Keele Research programme helps local laundry service develop during pandemic

Local commercial laundry service enters new sectors during the pandemic while developing a new tracking application, thanks to Keele partnership.

Family business Iron Maidens, who are based in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, offer a range of professional commercial laundry services across Staffordshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire and beyond. Over the last six years, Iron Maidens has built a strong pipeline of local and valued clients in the hospitality sector providing tailored packages for them all.

During recent years the company has expanded its range of services and clients, adding laundering services for Keele University’s Conferencing and Events unit and its scientific laboratories to its portfolio. Over lockdown, the company participated in the Keele Research and Innovation Support Programme (KRISP)* for the development of a client tracking application.

The Keele Research and Innovation Support Programme provides businesses with Keele’s expert business support and research academics as well as giving dedicated students the opportunity to work in local businesses as paid Research and Innovation Associates for up to 70 hours per project. In the case of Iron Maidens, second-year computer science student Gioele Bencivenga worked to develop an application for tracking client orders, allowing the clients to have easy access and transparency of their orders but also increasing the efficacy of internal processes and drastically reducing the amount of paper used by the company.

The Impact from the Covid-19 pandemic on the hospitality sector has been directly felt at Iron Maidens with the company needing to pivot their approach by acquiring new contacts with end of life hospice and lab coat contacts with Keele.

Speaking about the challenges of the pandemic and collaboration with Keele University Managing Director, Sharon Bridgett said: “Before the pandemic, the company was in a good position with a promising year of growth ahead. The lockdown in March really turned the business upside down, it was a difficult time for everyone as we are all like an extended family but we decided we must keep going and so looked for new avenues for the business.

“Entering new sectors has been a useful experience. For us to understand where we can take our business next, lockdown has made us learn from this situation.. We are now able to offer a more efficient service, thanks to the KRISP project. I really think this will add so much value to our business as we expand our client base and allow clients to see where in the cleaning process stage they are at a glance.

“We were able to push forward with the project during the lockdown, the whole KRISP team has been very helpful and our Keele Research and Innovation Associate Gioele has been absolutely brilliant. From what we have seen of the platform so far it is really exciting.“

Gioele, KRISP Research and Innovation Associate added: “It has been a great experience to work with such a passionate company and to help develop something that can be used in their business for years to come.

Keele Research and Innovation Advisor, Phil Chapman, added: “The project with Iron Maidens demonstrates all that is great about the KRISP programme, from the openness with which Sharon, Dan and the team welcomed us in to the total dedication to the task in hand shown by Gioele and the excellent academic support provided by Dr Theo Kyriacou from the School of Computing and Mathematics. It was a joy to work on the project, and it’s so good to know that Iron Maidens has a new system that will serve it well in the future.”

Now that some restrictions are being lifted, Iron Maidens are hoping to push forward with their business as they continue to grow despite the uncertain times.

Sharon commented: “It has been a hard year for a lot of small businesses but it is okay to ask for help. There is a strong community of business going through similar challenges as well as a range of support opportunities in Staffordshire. We have to just keep moving forward in the best way we can even if that is little steps at a time. “

For more information on the Keele Research and Innovation Support Programme and other business support opportunities please visit keele.ac.uk/buisness


ERDF portrait logo *The Keele Research and Innovation Support Programme (KRISP) is delivered through the Keele University Science and Innovation Park Smart Innovation Hub (Project reference 32R17P01691). This programme is part-funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the England 2014 to 2020 European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme.