You’re one of the elite few who see the financial opportunities in starting a laundry service. You have the skills and ambition to pull it off—but where to start?
The good news is, you’re not on your own. With your innate business savvy and this step-by-step guide, you can start a profitable laundry business this year.
Remember: every successful business started from the ground up. No matter how hungry you are to open your doors for business, taking the time to build a strong foundation now will help your business thrive long term. Here are the proven steps (with a checklist to follow along) for how to successfully start a laundry business.
8 steps to starting a laundry business
1. Do your research
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and such is the case for your laundromat business. Take the time to learn about the industry and most importantly, the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.
Join the Coin Laundry Association (CLA) for a full suite of resources for both aspiring and seasoned laundromat owners. Here you’ll learn the ins and outs of the industry, get updates on industry events and innovation, and score important tips from long-term laundromat owners.
Your business opportunities are dependent on your local competition. Beginning with a simple Google search, identify the existing laundromats in your area. Take note of their business names, locations, Google ratings, services, hours of business, and prices:
How does each of these laundromats compare to one another?
Do they have websites and marketing?
What is their customer service like?
What types of customers are competitors serving?
Is there room to serve these same customers with a different service, provide a different type of service to a new type of customer, or add value in other ways that are not currently being served in the market you are exploring?
Asking these questions will help you begin to determine your market opportunities.
There are also many resources and coaching opportunities in the industry. The Laundromat Resource and Laundromat Millionaire both provide a wealth of insight into the industry, getting started, and creating financial freedom.
2. Decide what kind of laundry business you want to start
When you picture a laundromat, a single image likely comes to mind: a storefront sandwiched between something like a deli and an apartment building, full of rows of whirring machines, welcoming local residents and their dirty clothes and week-old bed sheets. Sure, this is a really common laundry business type, but you have options beyond that.
The most common laundry services include:
Coin laundry: As described in the scenario above, this is a public service designed for anyone needing self-service laundry.
Private laundry within multi-tenant buildings: The laundry room nested inside apartment buildings that don’t have in-unit laundry available.
Commercial laundry: Specifically for uniforms, restaurant and hotel linens, and other industrial laundry needs.
Wash and fold service: The luxury standard of laundry services. While coin laundry is a DIY service, wash and fold takes the burden off the customer and puts the laundry pros in charge of cleaning. Of course, you can charge more for a service like this.
Pickup and Delivery: A full-service experience. Pickup and delivery is the step up from wash and fold, which allows you to pick up their laundry for them, wash it, and deliver it back to their doorstep. It allows you to tack on extra charges and doesn’t force the customer to lift a finger.
3. Choose a name for your laundry business
A great company name encompasses what your business does! There are a few different directions you can take with naming your laundromat. If it’s not already taken, you can use the name of your town or city followed by “laundromat,” or you can get a little more creative with it if that suits you. Either way, your business name should tell your customers, unmistakably, that you offer laundry services.
Another good tip is to use proper spelling in your name so you’re easy for customers to find when searching on Google. If you’re stumped, check out this laundromat name generator for inspiration!
4. Create a laundry business plan for success
Your business plan is like a compass. It should define in detail your company’s objectives and how you’re going to reach them. Whenever you make a decision for your laundromat business, turn to the business plan!
Consider these points on your journey to a profitable laundromat.
Your mission statement is a declaration of your business’ culture, values, and purpose for existing. This will act as your north star in all business dealings.
Services & pricing
Define concretely what services you plan to provide. Determine pricing and the products you’ll need to carry out your laundry services. In the laundromat industry, pricing is directly related to the quality of service you provide, the customer experience, and the market that your laundromat is operating within.
Decide what kind of customer service you want to emulate in your business. Ask yourself: how do I want my customers to feel when they experience my laundry services?
Describe what you know about the laundromat industry. And more importantly, identify how your business model fills a niche in the local market. Confirm that your laundry business will solve a problem or fulfill a need in your local area. Your success depends on supply and demand!
Financial plan and budget
Record all your financial statements, balance sheets, and expenses included in establishing your business. This is also an opportunity to create sales targets for your first few years of business. When building your budget, include costs related to employees, equipment, maintenance, permits and licensing, marketing, utility costs, and all other overhead needed to run your business. If you think you'll need financing assistance, you'll want to work with lenders that know the industry.
