Why I Do What I Do: Shelly Mars, Founder, Ecoluxe Dry Cleaner

A Greener Clean
Not long ago, Shelly Mars took a professional leap from her high-pressure corporate career in E-commerce to a job with an altogether different kind of pressure—water. In 1999, Mars founded Ecoluxe, what she calls a "modern, organic 'dry'-cleaning establishment." Instead of the typical chemical cleaning solvents—such as perchloroethylene (perc), which has been linked to increased rates of cancer and birth defects—Mars and a team of chemists invented Ecowash, an organic, 100 percent biodegradable cleaner, to use with, believe it or not, water. The results have been remarkable; Ecoluxe won Boston Magazine's Best of Boston 2002 for dry cleaners.

Q: Why did you choose the dry cleaning business?

A: I had been so particular with my own clothes and washed them all at home. I didn't like the chemical smell of dry cleaners or the pressing quality. I knew that water was our best and most powerful cleaning source, and if I could do for others what I did for my own clothes at home, the business could really work.

Q: You had several disappointing starts early in the development of your Ecowash solution. What kept you motivated?

A: I have tried every cleaning process out there! With the right mix, I knew it could be a home run for everyone.

Q: What has made it worthwhile for you?

A: Hearing customers say, "This [Ecoluxe] is really great." And seeing mothers bring in their children's clothes because they know my process is safe. Plus, there is a story to tell: People need to know about the dangers and toxicity of perc.

—Emily Rosenblum