Many of us have used a laundromat, either as college students adapting to dorm life or as renters without our own washing and drying machines. Laundromats are used by many different people, which is why opening a laundry business can be a smart move for entrepreneurs.
We all need clean clothes. Laundromats are a solid business idea for new small business owners. Use this guide to help you plan and open your very own laundromat business.
Safety and Licensing Requirements
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has safety regulations specific to laundromats and businesses that provide laundry machinery for customer use. You'll need to familiarize yourself with these regulations so you don't face violation citations or fines should an OSHA compliance officer inspect your business.
Even if you don't plan on offering dry cleaning services, you might be required to obtain a dry cleaning license if your state puts laundromats and other laundry businesses in the same category. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has a lot of information about federal and state licenses and regulations, making it the best place to get started.
Businesses also need to be insured and protected, and your laundromat is no exception. You will need to carry at least general liability business insurance. A commercial insurance agent will walk you through the process of deciding how much insurance you want to carry and which other policies might be right for you.
Create Your Laundromat Business Plan
Launching any business starts with writing a good business plan. It's important to decide which services to offer before you open a laundry business (e.g., wash-and-go washing machines and dryers to drop-off dry cleaning, wash-and-fold services, and even more personal pickup services at customers' homes).
The size and scope of your business are up to you and much of what you decide to offer will be determined by your experience, availability, and just how much work you want to take on. All of this is worth thinking about and putting down on paper before you do anything else to get your laundromat up and running.
During your research, you'll also need to determine your target market, including the population demographics in the area in which you plan to open. Is it for the general public or nearby college students, or is there an opportunity to open a small laundromat inside an apartment complex? Knowing who your customers will be can help you plan your services, the number of machines you need to buy, and your pricing, among other things.
The average cost of washing and drying a load of laundry varies from $2.50 up to $10. Your pricing decisions will have to take in your location and target market, your average utility bill, the cost of regular maintenance to your machines, and even your competition. If you plan to offer additional laundry services, such as dry cleaning or ironing, you'll need to plan your pricing structure for those services, as well.
Location and Layout
One of your two major startup costs will be the location of your laundromat. If you have the chance to buy an existing laundry business, this will save you having to find and outfit a location from scratch. In that case, your expenses will focus on getting the place up to building and business codes as needed or renovating to your preferences.
Take your time planning the layout and design of your laundromat. Think of ones that you've used in the past and visit your local competition to take notes on their layout, the machines they use, their services, and additional amenities they may (or may not) offer. Most laundromats have vending machines for snacks, drinks, and single-size packets of laundry detergent, softener, and dryer sheets. Seating and tables for sorting laundry are also standard, so you'll need to furniture shop, as well.
The second major startup cost a new laundromat owner faces is equipment and machines. Washing and drying machines used in laundromats aren't always the ones you'd buy for your home. For one thing, you need machines that accept payment (these days, you can get ones that take both credit cards and quarters). Speed Queen is the fairly standard producer of heavier-duty laundry machines. You can purchase machinery directly from the company or check for local distributors in your area.
Because your machines are the backbone of your laundry business, buy the best that you can. If you purchase an existing laundromat, make sure a certified technician gives each washing machine and dryer a thorough examination. You can find used equipment online or you can explore business loans and other financing options through commercial washer and dryer distributors. However, even a used coin-operated Speed Queen washing machine can cost about $2,000, so be sure to do your research on equipment and plan to spend the bulk of your startup money on machinery when writing your business plan.
Starting Your Laundromat Business
Once you write your business plan and attain financing, it's time to actually form your business and start telling people about it.
Create a Business Structure and Legal Identity
The structure you choose for your business is a matter of personal choice. Many small business owners choose to operate as sole proprietors for at least a while. Others choose to become a limited liability company (LLC). There are tax reasons for this, but creating an LLC also creates a buffer between your business and your personal finances.
Operating as an LLC protects your personal finances by requiring an employer identification number (EIN) for your company. Like your Social Security number, your business's EIN distinguishes it as a legal entity. Many business owners change the legal structure of their company from a sole proprietorship to an LLC once the company has grown to a certain point, but you can do so at any time.
