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  • Writer's pictureAnnamarie Galante

How Strong's Cleaners raised $25,000 to clean COVID-19 medical uniforms

Updated: Jun 18, 2021

Owner Justin Strong crosses his arms in front of his business, Strong's Cleaners in Pittsburgh

A 90 Year Strong, Black-owned business named Strong’s Cleaners was looking to get stronger. Located in Pittsburgh, Strong’s Cleaners is a fabric care business that provides dry cleaning, laundry service, alterations and repairs, and more.

Unfortunately, owner Justin Strong couldn’t get the access to capital for renovation products and when the pandemic struck, he had to quickly pivot. And that’s exactly what he did.

“We really took a step back and looked at the situation we were in. You have to know where your customers are from and the majority of our customers come from people going out, but now, during COVID-19, no one is doing that,” Justin admits, “So we took a hard look at where the demand was at.”

Justin was forced to completely rethink his business plan. He realized that there was a serious demand for the cleaning of medical-grade uniforms but, in order to do this, Strong’s Cleaners would have to increase its hot water capacity and sanitizing levels, and it needed capital to do so.

Justin had previously heard about other campaigns using Honeycomb and when Strong’s Cleaners first shut down during COVID-19, he began to look at all the possible funding sources, both government and non-government, when he suddenly came upon an advertisement for Honeycomb: “I inquired and kept going through the process and next thing I knew, it was approved. I actually really enjoyed the process,” Justin explains.

He continues, “At first, I was really concerned about getting more debt. But James [Honeycomb Pittsburgh Manager] explained that the campaign would be less about ‘helping Strong’s Cleaners survive and more about helping Strong’s Cleaners continue to be an asset.’”

Strong AND Confident

Even though Justin hit the ground running with his campaign, he had doubts about himself: “It was a duel battle internally of proving myself wrong. A lot of times, you don’t have anyone else to bounce ideas off of, you end up having conversations in your head, and therefore a lack of confidence.”

Justin explains that as the community began to rally behind him, he gained confidence and motivation not only in his business but also in himself.

In less than three weeks, Justin raised $25,000.

“I thought to myself, ‘If I did that in three weeks. What else can I do in three weeks?’” Justin explains that it was this capital and the fact that it was funded by a community who believed in him that gave him the confidence.

Owner Justin Strong stands outside the storefront Strong's Cleaner's in Pittsburgh

A Special Surprise From an Old Friend

“On one of the last days of my campaign, I received a rather large amount from a name that I did not recognize. Shortly after, I received an email from the investor. It was my fourth-grade teacher.”

Mighty Clean

With the funds raised, Justin was able to purchase new sanitizing equipment and an entirely new chemical injection/distribution system that automates the cleaning process for anything ranging from lab coats, visibility vests for volunteers, scrubs, and even towels for gyms and massage studios.

This new automation process and upgraded facility allow Strong’s Cleaners to target an entirely new audience as well as hire more employees.

A deep clean = deep-rooted community

“Especially with this business,” Justin says, “it’s about a returning customer base and relationships you build through trust over time. Dry cleaners are similar to barbershops and mechanics, people typically only have one. It’s really personal, you clean people’s clothes after all. The more people we’re able to gain that trust with, the more residual return throughout the years.”

Soar in the new normal with a crowdfunded loan

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