PlanetLaundry and Supplements Midwest Supplement to August 2012 : Page 1

Fall 2012 | planetlaundry.com | coinlaundry.org Midwest B U S IN E S S P RO F I L E STEVEN GOULD Shifting Gears Former Car Dealer Embraces Wisconsin Coin Laundry Business ADVERTISERS BDS Laundry Sytems | 08 Century Laundry Distributing | 05 Coin Laundry Association | 09, 19 CLA Insurance | 15 D&M Equipment | Back Cover KeeWes Equipment Company Inc | 03 Laundry Fest 2012 | 18 Loomis Brothers Equipment Company | 11 Mountain Electronics Inc | 13 PlanetLaundry.com | 17 SQS Laundry Equipment | 02 Wascomat -Crossover | 07 Aside from owning a somewhat unique laundromat, Jason Dodge of Milwaukee also has a rather unique background. Dodge came to the coin laundry business from the auto industry. He spent a couple of years selling cars and about eight years as a finance manager for automobile dealerships. He also spent some time owning an auto salvage business. Although this may not seem to be the typical training ground for starting a coin laundry business, Dodge explained that there are a lot of correlations between the two industries. “The auto business really taught me how to deal with people,” he said. “And as a finance manager, I learned how to deal with costs, read continued on page 10

BUSINESS PROFILE

Steven Gould


Aside from owning a somewhat unique laundromat, Jason Dodge of Milwaukee also has a rather unique background.

Dodge came to the coin laundry business from the auto industry. He spent a couple of years selling cars and about eight years as a finance manager for automobile dealerships. He also spent some time owning an auto salvage business. Although this may not seem to be the typical training ground for starting a coin laundry business, Dodge explained that there are a lot of correlations between the two industries.

"The auto business really taught me how to deal with people," he said. "And as a finance manager, I learned how to deal with costs, read spreadsheets and how to maximize profits.

"With the auto salvage business, I learned that you don't always want a partner," he added, with a laugh. "My former partner and I are still very good friends, but even the best of friends can have different goals and different ways of doing things."

Besides the auto business experience, Dodge has nearly 15 years in the rental property business, so he knows his way around a toolbox - and, clearly, that skill relates directly to owning a self-service laundry.

One unique segment of his laundry business is that it also houses Dodge's tanning salon.

"Mostly, my laundry customers don't come here to tan, and my tanning customers aren't here to do their laundry" he said. "There are a few that will put in their loads and then tan, but not very many As a result, I really have to market and operate them as two separate businesses."

Dodge was attracted to the coin laundry business after he was let go from the car dealership for which he had worked. Despite his rental property business, he needed more income. What's more, he had grown weary of the long hours in the auto business and spending all of his vacation time rehabbing his rental units.

He was searching for a better balance between work and family, so he spent a lot of time researching different business and franchise opportunities - and, in fact, almost ended up buying an auto parts store.

"The day I decided to go for the auto parts store I found out that someone else beat me to the territory I wanted," he explained. "But I had always been interested in the laundromat business, so I began looking at that more closely. I've always received good advice from my stepfather, so I mentioned the laundromat business to him."

As luck would have it, Dodge's stepfather had a friend from high school who owned a laundromat that he had put up for sale. So, Dodge's stepfather set up a meeting between Jason and his old high school buddy:

"I figured that, even if it was already sold, I still had a million questions for him anyway," Dodge said.

On Thanksgiving Day 2006, Dodge met the owner at his store, which was still on the market. At 4,500 square feet, the laundry was large and offered just about everything one could imagine, including the tanning beds.

Immediately, Dodge thought the store would be well out of his price range. In addition, the owner had already shown the business to someone else and was waiting on an offer. But, fortunately for Dodge, that offer never came through - and, after some negotiating, the former car salesman became the new owner of Milwaukee Laundry and Tanning in January 2007.

Although the transition process of actually taking ownership went along fairly quickly and smoothly, there were a couple of surprises.

"I had never dealt on the commercial side before," Dodge noted. "And I was surprised by the amount of deposit required for the utilities. I had not budgeted for that." Having been in the property rental business, he was accustomed to leases. But, again, the commercial lease took him by surprise.

"My leases for property are fairly straightforward and simple," he explained. "This lease for the store was about 16 pages of legalese and took some time to sort through."

One of Dodge's main goals when he went looking for a business - and the aspect that most attracted him to the self-service laundry business - was the opportunity to have more control over his time. He has two sons (ages 9 and 11), and he wanted to strike that balance between work and family and to be there for them.

"I have accomplished that goal," he said. "However, this business is a lot more involved than it looks from the outside. Still, I'm very happy with the flexibility that I have, and I certainly get to enjoy life a bit more."

Milwaukee Laundry and Tanning is located in a strip mall on the northwest edge of the city Behind the store is open farmland, and in front of the laundry are retail businesses, many of which that has been hit hard by the down economy There are a lot of empty storefronts, but the laundry is holding its own, according to Dodge.

There are fast-food restaurants, a large sporting goods store and a big-box home improvement location nearby. There are also a number of bustling apartment complexes that drive traffic to Dodge's laundromat.

In addition to walk-in business, Dodge has been able to develop a few commercial accounts, including some local construction companies, barber shops and even a few area schools.

The marketplace also features a diverse mix of ethnicities and income levels. "It's a good mix and a true slice of America," Dodge said.

Milwaukee Laundry and Tanning advertises in the local Yellow Pages, but has been cutting back on that every year. According to Dodge, the biggest bang for his buck comes from being liked on Facebook.

"When someone likes us on Facebook, we give them a free box of Tide," he said. "That has been very effective for us."

Dodge ensures that his laundry business also has a strong presence on Foursquare, as well as taking advantage of any free online directories that are available to him. The directories can be customized with photos, and they provide just one more way for potential customers to discover the store.

Although there are a couple of competitors in his marketplace, Dodge doesn't lose any sleep over them.

"I can't control what they do," he reasoned. "I can only control what I do. We have a large facility, and we try to make it as comfortable as possible."

Among the store's features are plenty of comfortable seating, HDTVs and free coffee on the weekends. In addition, Milwaukee Laundry and Tanning offers free WiFi and also has a number of computers available for customer use at no charge.

"We allow students to come and do their homework," Dodge said. "Some kids don't have access to the Internet at home, or they just need a peaceful place to study They don't cause any problems, and we have plenty of room for them."

The laundromat also serves as somewhat of a training ground for Dodge's kids. In addition to featuring snack and soap vending, Milwaukee Laundry and Tanning includes a seven-head candy and toy machine, which belongs to the owner's two young sons.

"I wanted them to learn some business skills and responsibility at a young age," he said. "So, they rent the space from me for $5 a month and they have to manage their inventory and money collection."

Milwaukee Laundry and Tanning is open 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily, and employs six part-time attendants. Dodge said he would love to open another store and always has his eyes open. But he added that he is very selective and that, every time he finds a possible new location, it seems the owner wants to sell the business for a price based on what it could be, not what it actually is.

So, Dodge hasn't made any offers yet. However, he is currently expanding his rental property business, with the current real estate market making that endeavor quite a bit easier. And he is constantly trying out new ideas and new ways of doing things to improve this laundry

"My wife always says that if you keep doing what you're already doing, you'll keep getting what you've already got."

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/article/BUSINESS+PROFILE/1126507/119920/article.html.

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