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How to Start a Laundry Business

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Published on April 25, 2021

Updated on September 22, 2022

How to Start a Laundry Business

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Fast Facts

Investment range

$21,550 - $211,100

Revenue potential

$30,000 - $200,000 p.a

Time to build

3 - 6 months

Profit potential

$10,000 - $30,000 p.a

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Full-time

How to Start a Laundry Business

Laundry is one of those necessary household chores. People rarely want to do it themselves, but they always need clean clothes, which is what makes starting a laundry business a good option. They tend to have high success rates and solid profit margins.

But starting a business is never easy. Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place, as this step-by-step guide will walk you through everything you need to know to develop and launch a successful laundry business.

Let’s get washing!

Step 1: Decide if the Business is Right for You

Understanding the laundry industry is the first step you should take in starting your laundry business. First, let’s see what types of businesses you can open. 

Pros and cons

To give you a balanced view of the industry, here are the pros and cons of a laundry business: 

Pros

  • Reliable, proven business model
  • Clothes always need cleaning, rain or shine 
  • Simple work; no training or certification required 

Cons

  • High utility costs
  • Large initial investment  
  • Machine maintenance can be demanding

Laundry industry trends

The US is home to about 35,000 laundromats, which generate some $5 billion in annual revenue, according to industry expert Martin Ray Laundry Systems.[1]https://martinray.com/p-33942-key-statistics-laundromat-investors-should-know.html#:~:text=The%20laundromat%20industry%20sees%20about,between%2020%2D35%25%20ROI. With an impressive 95% success rate, laundry businesses boast an average return on investment of nearly 30%.

Dry cleaning is doing particularly well in recent years. Despite the recent pandemic-driven slowdown, market analyst IBISWorld expects the US dry cleaning industry to grow nearly 6% in 2021.[2]https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/market-size/dry-cleaners-united-states/

Industry size and growth

  • Industry size and past growth – The US laundry facilities and dry-cleaning services market was valued at more than $10 billion in 2020[3]https://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/4514502/u-s-laundry-facilities-and-dry-cleaning-services, after posting steady growth from a little over $8 billion in 2016.[4]https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/dry-cleaning-laundry-services-market
  • Growth forecast – The market is expected to grow 4% annually through 2028.[5]https://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/4514502/u-s-laundry-facilities-and-dry-cleaning-services 
  • Number of businesses – The US is home to about 35,000 laundromats, according to industry expert Martin Ray Laundry Systems[6]https://martinray.com/p-33942-key-statistics-laundromat-investors-should-know.html#:~:text=The%20laundromat%20industry%20sees%20about,between%2020%2D35%25%20ROI, and more than 14,000 dry cleaners.[7]https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/number-of-businesses/dry-cleaners-united-states/
laundry industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

These are among the latest trends in laundry:

  • Shift toward technologically advanced machines that accept all forms of payment (credit, debit, cash, coins, loyalty cards, and mobile payments) and offer easy-to-use digital interfaces
  • Growing demand for laundry pickup and delivery services

The industry faces some challenges such as:

  • Stiff competition
  • High startup cost
  • Long operating hours
  • Risk of accidents
Laundry Trends and Challenges

How much does it cost to start a laundry business?

Costs vary, but if you’re starting a small wash-and-fold operation, you’d need as little as $20,000, while larger operations could cost $200,000 or more. The average startup investment for a laundry is $40,000.

Laundromats and dry cleaners, on the other hand, can cost $500,000 or more due to the significant equipment requirements. Here’s a cost breakdown for a basic wash-and-fold laundry, excluding the cost of the commercial space or building:

Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100 - $300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
5 Washers$5,000 - $100,000$52,250
5 Dryers$10,000 - $100,000$55,000
Other machines and supplies$5,000 - $7,000$6,000
Website$1,000 - $3,000$2,000
Total$21,550 - $211,100$116,075

How much can you earn from a laundry business?

Laundromats generate revenue anywhere between $30,000 to $1 million each year, with profit margins running from 15% to 35%. Industry analyst AmericanDryCleaner.com estimates that most small dry cleaners generate about $200,000 a year in revenue.

The potential earnings vary widely, so it’s up to you to make your business a success.

