our most precious commodity and the ability to give people that little bit of extra time to make their lives easier is something really important.

Dry Cleaning and Laundry is our primary root to helping people save time but seeing ourselves as a time saving business rather than a dry cleaning business is important to help us consider other areas we can help people with in the future.




What's the best advice anyone ever gave you on your journey in business?

To focus on the customer and their issues rather than competitors has something that has served us very well. Other companies have copied our name, brand, packaging to try to match our success but the ironic thing is that we’ve been successful by doing the opposite and making our decisions based entirely on our understand of our customers.


What's the most challenging project or situation you've overcome to date?

I think our biggest challenge was getting through the Covid-19 pandemic. When lockdown first started, our orders dropped by nearly 70% in the first few days. We found ourselves faced with an uncertain future for not only our business, but also the service industry at a whole.


I really had to think on my feet to find a way out for us at a time where everything was up in the air. We had solid operations in place with technology systems and a network that worked very well for our current business model, and I realised that we had to adapt these operations to pivot the business towards fulfilling a need that people really had at that point: grocery shortages.


Aisles at grocery stores were emptying by the second, and people were struggling to leave their house and go to the store especially if they were vulnerable. We decided to launch our Essential Food Box deliveries, where we partnered with food wholesalers to deliver a variety of fruits, vegetables and essential items to customers. It was also a way to maintain revenue for ourselves, local businesses, as well as our drivers.


Our team really came together at this time, and despite this being the biggest challenge our business has faced yet, we were also able to come out of it ten times stronger.



Are you using any AI tools right now to help grow your business or, if not, do you plan to use any this year?

Yes. We’re looking at closely at using machine learning to help improve our operations this year. We have a relatively low loss or damage incidence (currently at 0.3% of orders), but we believe using machine learning to help us predict where demand outstrips resource in our cleaning centres could help us spot problems before they occur and reduce this rate even further.


Overall, do you see AI as a good thing for business?

Yes. Improvements in productivity and efficiency will always help the customer. Anything that makes your operations run more smoothly, your systems more logical, and your service as useful as possible to your users is a positive thing. Of course, with any new technology, some players will adopt it more efficiently and effectively than others and so it definitely won't benefit everyone uniformly.


Overall, do you see AI as a threat or an opportunity in business?

It’s an opportunity if you make good choices about what to adopt and when. AI is improving at a rapid rate to cater to a range of different problems and provide all kinds of solutions - giving us so many opportunities to make the most of what benefits our business the most. It’s a threat if you do not embrace change and refuse to invest in an ever-developing future.



If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?

There’s been a move towards being more environmentally conscious. I hope that as an industry this momentum isn’t lost during difficult economic times where the inevitable financial pressures can lead to people not prioritizing eco initiatives in the same way.



Before we finish, where should people follow you to find out more about your work?


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