1. What is a sustainable laundromat?
Laundromats provide a range of self-service or wash-and-fold services for customers. Eco-friendly laundromats offer customers a way to save water, reduce use of petroleum-based detergents and learn how to follow eco-friendly practices at home. Green laundry shops have begun opening with increasing frequency in major cities like New York and San Francisco, as consumers recognize the need to save water and reduce emissions.
Coin-op laundromats, as they tend to be called in industry lingo, thrive in neighborhoods with a high proportion of renters. In the most recent U.S. census, about 86 million people in the U.S. fall into that category. With about 35,000 coin-op laundries operating in the U.S. currently and no major franchise or chain companies dominating the industry, there is ample opportunity for entrepreneurs to capitalize on the increasing trend of people moving back into cities, into smaller apartments and houses, and increasingly looking for community spaces to gather and socialize. The industry, in fact, at roughly $5 billion in annual sales, is perhaps one of the largest ‘passive’ income generators, meaning the owner-operator does not physically have to be in the location at the time of interaction with the customer. These traits make this industry an exciting opportunity for people with full time careers to do something entrepreneurial on the side.
You can be innovative and new in your sustainable Laundromat, but you will also have examples of other successful green Laundromats to follow. Some simple ideas include:
- Recycle and minimize water usage (e.g., efficient machines use 20 gallons per load)
- Use energy-efficient washers (e.g., front-loaders)
- Sell natural and non-petroleum-based detergents/fabric softener
- Offer non-chlorine bleach alternative (Sodium percarbonate)
- Sell detergents from bulk containers to reduce packaging waste
- Sell eco-friendly detergents, like Seventh Generation
- Use wind or solar energy to power up facilities and minimize energy use when possible–solar hot water heaters, in particular, have a terrific return on investment for businesses that use a significant amount of hot water
- Encourage customers to use ‘air dry setting’ to dry clothes using cold air
- A laundromat is a natural gathering place. Have a community bulletin board and comfortable place to hang out or work
2. What knowledge or skills are necessary?
Laundromats require little experience or know-how. Make sure you visit multiple different Laundromats in your area and talk to the owners about their experiences before you start. Invest significant amount of time researching which commercial washers and dryers to purchase.
The type of Laundromat you start will also determine the skills you need : self-service shops are easiest to run as customers are in charge of running their own laundry loads. In contrast, laundry-shops offering wash/fold service are more work-intensive and require signficant organizational and customer-service talents.
3. How much money is required to start?
$-$$ (on a scale of $ to $$$$$)
The initial start-up cost for a Laundromat is low as you can start with few machines and add more as you grow. Costs vary too based on condition of the storefront.
4. What is the income potential?
$-$$ (on a scale of $ to $$$$$)
Estimate your revenue based on number of loads per day and the price you will charge per load. Think creatively of additional revenue streams (detergent, coffee, etc)
5. What is the best location for a laundromat?
Residential locations dominated by small houses without dryers/washers are best. Cities are preferable to suburbs. Avoid locations too close to competitors.
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):
Do you enjoy helping customers?
Are you handy with machinery and do you like learning about new technologies?
Are you good at promoting green practices to build your customer base?
Are you comfortable with customers using your store and machines while you are away (self-service model)?
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?
There’s a lot to think about. Rest easy. Our mission is to help you succeed, so drop us a line (Info@GreenBusinessVillage.com). We’ll get you a business planning document to get you on your way for ONLY $199! We also guarantee our work, so if you are not satisfied, you get your money back!*
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