Laundry is an essential part of life for most people. As long as clean clothes are in demand, a laundry business will be too. After all, not everyone has their own washer and dryer, or the time (or desire) to wash their clothes themselves. This makes starting a business in the laundry industry a great option for budding entrepreneurs.
Of course, this all sounds good in theory, but what does it take to launch a business of your own? If you’re wondering how to start a laundry business, this guide is here to help. There are a lot of decisions to make and work to be done, so let’s get started.
How to start a laundry business in 10 steps
We’re going to cover all of the crucial first steps you need to take to get your laundry business started. You may be eager to open your doors as soon as possible, but taking the time to plan and set up your business through the proper channels can help ensure a successful start.
1. Decide what kind of laundry business you want to start
If you’re already thinking about starting a laundry business, you might know exactly what kind you want to open. But if you’re still exploring your options, we’ll go through a few of the laundry business formats you should consider before deciding.
Laundry businesses are most popular in areas with lots of apartment buildings or where people don’t necessarily have their own washing machines. You may choose to open a laundry business that allows customers to come in and do their laundry using your machines, or you can also offer wash and fold services, where customers can drop off their laundry, and then pick it up once it’s done (some laundry businesses also offer pickup and delivery.)
You might also decide to offer all of these services to your customers. Whichever you choose, you’ll need washing and drying machines and a location for the business. You'll want to keep all of this in mind, therefore, before you continue learning how to start a laundry business.
This being said, you also have the option of buying into a laundromat franchise, rather than building a new business from the ground up. There are pros and cons to this type of business model, but if this is your first business endeavor, it can be helpful to work within an already existing — and successful — framework that a franchise provides.
Ultimately, with all of these options, you’ll want to take the time to do your research before you decide which idea to move forward with. See what other types of laundry businesses are in the area, conduct a survey of local people, or see what type of demand there is for your possible business.
This information will help you decide if there is a need for a laundry business in the first place, as well as what type of laundromat would best serve your area.
2. Choose a business name
One of the most fun parts of learning how to start a laundry business is choosing the business name. Think of all the clever, catchy, and memorable names you can come up with — but make sure it’s also describing your business and is memorable and easy to pronounce.
Once you have some ideas, you can look up whether your business name is available online in most states. The secretary of state website will likely be the best resource for checking business name availability, though some states have a different agency handling this business process, such as the chamber of commerce department.
If your business name is available, you will likely have the option to reserve it for a set amount of time. Although this step isn’t required, you may choose to do so if you aren’t ready to register your business but want to ensure no other business takes your name.
3. Choose a business entity
Another decision about your laundry business that you’ll have to make early on is which business entity you’ll choose to legally structure your business. Choosing the right business entity is crucial, as it affects how you pay taxes, how much risk you’ll be exposed to, how you’ll organize your business, and more.
For example, if you decide to start your laundry business as a limited liability company, you’ll have liability protection for yourself and other business members. On the other hand, if you opt for something like a general partnership or sole proprietorship, you won’t have liability protection, but you also won’t have to register your business with the state.
There are several factors to consider in this step, so we recommend consulting a business attorney or tax professional to walk you through the process and help you choose the best entity for your unique business needs.
4. Write a business plan
Now that you have your business entity, business name, and business idea in mind, you can get down to writing your business plan. Your business plan will be on the longer side, think 30 to 50 pages, and it will provide a comprehensive overview and actionable plan for taking your laundry business to a profitable endeavor.
You can either write your business plan on your own or you can use a business plan template to help streamline the process, but either way, there is some key information you should make sure to include in the plan.
Your business plan should include a summary and information about the type of business you want to start, including your structure and any other key employees (besides yourself). It should also include a market analysis. This analysis should show that there is a high demand in your area for a laundry business, as well as outline any competitors, who your target customer is, and more.
Your plan should also include financial information, detail where you’re getting your startup capital, whether or not you’ll be seeking any extra funding, and projections for when you think you’ll actually start making money with your new laundry business.
5. Register your business and get an EIN
The next step involved in learning how to start a laundry business? Although not all businesses have to register with the state (sole proprietorships and general partnerships likely will not), most will need to take this step in order to legally operate. Some states allow businesses to register online, typically through the secretary of state or chamber of commerce website, but other states require businesses to register in person with paper documents. It’s always wise to consult a business lawyer who can help you keep track of the documents and registrations your business needs to file.
One thing to keep in mind if you choose a business entity that doesn't require you to register with the state, you may still want to file a DBA or “doing business as” to operate your business under a name other than your legal name (which is the default).
In addition, it's also a good idea for most businesses to apply for an employer identification number or an EIN. This number is helpful for businesses when applying for a bank account, filing taxes, and more. It’s sometimes referred to as a business tax ID number.
If you plan to hire employees, this is a required step, but even if you’re not at that stage yet, obtaining an EIN has several business benefits. You can apply for your EIN through the IRS website.