Before you can finalize your business structure, you have to actually name it. Many states require that you register a unique business name for your company. Check your state government's website to search its unique name database. It's important to choose your name (and verify that it's available to use) before you begin building a website, create social media accounts, or advertise your business since a name change will create more work for you and confusion for potential customers.
If you're starting as a sole proprietor and aren't planning to use your own name as the name of your laundromat, you'll need to file a "doing business as" (DBA) name. Again, each state has its own requirements for this but it often involves filling out the correct forms, paying a small fee, and perhaps advertising the DBA name in one or more local newspapers.
Open a Business Bank Account
It's important to open a business bank account for your laundromat. Doing so separates your personal finances from those of your business and also means you can begin to spend money as your business. Having an established relationship with a bank can also help you secure funding in the future.
To open a business bank account, though, you may need to provide your business plan, any formation paperwork, and your personal identification information.
Spread the Word With Marketing
As a new laundry business owner, you will have enough on your plate already. Creating a marketing and advertising plan (something you at least laid the groundwork for in your business plan) is a good way to keep a handle on marketing your business.
Take what you learned while researching your target audience and your local competition and use that to your advantage. What sets your laundromat apart from others? Are you open 24 hours a day? Do you have extra comfortable places to relax while people wait for their laundry to be finished? Do you offer additional drop-off and pick-up dry cleaning services? All of these things are important to communicate to your target audience.
Designing your logo, website, and social media profiles all play a part in branding and marketing your business. Another way to take some of this work off your plate is by outsourcing to freelancers who specialize in one or all of these tasks. Sites like Upwork make it easy to post one or more "gigs" for freelancers to apply to.
Traditional marketing (e.g., placing ads in local newspapers or distributing flyers and other bulk mailers) is still an effective form of advertising, but the power of social media and digital marketing is undeniable. Again, you can find freelancers to help you write the copy for your advertisements and even manage your social media accounts. Alternatively, you can learn to conquer at least the basics yourself with Google's free digital marketing courses (available at grow.google).
Beyond your social media, your Google My Business page and other business review sites are where people can find reviews and comments about your business. Make checking these listings part of your regular marketing activities. You can address any negative comments or complaints quickly and also make sure your address, phone number, hours of operation, and other essential data are correct.
Another way to stay in touch with your customers, especially if you will rarely need to be on-site at your laundromat, is to install a customer suggestion or feedback box. Check it often for questions, concerns, and suggestions. You never know where you'll find your next great idea to distinguish your business from the competition.
Finally, consider joining the Coin Laundry Association to explore and network inside the laundry industry. Associations and other laundry industry-specific groups are great ways for new owners to learn, grow, and stay up to date on trends that will affect their businesses. If you're curious about purchasing a laundromat franchise, this is a good place to start.
Plan Your Laundromat's Daily Operations
Once your business is planned and structured, your next step is to plan your daily operations. Will you be on-site and interacting with your customers on a daily or regular basis or will you handle most of the operations elsewhere, only checking periodically or hiring full-time staff to do so for you? These decisions will vary based on your preferences, availability, and what services you want to offer. If you're going to have employees, you'll need to have daily operation manuals or training in place for new hires.
Cash flow is another major consideration. Laundromat owners often decide to run a cash-only business using self-service machines. Keeping track of that money is essential to both your finances and your business's taxes. You need to make sure all those quarters get to the bank, of course, but accurate reporting of your income is essential if you don't want to deal with the hassle and potential penalties associated with an audit from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Successfully managing your daily and yearly finances is easier with the right accounting software. Skynova's accounting software allows you to keep track of receipts, payments, and deposits all in one place. New business owners can also take advantage of our many business templates to streamline paperwork.
Laundromats Make Good, Clean Sense
Opening a laundromat is a sound business idea for any would-be small business owner. No matter where you live, there are people who need a place to clean their clothes.
While the upfront costs and your initial investment can be heavy - especially if you're starting a new laundromat from scratch and need to purchase machines - a laundromat can be a source of steady income once it's up and running.
Keeping your finances neat and up-to-date can be a challenge, even if you only have a single location. Skynova has multiple software products that can take the headache out of your daily operations. You'll never have to search through your files for the right invoice or wonder how to create an income statement again. Starting your own laundromat business makes sense - and so does using Skynova.