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In New York City, it is a luxury to have your own washer and dryer in your unit, or even in your building. Some would stuff their dirty laundry into a luggage and go to a laundromat or use a store front cleaner nearby.

Rechelle Balanzat struggled with her laundry needs and got frustrated by the service she was getting from her neighborhood cleaners.

This led her to think: there must be a better way.

That was in 2012. Balanzat used her frustrations and made notes as to how it could be better. She saw a vacuum and felt she could fill it up.

“I saw the opportunity there, that a lot of the cleaners were lacking something,” she reminisced. “I was actually solving my own problem. I was unhappy with the cleaners in my neighborhood, the way they cleaned my clothes and the way they dealt with us, the customers.”

Because of her background in marketing, branding and customer service, she saw it as an easy fit to bring her expertise to the industry.

“The business is already saturated. Just look around Manhattan,” she said.
Indeed. Walk three to four blocks and you’d see cleaners, more if you are in mostly residential areas.

But saturation per se is not bad.

“It just means that there’s no shortness of dirty clothes,” Balanzat said.

Last April, after toiling hard, she finally opened a brick and mortar in the Upper East Side for her company Juliette.

Juliette actually started in September 2014 when Balanzat launched her app in three buildings in Midtown East. The mobile app offers premium overnight laundry service.

Using a smart phone, clients can request Juliette for a pickup. Then her staff will clean their clothes and we deliver it back to them the following morning.

“Juliette is my alter ego,” she explained. “I wanted to give a sense of someone who is there cleaning your clothes, someone real. The idea is about Juliette watching over and taking care of your clothes.”

Opening her UES home is a real game changer for her business. Prior to this, she was renting out space in an existing plant, which posed some challenges for her. The new store gives her control as far as service and quality are concerned.

It took two years of endless phone calls and emails to laundry facilities and cleaners asking them if they are selling or if will they sell to her. She also visited cleaners across the city and one day, she got lucky with the space she has now since the previous owner was already looking for a way out and retire.

Now, her business is more than just app-based, it has encouraged foot traffic for residents of nearby buildings who do not need to get into the waiting list for Juliette invites.

The Juliette App is by invitation only but one can request for an invite through their website. For now, Juliette covers Manhattan from the Financial District to 110th Street and prospective subscribers have to live in a 24-hour doorman building because they pick up and deliver throughout the night.

Juliette started with seed money “just shy of $200 thousand” which Balanzat raised on her own.

“It was not given to me in one lump sum, it was a lot of pretty much begging and asking and knocking on so many doors. You start off with your family, then you go to your friends, then business associates. At the end of the day, it is a hustle,” she shared.
Along the way, she encountered a lot of people who said no to her.

“You shouldn’t lose your fire when someone says no to you,” she said. “Everything happens for a reason and to all the people who said no to me, I am happy that they did because I probably would have taken a turn somewhere else and I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Challenges as a woman entrepreneur

Our conversation with Balanzat shifted to the challenges and struggles she faced