6. Get the proper permits and licenses
The licenses and permits you need to run your laundry business will vary depending on the state where you’ll be operating. You may need to get a more general business license in addition to more specific licenses, such as a health department license or water pollution control permit.
Some states and cities even have specific laws around laundry facilities and businesses that provide laundry services. If you plan to do pickup and delivery services too, there are other licenses you’ll need, pertaining to your business vehicles.
Overall, this is another step where it would highly benefit you to consult a business attorney, as licensing rules vary largely depending on the state, city, or county.
7. Find a location
At this point, you've completed much of the behind-the-scenes work required in learning how to start a laundry business. And, in doing so, you’ve likely done some preliminary work on this next step, especially during your market analysis.
This being said, however, it’s now time to get serious about finding the location for your laundry business. Although some smaller operations may be able to be run out of a home (if you’re only doing drop-off/pickup service, for instance), you’ll likely want to find a commercial space.
Keep in mind, a laundry business will require specific plumbing and water line hookups — or the structural bones for these to be added — which will come at a cost. Just how much it costs to start up a laundry business will vary depending on several factors, but know that your physical space will likely be a large investment.
When it comes down to it, though, finding the right space is important, but equally as important is making sure it’s in the right location. In fact, finding a location with a demonstrated need for a laundromat business is probably the most important step of them all.
Renters, for example, generally represent a large portion of laundromat clients, so you might want to consider a location near rental units that do not have washers and dryers built into them, or college students living off-campus. You also want to make sure you’re conveniently located near your target audience. In fact, the closer you are to your customers, the better. Depending on the location, this could mean within walking distance.
Security should also be taken into account. Laundromats are susceptible to robberies and other types of crime, which is why ideally your laundromat should be located in a highly visible, safe area.
8. Get the proper equipment
With your space secured, you next need to turn your attention to buying the equipment to make your laundry business operational. Depending on the size of your business, you may need over 20 washing machines and 20 dryers.
Some other essential laundromat equipment (besides the washers and dryers themselves) to get are:
Credit card payment system.
Oversized washing machines.
Although most of these things on the list speak for themselves, it's important to remember to have plenty of change machines, as not all of your customers will be carrying credit or debit cards with them.
In addition, you'll want to keep in mind that laundry equipment will most likely be your biggest expense, aside from rent. On average, laundry machines can cost you anywhere from $100,000 to $400,000. While writing your business plan, therefore, you should have done some calculations for how much you expect to spend on these initial startup costs, and now it’s time to find a way to finance them. Read our guide on how much it costs to open a laundromat for a full breakout of expenses.
Although new businesses have a more difficult time qualifying for traditional business loans, one type of funding that can be particularly useful for laundry businesses is equipment financing. You’ll take your quote for the machines you need directly to a lender who then funds the purchase. You pay off the loan with regular payments, and the machines serve as collateral for the loan, making lenders more willing to work with less-qualified borrowers.
9. Open a business bank account
You’re nearly ready to open the doors of your laundry business, but before you do, one more crucial step is to set up your business’s financial accounts. First, you’ll need to open a business bank account so you can separate your business and personal finances. This is important for many reasons, including simplifying your taxes and helping to protect your personal assets if your business is the recipient of legal action.
Having this account completely separate from your personal bank account can also help establish and boost your business credit score, which will help you qualify for more attractive funding options if and when you decide to expand your business in the future.
You’ll also want a business credit card to help keep your spending separate. Although there are many great options out there, a 0% introductory APR credit card can be especially useful for startup businesses, as the intro period can serve as an interest-free loan of sorts. Just make sure your balance is paid off before the offer period ends and a variable APR sets in.
10. Market your laundromat
Finally, you've reached the last step in learning how to start a laundry business. At this point, you're ready to welcome customers and start drawing people to your business.
A great way to get people coming through your doors is by marketing your business around areas where your target customers like to frequent. For instance, if a sizable portion of your customers is college students, you may want to pass out flyers at popular coffee shops or college bars.
Following SEO best practices is also a definite must, as nowadays many people search online to find new businesses. Make sure your business is easy to find online by creating a user-friendly website, which should list basic business information like your business hours, your business address, and contact information.
You'll also want to ensure that your business develops a strong reputation. Respond to all of your customer reviews on sites such as Yelp and Google Business, no matter how positive or negative the feedback is, as this will only serve to boost your reputation.
Once you've gotten the word out there, you can think about different ways to retain customers. Some laundromats offer free WiFi or install televisions to keep customers entertained while they wait for their laundry to finish.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, the steps above are just those necessary to get your laundry business started. There will, of course, be steps beyond these 10, but getting the initial work out of the way will put you in good shape to launch and eventually grow your business into a success.
The key decisions you made and included in your business plan, along with the action you took to form your business, are the foundation you can build upon in the years to come.