1. What is a sustainable Dry Cleaner?
Dry Cleaning was developed after the accidental discovery by Frenchman Jolly Belin that kerosene he spilled on a stained garment actually removed the stain. 170 years later, there are more than 30,000 dry cleaners in the U.S., with roughly 85% of them being independent, locally-owned companies. Dry Cleaning shops offer laundry services that use ‘dry’ solvents instead of water to protect delicate clothing items that would be damaged by water/detergent. 90% of dry cleaning shops use Perchloroethylene (referred to as ‘perc’) as the solvent of choice. Though powerful, perc is a highly toxic chemical that damages the environment and can have a negative impact on the health of your customers. In addition, there are significant compliance issues regarding the use and disposal of these toxic chemicals, making the industry ripe for a transition to greener, healthier solutions.
The industry itself has seen its growth slow, for a variety of reasons, including the growing trend of casual clothing at work, do-it-yourself dry cleaning kits, and changing clothing manufacturing patterns, fabrics, and subsequent care instructions. Still, it does provide a stable income, with average dry cleaners generating about $200,000 in gross receipts annually. While the industry is only expected to grow slowly, the trend toward eco-friendly dry cleaning will likely not only increase in new stores, but also in conversions of existing stores, including one of the biggest chains, Martinizing, encouraging its franchisees to go green with their dry cleaners.
Sustainable dry-cleaners use alternative hydrocarbon solvents or liquid carbon solvents. These alternatives require more initial research and some have a higher up-front cost, but are just as easy to use. Sustainable dry cleaning shops can also recycle hangers, plastic bags and solvents and use energy-efficient commercial machines.
2. What knowledge or skills are necessary?
Dry Cleaning shops require a high degree of organizational and scheduling skills. Inventory must be churned quickly to ensure customers are able to pick up their clothes with little delay. Having a technical background and an interest in learning how to use advanced dry cleaning machines is also helpful, though not necessary.
3. How much money is required to start?
$$-$$$ (on a scale of $ to $$$$$)
4. What is the income potential?
$-$$$ (on a scale of $ to $$$$$)
5. What is the best location for a dry cleaner?
Residential locations in cities or suburbs are ideal. Middle to upper class areas are preferable. In or near highly trafficked areas.
6. Best questions to ask yourself to find out if this business is right for you (if you can answer yes to all three, this business might be for you):
Are you organized?
Are you handy with machinery and do you like learning about new technologies?
Do you enjoy providing a quality product and serving customers?
Interested in starting one in your community? Where do you begin? What permits do you need? Who is your target customer? How do you find them? What is the best use of your limited advertising dollars? What’s the best way to attract a great employee or volunteer? What does an average day look like? What strategic tips do veteran eco-entrepreneurs suggest for startups like you?
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