Think HBR

Technology focussed dry cleaners overcome disability and become eco warriors

Phil Lyons
A husband and wife business team has overcome a battle with cancer to emerge as eco warriors in their industry. Jennie and Phil Lyons have turned a Hunter dry cleaning business into a best practice firm using technology and a can do, nurturing spirit.
The Newcastle couple took over Pride Dry Cleaning and Laundry in 2010. In 2012 Phil was diagnosed with an aggressive Sarcoma (cancer). His treatment culminated in 2014 with Phil undergoing a full hind quarter amputation which left him in a wheelchair.
To enable Phil to keep working in the business they had two specially designed, German built, wheelchair friendly machines installed; the only two of their kind in the world. Phil said he wants his experience to be an inspiration to other people.
“You can adapt your business to accommodate people with disability and you can successfully own and run a business if you have a disability,” Phil said.
“Cancer is just a word, not an end,” he said.
The couple has not stopped there in introducing beneficial new technology. Pride’s Islington store has this month installed the region’s first dry cleaning ATM to enable 24/7 self service drop off and collection of dry cleaning.
Jennie is also a director of the Hunter Business Chamber. She said technology and systems are helping Pride to be an eco warrior. The business was part of the Office of Environment and Heritage’s Energy Hunter Program. It not only recycles its water and plastics, it reuses the heat from its dryers. The new machinery and practices combined with new staff procedures mean staff have virtually no contact with dry cleaning chemicals.
“We are aiming to have minimal impact on the environment and make our workplace as safe as possible for staff,” Jennie said.
“It is rewarding to us and our customers to know our plastics are creating benches for local schools and we are doing their dry cleaning while treading much more lightly on the planet,” she said.
The couple said the half million dollar investment is paying dividends on so many levels. Their chemical costs have been cut by 70% and energy costs by 20%.
Pride is the only privately owned local dry cleaner registered with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The business’ support for a number of local organisations as well as its support for people on return to work programs saw it win the 2015 Drycleaning Institute of Australia’s Outstanding Community Service Award.