Start a Mobile Laundry Business on the Side

Laundy in a modern washing machine.

Believe it or not, the mobile laundry business is a great way to quickly attract customers and rake in cash. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the dry-cleaning business alone employs some 250,000 workers. Just within the United States, the business as a whole is worth over $25 billion. That means that there’s plenty of room for competition. If a mobile laundry business sounds like an appealing idea, the following steps can make the dream a reality.

Zero in on a Profitable Niche

Before purchasing any supplies, it’s important to settle on a sector of the market to target. Start by researching demographics that could be profitable. For instance, you might decide to go after hospitality businesses like B&Bs or motels that go through sheets like crazy during a busy vacation season. Alternatively, you could focus on affluent families with busy working parents who don’t have time to launder their own linen. Just know how your bread will be buttered before making serious investments.

Sketch out a Business Plan

After you’ve picked a promising demographic, a business plan is the next logical step. The appropriate scope for your mobile laundry business is the big unknown. For instance, will you merely transport clothes to a third-party laundry outfit or will you do all of the work yourself? Will you pick up laundry at a moment’s notice or do it on a schedule? How much will you charge for a load? These are the questions to ask before diving in with both feet.

Get the Necessary Start-Up Funds

The amount of money that you’ll need to get started will depend on how you choose to proceed. While it’s possible to launch a mobile laundry business on a shoestring budget, a few thousand dollars will likely be required. Figure out how much money you’ll need to stay afloat during the first three months. A trusty local credit union loan is often the best bet when it comes to funding. If you have lousy credit, consider a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign.

Round up the Required Materials

If you’re serious about making money in the laundry game, you’ll eventually need some commercial equipment. Industrial washers and dryers as well as pressing machines make life a lot easier. If you plan on offering dry-cleaning services, you’ll need plenty of perchloroethylene or PCE. Stock up on various detergents as well as coat hangers, plastic bags and labels to keep clients’ valuables organized. Buying or leasing a decent van to tote around large amounts of laundry is probably a wise idea.

Deal with the Inevitable Paperwork

Any serious business will need merchant accounts with reputable banks to process a variety of transactions. Set up lines of credit with wholesale suppliers of laundry staples. You’ll need to draft contracts that you and your clients will sign that cover issues like pricing, delivery details and liability issues. Sooner or later, an article of clothing is going to be lost or damaged. While you could use a waiver to limit your liability, it might be wise to have a reimbursement plan in place.

Learn the Ins & Outs of the Business

While it wouldn’t seem like washing clothes is particularly difficult, there’s more to it than meets the eye. You should know how to deal with different stains on different fabrics before launching your mobile laundry enterprise. Use trade publications like American Drycleaner and National Clothesline to pick up helpful tips on various laundering techniques. Experiment with a number of different detergents and equipment to fine-tune your skills and avoid looking amateurish during the crucial first months of operation.

Finding Those First Few Clients

As with any venture, the hardest part of starting a mobile laundry business is creating a buzz around your brand. Word-of-mouth advertising is often the best way for small outfits to get the most bang for their marketing buck. Post flyers at locations where you’re likely to find consumers that would be interested in mobile laundry services such as gyms and coffee shops. Joining local community organizations is also a great way to spread the word about your new laundry company.

Refine the Business Model as You Go

Within a month of opening, you should have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. Locking down the right pricing structure is often the hardest nut to crack. Iron out any operational issues that you may be encountering such as delivery difficulties and customer complaints. After about three months, you should focus on streamlining the enterprise by trimming costs wherever possible. Always be on the lookout for better deals on materials from bulk suppliers to improve the bottom line.

Take Your Marketing Game to the Next Level

Eventually, you’ll need to get serious about marketing your company on the web. Social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter are a foregone conclusion. A healthy presence on review sites like Yelp and Google+ will help you to bring wary window shoppers into the fold. A flagship website with a popular blog will attract customers in droves. Use location-specific language within your blog posts to dominate the search engine results for mobile laundry in your immediate area.

Grow the Business as Quickly as Possible

Considering the low margins that are usually associated with the laundry game, growth is the key to reliable profits. Both vertical and horizontal expansion are viable options depending on your unique circumstances. You might find that offering more services outside of your wheelhouse is the best way to maximize revenue. On the other hand, it might be smarter to take your proven business model and expand into other markets in your region. The point is to avoid resting on your laurels and becoming complacent.

Staying a Step Ahead of the Competition

Even a business like laundry is prone to sudden shakeups that catch companies by surprise. Keeping an eye on industry trends will help you to see problems in the making and tweak your strategy to capitalize on them. Read publications like American Laundry News regularly to stay abreast of industry developments. When consumer tastes change overnight, be prepared to change with them. With any luck, your mobile laundry outfit will be a successful concern for years to come.

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