Starting your own dry cleaning business requires knowledge about the dry cleaning industry and a fair amount of capital to invest. You'll also need to learn how to legally form your company, how to pay business taxes, and much more. It's a lot of hard work with a learning curve; however, with steady demand and multiple locations, you can own a profitable business in time. The below guide will help you get started with planning your dry cleaning business.

Requirements for Opening a Dry Cleaner

You don't need any formal training or education to start a dry cleaning business, though it can't hurt to gain knowledge about the industry and how to run a business. If you've never worked with dry cleaners, gaining experience at an established dry cleaning business can help you to learn more about the work involved to see if it's a good fit for you.

No federal licenses are required to operate a dry cleaning business. Your local or state government, however, may require a license or permit to legally operate your cleaning business. Look to your state's official government website and other local business authorities for more information about legal requirements, including insurance and taxes.

Creating a Business Plan

A business plan details all you're going to do and the steps you plan to take to succeed. Think of it as a guiding roadmap to help you start, run, and grow your dry cleaning business. You can also submit your business plan to others to gain investors or funding for your new venture. Before you create an official business plan, you'll need to make many important decisions about your new business. Here are some important things to consider.

Decide Whether to Start a Franchise or an Independent Small Business

There are pros and cons to buying a dry cleaning franchise. The same goes for owning your own business. Which choice you make depends on your own thoughts and opinions about how you want to do business. Investing in a dry cleaning franchise provides many benefits, such as:

  • An established, recognizable business name
  • A successful business model and plan
  • A franchisee training program
  • Marketing and advertising help
  • Easier access to funding, especially from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
  • Greater buying power

Since a franchise is already successful and well-established, they are going to do everything they can to help you succeed, too. If you run a profitable storefront for a franchise, it helps them to grow and increase their profitability, as well.

Unfortunately, starting a franchise isn't a guarantee that you'll be successful. Your startup costs will also be higher and you'll continue to pay the franchise fees for using their name. Negative press about the company could also trickle down to affect your local franchise location. Your own small business is the better choice if you value independence over a quick start.

Choose Which Dry Cleaning Services to Offer

One of the first steps to creating a business plan is to decide which services you're going to offer. If you're franchising your dry cleaners, a business model will be provided for you. Many successful dry cleaning businesses provide a variety of services to better serve existing customers and to draw in new customers. In addition to dry clean services, you may want to consider offering:

  • Tailoring and repairs
  • Special or large item cleaning
  • Pick up and delivery services
  • Wash-and-fold laundry services

After choosing your business model, you can begin to determine startup costs and a pricing structure for your services.

Pick the Best Location for a Dry Cleaning Business

The next step is to choose the right location for your business. You'll likely need to consult with a real estate agent about leasing or buying a property. Dry cleaning is a valuable service with steady demand, especially in cities and states with larger populations. Most dry cleaning workers reside in the eastern U.S., plus Texas and California. Some basic market research of an area can help you determine if it's an optimal location. Consider answers to questions like:

  • Is the market already saturated with competitors?
  • Is the location in a high-traffic area where my business will be noticed?
  • Is the space easily accessible for my customers?
  • Can I afford to pay the rent and insurance?
  • Are there services missing from the location that I can provide?

If your local area already has dry cleaners, think of a way that you can differentiate your business from the competition. For example, do they offer eco-friendly cleaning services? If not, you may have found a niche market that's expected to grow, especially as states like California are phasing out chemical solvents. Think of unique ways to make your business necessary to the community you plan to serve.

Form a Traditional and Digital Marketing Strategy

Consider both traditional and digital marketing ideas as you plan your marketing strategy. Print advertisements may be helpful depending on the demographics of your area. If a local newspaper or phonebook is still printed, it may be worthwhile to place an ad or a listing. Printed flyers with coupons may be another way to attract new customers. As for newer methods, social media has become an increasingly popular and inexpensive way to advertise your business.

