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Entrepreneurs Find Success in Dirty Laundry

December 27, 2009
Most laundries feature banks of coin-operated washers and dryers; some might even offer dry cleaning as well. But Express Laundry is not typical. By recognizing emerging industry trends and enlisting the help of mentors, owners Bruce and Bev Kreider have transformed the business from a run-of-the-mill wash-and-dry place into a time-saving service for busy clients.

 

Bev Kreider

When the couple purchased the Marietta, PA business in 2003, it had its share of challenges. With old machines, a storefront that was rented out to another business, and a hard-to-find entrance, Bev says the laundry was in need of “TLC.”

In 2007, the owners realized Express Laundry needed a major overhaul. The Kreiders invested in new equipment and reclaimed the storefront, which gave the business a much-needed street presence. But the couple also recognized that if they wanted to increase revenue, they needed to do more.

By reading trade magazines, they identified the industry trend toward offering a full line of laundry services. After evaluating which services might fit their business best, they added onsite attendants and hired a seamstress for mending and alterations. The Kreiders also implemented a wash-and-pick-up program, in which clients drop off dirty laundry to be washed, dried and folded.

To further accommodate on-the-go customers, the company launched the Laundry-at-Work program, which picks up soiled laundry at a customer’s workplace and delivers the laundry—washed, dried and folded—in two days. While programs like Laundry-at-Work are common in other areas of the country, it was a new concept for some of their clients. And although Bev occasionally still finds herself explaining the service, she says customers are increasingly receptive to it.

Express Laundry didn’t stop at pick-up service for individuals either. The Kreiders also implemented pick-up service for local businesses, such as caterers, massage therapists, and bed and breakfasts. According to Bev, this convenience gives businesses the option of investing in their own items, such as linens or uniforms, rather than renting them.

In 2009, Express Laundry expanded pick-up service to nearby Millersville University. For a set price, the business picks up dirty laundry from residence halls and then delivers the washed and folded items, saving the student time for study, work, or relaxation.

The overhaul has not been without challenges. For example, when newly-installed dyers did not work properly, the Kreiders took a methodical approach to resolving the issue. Bev asked, “What’s the next step?” By working with both the machine manufacturer and the local gas company, the Kreiders were able to get the dryers in operation.

“The really big thing I’ve discovered over the last years is that I don’t personally know all the answers,” Bev says. That’s one reason the couple enlisted the help of SCORE Lancaster, a non-profit group that mentors emerging and existing small businesses.  

The entrepreneurs’ relationship with SCORE began when they enrolled in  business education workshops the group offers regularly. “Other participants [in the class] spoke so highly of the counselors,” Bev says. Their recommendations lead the Kreiders to request individual counseling.

Bev credits SCORE counselors Jerry Glenn and John Wylie with helping to craft a business strategy, trouble-shoot challenges, and develop a marketing plan. “SCORE helps me in each particular thing. Together we brainstorm…SCORE counselors have been part of helping get those answers.”

With an awareness of their industry and a willingness to use mentors, Bev and Bruce continue to serve clients, from overscheduled college students to upscale spas, as the one-stop place for their laundry needs.

To learn more about SCORE mentors, workshops and roundtables, call us at 717-397-3092 or find us online at www.scorelancaster.org

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