It may not have found success on Shark Tank, but Perth’s Uber-style car-washing startup Refresh has passed the milestone of 20,000 cars scrubbed, and is now expanding to launch in Melbourne.
Founded in 2016 by Harrison Lingard, Refresh provides on-demand washing and detailing services, while using biodegradable products that require much less water than the traditional hose down.
The service is now available in some 300 suburbs in Perth, giving it a “bigger coverage than UberEats”, Lingard claims.
The move to Melbourne is part of the startup’s next phase of growth — the market is “three times the size” of that in Perth, the founder says.
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This development follows Lingard’s appearance on Shark Tank last year, an experience that, although he didn’t secure investment, he says was worthwhile.
“I didn’t want to go on there and look like an idiot,” he says.
“I did a lot of number-crunching leading up to the event.”
By swotting up on his numbers ahead of the show, Lingard realised the business had been doubling its revenues every six months.
“The experience was incredible, in terms of learning my business and the public’s perception of the company moving forward,” he says.
After that, however, Lingard took some time to reshuffle the business, refining some of the processes “in order to scale”.
The startup has also doubled its headcount in the past six months — it now has 40 staff on the books.
While this means growth has slowed, Refresh has still seen about 35% growth year-on-year.
“Now we’re going to see a lot more,” Lingard says.
Within the next 12 months, Lingard is hoping to secure a “reasonable market share” in Melbourne — and to launch in Sydney as well.
He’s also working on securing some strategic partnerships that could “boost everything quite considerably”, he adds.
“Impressiveness and disruptiveness”
While Refresh has run a few social-media campaigns and distributed business cards, for the most part, its growth has come from “word-of-mouth and a lot of repeat clients”, Lingard says.
In fact, he estimates 95% of customers end up coming back for more.
“From the very start we made sure that every single client was happy,” he says.
“We found out what they wanted and made sure we delivered, and if we didn’t, we would keep going until we got it right.”
And it’s this customer focus that is helping Refresh disrupt the car washing space — in the same way Uber disrupted the humble taxi ride.
“Uber is recognised worldwide as a disruptor that has thrown an industry on its head,” Lingard says.
“It’s opened up a lot of opportunity for everyone in the tech space,” he adds, including helping to get consumers on board with new instant-booking models.
It’s about replicating Uber’s “impressiveness and disruptiveness”, Lingard says, and changing the way consumers think about car-washing services.
“Once you use Uber you don’t go back to taxis,” he says.
According to Lingard, part of the growth strategy now is educating people on the convenience the startup can afford, but also on the eco-friendly benefits of using the business.
It’s about “changing people’s habits for the better overall”, he says.
Disconnect to refresh
Lingard warns startup founders the road is never easy, but stresses “the rewards are always worth it — you just have to keep going”.
There are going to be challenges and hurdles along the way, he says, but it’s all part and parcel of startup life.
“Overnight successes don’t happen … but how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
And to avoid feeling daunted by the mammoth task ahead, Lingard’s advice is to find a hobby. For him, it’s riding dirtbikes — a sport he says takes his mind away from daily life.
“You need that outlet,” he says.
“As much as you think you don’t, you really need to take your mind off things,” he adds.
Doing something physical “allows you to 100% disconnect,” Lingard says, “so when you come back, you’re refreshed”.