PlanetLaundry and Supplements Northeast Supplement Spring 2013 : Page 1

Supplement to the PlanetLaundry Magazine B USINESS PROFILE S TEV EN G OU L D Spring 2013 | planetlaundry.com | coinlaundry.org First Taste of ‘Independence’ Massachusetts Coin Laundry Marks Operator’s First Foray into Business Ownership As is the case with many self-service laundry operations, Independence Laundry of Marion, Mass., is a family business. And it was intended to be that way from the very beginning. When Joanne Mulligan decided that she wanted to start a business, one of the items on her checklist was to have a business where her brothers could be involved. “I come from a large family, and it was important to me that my brothers could be a part of it,” Mulligan explained. And, as she did her research, it became increasingly evident that a coin laundry would fit the bill perfectly. Mulligan’s background was not in commercial laundry. In fact, she is an advertising sales manager, having spent 20 years with Verizon and then a few more years with Comcast. And, although she is now a laundry owner and even works a few shifts per week at the store, she remains active in the ad business – currently working for the Boston Globe in the area of real estate. ADVERTISERS AC Power | Inside Front Cover Alco Washer | 11 AristoCraft | 12 Clean Show | 14 Coin Laundry Insurance | 17 Daniels Equipment Company, Inc | Back Cover Empire Laundry Machinery | 08 Gold Coin Laundry Equipment | 07 HK Laundry Equipment Inc | 05 Launette | 09 Metropolitan Laundry Machinery Company, Inc | 13 Northeast Laundry Equipment LLC | 10 Setomatic Systems | 19 Yankee Equipment Systems, Inc | 15 continued on page 8

BUSINESS PROFILE

Steven Gould


First Taste of ‘Independence’
Massachusetts Coin Laundry Marks Operator’s First Foray into Business Ownership

As is the case with many self-service laundry operations, Independence Laundry of Marion, Mass., is a family business. And it was intended to be that way from the very beginning.

When Joanne Mulligan decided that she wanted to start a business, one of the items on her checklist was to have a business where her brothers could be involved.

“I come from a large family, and it was important to me that my brothers could be a part of it,” Mulligan explained.

And, as she did her research, it became increasingly evident that a coin laundry would fit the bill perfectly.

Mulligan’s background was not in commercial laundry. In fact, she is an advertising sales manager, having spent 20 years with Verizon and then a few more years with Comcast. And, although she is now a laundry owner and even works a few shifts per week at the store, she remains active in the ad business – currently working for the Boston Globe in the area of real estate.

However, her ambition has always been to run her own business, and after earning her MBA, she decided it was time to put her education to practical use.

Mulligan had never run her own business before, so she spent a lot of time doing her due diligence, checking out various businesses on the internet. Eventually, she came across a number of laundromats and found the opportunity intriguing. Her next step was to ask her brothers if a laundry business was something they would be interested in.

“It just seemed like a really good fit.” she said. “Everything just fell into place then. I found a store for sale in the perfect location for me. It was ideal, and I really liked the facility – so I just went for it.”

Aside from being a business that would work well for her brothers, Mulligan felt it was a solid, straight-forward type of business to run.

“Don’t get me wrong,” she noted. “It’s not easy. There is an incredible amount to learn to run a laundry properly. The best way to put it is that it seemed to be a reasonable calculated risk. If it didn’t work out, I wouldn’t lose the farm; and if it did work out, there might be a situation where I could acquire additional laundromats.”

Mulligan took ownership of Independence Laundry in July 2009, about seven months after deciding to take that entrepreneurial leap and make the purchase. Almost from the beginning, everything about the store seemed perfect – almost too good to be true.

One of her brothers, Kevin Mulligan, has been closely involved with the business ever since.

“Over the last three and a half years, Kevin has become an expert with the machines, as well as all of the other equipment,” Mulligan said.

Although taking over the store went smoothly and Joanne’s brother handles the day-to-day operation of the business, one of the store’s biggest issues has been staffing.

“A laundry attendant position is somewhat of an entry-level job, but maybe it really shouldn’t be,” Mulligan explained. “There is so much involved, and it takes a special person with a lot of patience to deal with the public all day.”

Mulligan speaks from experience, as she works the Friday night shift from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

“It is really exhausting,” she admitted.
Independence Laundry is located in a residential area with a diverse population. There is a nice array of multi-family rental developments along with single-family homes. The store shares a building with a floral shop; each business rents half the space. There also is a national chain drug store across the street, and a restaurant and bar next door to the florist. This mix of neighboring businesses works out well for Mulligan, because at 2,200 square feet, the laundromat doesn’t have a lot of additional floor space for soda and snack vending machines.

Although Mulligan is in the advertising business, she doesn’t do a lot of advertising for her coin laundry. However, she has established a presence on the internet; in fact, one of the first things she as a business owner was to create a website and make sure it could be found by all of the major search engines. And, in talking with her customers, she has discovered that most of them find out about the store through her website.

Mulligan also has done some local newspaper advertising when she wants to announce a new service or a special offer. In addition, she will run in-store promotions for specials, such as two-for-one deals on comforters or various offers around the holidays.

The store’s marketplace is somewhat saturated, with six competitors within a three-mile radius. However, Mulligan differentiates her laundry business by being fully attended and offering convenient services, such as pickup and delivery. What’s more, Independence Laundry boasts a friendly and welcoming feeling, and Mulligan keeps the staffing level up. There is always at least one attendant on duty, with additional staff during peak hours. Most of the staff is family, and that family atmosphere comes across to the customers, Mulligan said.

The store is open seven days a week – Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on the weekends. Mulligan offers wash-dry-fold services for $1.10 per pound for drop off at the store and $1.15 a pound with pickup and delivery.

Currently, Mulligan feels the store’s lone weakness is its lack of commercial accounts.

“It’s not a space or staffing issue,” she explained. “I could make that happen. It’s more from a sales end as to acquiring the business.”

The store presently employs one full-time attendant and three part-timers, not including Joanne.

All in all, Mulligan said she feels being in the laundry business has been a great experience.

“I’ve learned an incredible amount about running a business,” she said. “I tell people that I have learned way more in this business than I ever learned in the MBA program. For me, this has turned out to be an ideal business. It met my objectives to help out my brothers and to begin my foray into the business world.”

Steven Gould is a freelance business writer based in the Chicago area.

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/article/BUSINESS+PROFILE+/1325047/148110/article.html.

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