PlanetLaundry and Supplements West Supplement Fall 2016 : Page 1

Supplement to the PlanetLaundry Magazine BUSINESS PROFILE BY STEVEN GOULD Fall 2016 | planetlaundry.com | coinlaundry.org Flex Time A Laundry Business Fit Perfectly into Arizona Couple’s Busy Schedule and Desire to Serve Others Although there are many advantages to owning a self-service laundry, one of the most common reasons would-be entrepreneurs seem to favor opening laundromats over other small-business ventures is, in a word, flexibility – the flexibility to set their own hours, the ability to attend their children’s school activities and sporting events, and the opportunity to follows their passions and callings. For Stephen and Victoria Dotson, the owners of The Laundry on Pantano in Tucson, Ariz., it was the ability to continue to follow their passion for helping others. Stephen had spent a number of years in the U.S. Navy and now works as a nurse with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Victoria also works in the healthcare industry; she is a perfusionist, which is a specialized healthcare professional who uses the heart-lung machine during cardiac surgery and other procedures that require cardiopulmonary bypass. While owning a laundry is the couple’s first foray into business ownership, it definitely continued on page 2 ADVERTISERS: Coin Laundry Insurance | 15, Continental Girbau West | 07, Ed Brown Distributors | 05, Laundrylux | Back Cover, Taylor Houseman | 09

Business Profile

Steven Gould

Flex Time

A Laundry Business Fit Perfectly into Arizona Couple’s Busy Schedule and Desire to Serve Others

Although there are many advantages to owning a self-service laundry, one of the most common reasons would-be entrepreneurs seem to favor opening laundromats over other small-business ventures is, in a word, flexibility – the flexibility to set their own hours, the ability to attend their children’s school activities and sporting events, and the opportunity to follows their passions and callings.

For Stephen and Victoria Dotson, the owners of The Laundry on Pantano in Tucson, Ariz., it was the ability to continue to follow their passion for helping others.

Stephen had spent a number of years in the U.S. Navy and now works as a nurse with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Victoria also works in the healthcare industry; she is a perfusionist, which is a specialized healthcare professional who uses the heart-lung machine during cardiac surgery and other procedures that require cardiopulmonary bypass.

While owning a laundry is the couple’s first foray into business ownership, it definitely fits with their calling of being of service to others.

Victoria admitted that getting into the laundry business in the first place was mainly Stephen’s idea.

“He did his research and, because we both had jobs, he didn’t want something that we would be tied to,” Victoria explained. “He spoke with some business owners and people he knew, and found that many of them got their start with a laundry business. He found you could be a semi-absentee owner with a laundromat, since there isn’t a lot of product to care for. We would still have the flexibility to continue in our work while running a rather self-sufficient business.”

Having done their research and become comfortable with the idea of owning a laundry, the Dotsons began their search for an existing store. While working with a local distributor, they came across many older, shuttered laundromats; however, the investment to get many of these former businesses up and running again was considerable. As a result, Victoria suggested they look for a laundry that was still in operation and making money. Eventually, they found one they liked – The Laundry on Pantano – and the entrepreneurial couple has now been in the laundry business for three years.

“It was a large investment,” Victoria said, “probably a bit larger than most people think.”

The entire process took approximately four to six months, but that’s not to say all was perfect from the get-go.

“The day we signed and bought the business we went in to meet all of the employees with the former owners, and one of employees had just finished his shift that morning and walked out,” Victoria recalled. “So, we had to hire someone in our first hour as owners.”

The Laundry on Pantano is located in a middle- to low-middle-income area.

“We have a lot of single-family homes, apartments and retirement communities near us,” Victoria said. “And there is a campground and RV park less than a mile away. It’s a rent-dense area.”

The Laundry on Pantano – which has two competing stores within a mile – also is surrounded by a number of other businesses, including a large thrift store on one side of the laundry and a hair salon on the other side. There are a number of fastfood restaurants, an orthodontist’s office and a furniture store nearby as well.

One way the Dotsons have been able to differentiate their business from the other laundromats in the marketplace has been to offer a refund on loyalty cards.

“We are a card-operated store, and we offer a refund on those cards, which is very unusual,” Victoria noted. “The previous owners offered a refund option, so we maintained that policy. We considered dropping this option, but our employees know our customers, and they’ve told us we would lose a lot of business if we discontinued the refund option.

“It actually works out well,” she continued. “If the card walks away, at least I’ve got the money, or I buy the card back from you so that I don't have to buy another. It's kind of a win-win.”

Victoria mentioned that they also offer a program called “Customer Without a Card.”

“We get a lot of snowbirds in here, as well as people whose washers have broken down or who are coming in just to do one or two larger items,” she explained. “We don’t make these customers go through the whole process of buying a card and loading money on it just to use it once and have us buy it back. If it’s just one load, we’ll start it for you, and you can simply pay the attendant.”

In addition, The Laundry on Pantano offers a washdry- fold service for $1.30 per pound, with a 10-pound minimum. Staring this past February, the Dotsons also accept credit card payment for their drop-off laundry service; in which case, the cost is $1.35 per pound, to help offset any bank fees. Victoria noted that many of her customers believe the convenience of being able to pay with their credit cards is worth the slightly higher rate.

Although The Laundry on Pantano doesn’t currently handle commercial accounts, the Dotsons do offer a pickup and delivery service for a few of the local retirement homes in the area.

“There is a large retirement home right behind us, and we have several customers in there,” Victoria explained. “Some of them don't drive, or else they might be homebound. A lot of them have been with us for years, and they love what we do – so we pick up and deliver for them, and we charge $5 for the service. Some of these customers are weekly, and some are every other week.”

The 2,400-square-foot laundry – which is open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. seven days a week – features free WiFi access and complimentary coffee, to go along with its beverage and snack vending options. The fully attended store employs six part-time attendants.

And there likely will be more small-business ventures in the Dotons’ future.

“My husband would like to own two or three more laundromats,” Victoria said. “He’s also very interested in owning a bar and maybe even an ice cream store – after all, it is Tucson, so it gets hot.”

Whatever they try next, the Dotsons’ enthusiasm and desire to serve others will no doubt lead them to even further business success.

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

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/article/Business+Profile/2540197/323051/article.html.

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