In your first year or two, you could set up a basic wash and fold laundry with five washers and five dryers. If you could serve 20 clients a day and each spends $2 to wash and dry a load of laundry, you’ll be earning nearly $30,000 in annual revenue and more than $10,000 in profit assuming a 35% margin. 

As you gain more clients and add more machines, your annual revenue could climb to $200,000 a year. At this stage, you’d rent a bigger commercial space and hire staff, reducing your profit margin to 15% and a profit of $30,000.

Laundry earnings forecast

What barriers to entry are there?

While laundry businesses are simple to operate, there are a few barriers to entry to be aware of: 

  • Mature, competitive market
  • Startup costs are high
  • Bureaucratic hoops to jump through, licensing

Related Business Ideas

If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
How to Start a Laundry Business

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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

Now that you’re up to date with the laundry industry let’s start refining your business idea.

Why? Identify an opportunity

A great part about laundry businesses is that your main competition will likely only be in your local area. This makes it easy to assess what your competitors are doing and keep a close eye on any changes to their business. 

Before you create your offering, though, you should do some research to scope out the strengths and weaknesses of your competition. This will help you to create a better experience for your customers.

Here are some questions to ask about your competition: 

  • What do they offer?
  • Why do people use their services?
  • Who are they targeting? 
  • Do they have a unique selling point?

What? Determine your products or services

Choosing a niche is important in the beginning. It will help you streamline your business processes, create effective marketing campaigns and start the process of finding who your target market should be. 

While it’s possible to offer all the niche services under one roof, it’s a good idea to specialize in one service before branching out. This will save you money and help you make your first dollar faster. So now’s the time to do some deeper research into which niche will best fit your current situation and market needs. 

There are three main types of laundry businesses — wash and fold, laundromat, and dry cleaner.

Wash-and-fold laundries offer busy customers a convenient drop-off service, accepting dirty clothes and having them cleaned and folded the next day and ready for pick-up. 

A laundromat is a storefront offering washing machines and dryers for customers to use by paying coins, cash, debit, credit or mobile pay. Requires minimal oversight as customers do their laundry themselves, and is cheaper than other options. Some laundromats also offer wash-and-fold services. 

Dry cleaning is a specialized way of cleaning clothes without water so as to avoid shrinkage. Most people use dry cleaners for delicate garments such as suits or fancy dresses, but dry cleaning is suitable for any garment. It’s also more expensive than a traditional wash.

How much should you charge for laundry services?

How much you charge will depend on what your costs are and the type of services you offer. To find a starting point, you can look at what your competitors charge for their various services. 

But at the end of the day, your prices are up to you. As long as your margin is acceptable to you, that’s a good place to start. You can always adjust based on demand. Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Once you’ve got your niche, you should decide who your target market will be within that niche. For example, if you notice that local university dormitories lack laundry services—or have subpar services—you can make students your target market.

Once you know who your target market is, you’ll be able to craft an experience that’s exactly what they’re looking for. This is what will differentiate you from your competition.

Where? Choose your business premises

When it comes to opening a laundry business, your location will be determined by your target market. If you want to target university students, then you’ll need to have your store near university dormitories or places that they frequent. For example, you could choose a location that is close to many student apartments, or you could open a store in the local shopping village. 

You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Laundry Business rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Business Name

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • The name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “laundry” or “wash”, boosts SEO
  • Choose a name that allows for expansion: “Jim’s Bakery” over “Jim’s Cookies”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step business name generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: Brief overview of the entire business plan; should be written after the plan is complete.
  • Business Overview: Overview of the company, vision, mission, ownership, and corporate goals.
  • Product and Services: Describe your laundry services in detail.
  • Market Analysis: Assess market trends such as variations in demand and prospects for growth, and do a SWOT analysis.
  • Competitive Analysis: Analyze main competitors, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and create a list of the advantages of your services.
  • Sales and Marketing: Examine your companies’ unique selling propositions (USPs) and develop sales, marketing, and promotional strategies.
  • Management Team: Overview of management team, detailing their roles and professional background, along with a corporate hierarchy.
  • Operations Plan: Your company’s operational plan includes procurement, office location, key assets and equipment, and other logistical details.
  • Financial Plan: Three years of financial planning, including startup costs, break-even analysis, profit and loss estimates, cash flow, and balance sheet.
  • Appendix: Additional financial or business-related documents.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist at Fiverr to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states offer real advantages when it comes to a laundry business.

