Who Are Your Customers?

D. J. Waldow, B-School Cleaners

"We had access to survey results conducted at our business school several months before we started our business, and we conducted a few telephone and e-mail surveys ourselves," says D.J. Waldow, 21, who has run a dry-cleaning service from the University of Michigan Business School in Ann Arbor since January. Fellow undergraduate student Matt Campbell is Waldow's partner.

The pair got the idea for the dry-cleaning service as members of the business school's entrepreneur club. "Last year, the master's students in the club sent out an e-mail survey to all MBA students in the school, asking how many would be interested in having access to a dry-cleaning service within the business school, and how many items they would typically bring in for cleaning," Waldow explains. "They got a pretty good response rate, and about 85 percent of those responding said they would be interested in such a service."

Waldow and Campbell did additional market research. "One thing Matt and I did was to conduct an informal, over-the-phone survey of just about every dry-cleaning establishment in Ann Arbor, primarily to find out about prices and the demand for their services," Waldow says.

"We also conducted three different price-sensitivity surveys via e-mail to find out how much students in the school would be willing to pay for dry cleaning," he says. "Although the response rates were lower than we expected, we did find out that we had some potential prices that were really too high. We learned that we were going to have to charge prices very similar to those being charged by dry cleaners around town, or else our business wasn't going to succeed."

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This article was originally published in the August 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Who Are Your Customers?.

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