By Rieva Lesonsky
With apologies to William Shakespeare: “To invent, or not to invent. That is the question.” Indeed it is an age-old debate in the entrepreneurial universe. Some entrepreneurs are determined to reinvent the wheel; others see the benefit of slightly tweaking or vastly improving someone else’s idea or invention.
A few weeks ago Bloomberg Businessweek wrote about Phillipe Christodoulou, an entrepreneur who overheard an angry customer outside a laundry in Buenos Aires, Argentina and decided there had to be a better way. The native-born Australian opened an environment-friendly laundry in Buenos Aires two years ago, where, according to the magazine, he “attracted a loyal following” drawn in by the laundry’s organic dry cleaning services and use of phosphate-free detergents.
Last year Christodoulou teamed up with Jean Callega, a friend in New York City, and opened a second location, Eco Laundry, in a trendy Manhattan neighborhood. So far the partners are fielding several international franchise offers, and contemplating building an “eco-friendly industrial laundry plant that services hotels, restaurants and hospitals.”
I am not trying to highlight Phillipe Christodoulou, but to illustrate that his launching pad to entrepreneurial success came by taking a new look at an old industry. This isn’t the first time doing the laundry has been re-invented (in the 1990s, combination laundromat/bar concepts were making waves).
The lesson: Take a look around. Pay attention. What industries are ripe for a redo Which products are due for a 21st-century update? There are a ton of entrepreneurial opportunities out there for the taking. All it takes to get started is vision.