Determine Your Startup Costs and Pricing for Services

To calculate your startup costs, try to account for all you need to spend to start your business. First, figure out all the cleaning equipment you need to lease or buy, like washers, dryers, a dry cleaning machine, or hangers. Startup costs also include rent, insurance, wages, and marketing. Depending on your business model, your startup costs could be significant. The good news is that there are opportunities for small business loans from the SBA for which you may qualify.

As for pricing, there are average costs for common dry cleaning and laundry services, which can vary by location. Online research can help you determine an average range of prices for most services. Look at your closest competitors' pricing; your prices must be high enough to earn a decent profit margin but competitive enough to attract a loyal customer base.

Getting Your Dry Cleaning Business Started

Once you have your plan in place, it's time to get ready to go into business. You'll begin by forming your dry cleaning operation under the laws and regulations in your location. Marketing is the next step to gaining customers. Soon, you'll be busy running your own business.

Register Your Dry Cleaning Business With Local and Federal Authorities

How to legally form your dry cleaning business depends on the business structure you choose and where you plan to operate. Each state and local government has different requirements for business registration, licensing, and taxes. Many small business owners form a partnership or limited liability company (LLC) to protect their personal assets from their business debts and other liabilities. Check with your secretary of state's office for more information about registering your business and other local regulations.

Opening a business bank account is another important step to take when legally forming a business. You may need to apply for an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS beforehand, though. This federal ID number is used for tax purposes. Check with your local tax office to see if you need to register for a state tax ID number, too. Also, connect with an insurance agent to choose business insurance that's required by law. They can explain how best to protect yourself, your business, and your employees.

Finally, consider joining a professional trade association like the National Cleaners Association (NCA) to continue learning more about how to be the best in the industry. The NCA offers a wide range of programs, customized services, educational opportunities, and authoritative publications to benefit its members.

Marketing Your Dry Cleaning Business to Attract Customers

Operating a friendly business with fair pricing and high-quality work can do wonders to help market your business through word-of-mouth, but you may also want to consider:

  • Building a website to create an online presence: A website can help new and repeat customers find or share your business and research your services and pricing. Hire an expert website builder to make your website look inviting and professional.
  • Having social media accounts: Social media marketing is how you share the voice of your company. Decide what kind of tone you want to use to connect with the public. Create accounts on the platforms that will serve your business best. You may also want to consider hiring someone to manage your accounts.
  • Designing a logo to create branded marketing material: A logo is a visual representation of who you are and what your company does. It can be used across multiple marketing platforms, such as clothing, storefront signs, and your website. Your logo should be eye-catching, unique, and easy to recognize to help you build brand awareness.
  • Setting up free online business accounts: Google My Business is how you can manage your online presence across Google platforms, including their search engine and maps. So many people use Google to find businesses, so having accurate information is the key to helping others find or contact your business. Claiming your dry cleaning business on Yelp will also enable you to view statistics, receive messages, and respond to reviews.

If you think you have a handle on how to market your business, move forward with your marketing strategy as detailed in your business plan. However, don't be afraid to reach out for help from marketing professionals if needed. Starting a business is a time-consuming venture, so delegating marketing and advertising to others may be a smart move for you.

Operating Your Dry Cleaning Business

The day-to-day operations are very busy at most dry cleaning establishments. New and repeat customers will keep you busy with regular and special cleaning needs. Running your business will include managing your customers, employees, and finances. Stay organized with simple, easy-to-use Skynova business software. We've designed our accounting software, free invoice templates, and other business products to help small businesses succeed.

Organize Your Dry Cleaning Business Finances and More With Skynova

Opening a dry cleaners is a wonderful business opportunity that may provide a substantial income for years to come. Skynova's business templates and accounting software were designed to help small business owners better manage their income, expenses, and more. Everything is online in one easy-to-access space. Trust us to help you manage your business finances.

Starting a full-service dry cleaning and laundry business is a big step to take. With the right plan, knowledge, and support, you can succeed.