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your laundry business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using ZenBusiness’s online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.

Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method, but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Venture capital: Offer potential investors an ownership stake in exchange for funds, keeping in mind that you would be sacrificing some control over your business.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings, the sale of property or other assets, and support from family and friends.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a laundry business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.

Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits

Starting a laundry business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your laundry business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of any of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks. 

Your software needs will change depending on the type of laundry company you decide to run. But you may use industry-specific software, such as iLaundry, CleanCloud, and Starchup.

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Marketing

Some of your business will come from the casual passerby or online visitors, but still, you should invest in digital marketing! Getting the word out is especially important for new businesses, as it’ll boost customer and brand awareness. 

Once your website is up and running, link it to your social media accounts and vice versa. Social media is a great tool for promoting your business because you can create engaging posts that advertise your products: 

  • Facebook: Great platform for paid advertising, allows you to target specific demographics, like men under age 50 in the Cleveland area. 
  • Instagram: Same benefits as Facebook but with different target audiences.
  • Website: SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Visit Us Now”. This can sharply increase the number of clients.
  • Google and Yelp: For businesses that rely on local clientele, getting listed on Yelp and Google My Business can be crucial to generating awareness and customers.

Kickstart Marketing

Take advantage of your website, social media presence and real-life activities to increase awareness of your offerings and build your brand. Some suggestions include:

  • Competitions and giveaways – Generate interest by offering prizes for customers who complete a certain action, such as a 20% discount on the 5th visit. 
  • Signage – Put up eye-catching signage at your store and website.
  • Flyering – Distribute flyers in your neighborhood and at industry events. 
  • Post a video – Post a video about your laundry business. Use humor and maybe it will go viral!
  • Seek out referrals – Offer incentives to generate customer referrals to new clients. 
  • Paid ads on social media – Choose sites that will reach your target market and do targeted ads.
  • Payper-click marketing – Use Google AdWords to perform better in searches. Research your keywords first.
  • Create infographics – Post infographics and include them in your content.

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google. 

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Webflow, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your laundry shop meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your laundry business could be:

  • Vending machines for snacks, drinks, laundry supplies
  • Add arcade games and TVs
  • Use top-quality cleaning supplies, be a premium laundry.
  • Partner with local businesses to do their laundry at a discount.
  • Offer services for delicate garments.
  • Loyalty rewards program.
unique selling proposition

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a laundry business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in laundry for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in laundry. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. Online businesses might also consider affiliate marketing as a way to build relationships with potential partners and boost business.

Step 12: Build Your Team

If you’re starting out small with a home-based wash and fold business, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you’ll likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a laundry include:

  • General Manager
  • Maintenance
  • Marketing Lead 

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.

Step 13: Start Making Money!

A laundry shop can be a great source of steady income if you can build a solid customer base and earn your customers’ loyalty. One way to do this is to offer amenities, such as free wifi and free coffee. You can also provide a lounge where customers can engage in great conversations while doing their laundry.

There are many other creative ways to attract and retain customers. You did the right thing by seeking guidance first. Now that you have the knowledge to start a business, you’re ready to begin your entrepreneurial journey and make money with your laundry business!

Laundry Business FAQs

Are laundromats good investments?

Laundromats certainly are! They offer high rates of success and a straightforward business model. It’s estimated that 95% of laundromats succeed based on a five-year evaluation window. The business is also recession-resistant as everybody needs clean clothes no matter what’s happening in the economy.

Do dry cleaners make money?

While profits will vary depending on your location, costs, and your prices, the median revenue for a dry cleaning business is $80,000 per year. So yes, dry cleaners make money, but it’s up to you to turn that money into profit.

How do you finance a laundry business?

There is a range of options for financing a laundry business. You can ask friends and family or apply for a traditional loan through a bank. Another option is through SBA guaranteed loans such as 7(a) loans and microloans.