5. Find a location that checks all the boxes
Location, location, location! Searching for the perfect spot is one of the most important uses of your time in planning your laundromat business—and one of the biggest factors in your chances for success. Choose a location heavily populated with apartment residents, college students, tourists, hotel and motel visitors, and big families. Keep in mind, though, it’s not as simple as picking a storefront on the most desirable block—you must learn the ordinances and laws that determine where laundromat businesses can operate in your local area.
You should also familiarize yourself with local zoning laws and historical challenges before settling on a spot. One way to make this simpler is by buying an existing laundromat, rather than opening a brand-new one.
6. Acquire the appropriate permits
Look into the state or local business administration for important information on licenses needed to run a coin-operated laundromat in your area. There may be specific permits you must get in order to be compliant with laws like how to manage wastewater. Figuring out what your business requires to operate legally can be tedious and confusing, so refer to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to learn what forms you need to fill out.
7. Purchase the equipment for your laundromat
If you build it, they will come. Your laundromat doesn’t need to be the Field of Dreams, but outfitting it with high-quality, easy-to-use machines is a must! Whether you need to buy all or some new equipment depends on if you are planning on opening a laundromat or buying an existing one.
Keep in mind, the laundry industry is not one known for its cutting-edge technology. So even if you buy an existing laundromat full of machines, you’ll likely need to buy some new equipment. This may seem expensive at first glance, but what’s even pricier is having to constantly repair broken machines or lose customers due to a lack of available, working washers and dryers.
When shopping for machines you have options. Smaller machines can sell for under $1,000 a pop, while bigger ones can go for upwards of $5,000 to $10,000 each. What you choose to purchase will depend on a variety of factors including the size of the population you plan on servicing, how much space you have in your store, eco-friendly options, and your budget.
Cents has built a network of distributors across the country. If you're looking to purchase new equipment, reach out to us and we can help connect you to the right distributor to fit your laundromat.
8. Create a marketing plan for your laundromat
Laundromats might serve as a quintessential retro backdrop, but your approach to getting and keeping customers should be as modern as it gets. And don’t get caught kicking the can down the road—even before opening your doors for business, you should have a solid marketing plan in place. Use these tried and true methods for marketing your laundromat and you’ll be one step closer to success:
Get involved in your community: Make yourself more recognizable by sponsoring local events, partnering with other businesses, and hosting charity fundraisers at your laundromat.
Create a Google Business profile: When customers search “laundromats near me” in their web browser, your business will pop up. You’ll be able to showcase pictures of your laundry business, the address and phone number, hours of operation, and even promotional offerings.
Set up Search Engine Optimization (SEO): You’re serving a specific geographic radius and therefore rely heavily on local customers being able to find your business. That’s why you’ll want a strong SEO strategy. This will push your business to the top of the search result pages and help you convert more customers.
Leverage social media: This will help you connect with potential and current customers and promote your business. Social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram let you share photos and information about specials, new services, or upcoming events. This is also a great avenue to communicate with your audience.
Run discounts and promotions: Offering discounts on your services allows you to lure new customers in and convince them to give your business a shot. This is a great marketing tool and an even better way to increase your customer base.
How to Market Your Laundromat without Spending a Dollar
In this whitepaper, we discuss 5 great marketing tactics that cost little to no money and don't require "digital sophistication" to yield benefits for your laundromat.
Choose the right laundromat software to support your business
Laundromat owners are busy people, but the right laundromat software will make your life easier and help you understand your business on a whole new level. You want a solution that includes business management, point of sale, laundry operations, and employee management tools. That way you can take all the puzzle pieces of your business and package them neatly in one place.
When deciding on software, be sure to consider these factors:
Ease of use: The software you choose should make your life easier, not create new headaches.
Features: Consider the biggest challenges in your laundromat. For example, if you want help tracking inventory, choose software with an inventory management system.
Pricing: Don’t forget to compare value and cost.
Customer support: If you run into problems, you’ll want to be sure you can get ahold of a real person quickly.
Equipment: Choose a software package that’s compatible with the equipment you have.
Get software to manage the tedium so you can focus on the important stuff: creating an experience for your customers that turns a chore they used to dread into a painless experience. Keep reading to learn more about what laundromat software might work best for you, or schedule a demo with our team to find out how Cents can help you.