If you hire people to mow your lawn, change your oil, and mop your floor, James Chandler has a question: Why are you still running three loads of laundry and ending up with white shirts turned pink?
“Laundry is dumb,” Chandler says. “Nobody should have to do it.” That’s why he launched mobile app-powered Laundry On Demand, which he calls “a kind of Uber of laundry.”
The peer-to-peer service connects users with vetted, trained “wash and fold experts” who will pick up their laundry and bring it back the same day clean, stacked, and drawer-ready. The service is currently available across the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with more than 40 wash and fold experts serving 1,000-plus customers.
Chandler plans to expand in the next quarter to Houston, San Antonio, and Austin.
A new gig for the gig economy
“Our laundry pros are background-checked, trained laundry hustlers,” Chandler told Dallas Innovates. “They’re people who thrive in the gig economy, but driving people or food around doesn’t work.”
For instance, mothers with young children at home can’t always chase airport rides for Uber or race to Sprouts for a food delivery. But they can drive their kids to a Laundry On Demand user’s home, pick up a bag of laundry, and take it back home to run the load on their own.
“With Laundry On Demand they’re only leaving the house twice per order,” Chandler said. “The rest of the time is at home knocking out laundry and making good money doing it.”
Scaling up with SMBX small business bonds
To scale up beyond DFW, Chandler needed funding. He looked into bank loans and other crowdfunding options before deciding to use SMBX, a small business bond marketplace based in San Francisco.
“They were very responsive, made me feel like they would be there to help guide me through the raise, and I love the idea of issuing bonds,” Chandler told us. “Also, the bank loan process is such a beating. This is more fun.”
SMBX also helped Chandler put together his marketing plan, “which was a big load off my shoulders.”
The Laundry On Demand posting at SMBX shows $10,120 has been raised as of today toward a target of $75,000. The bonds have a duration of 48 months at a 7% yield.
The posting says most of the funds will go toward advertising, with 10 percent helping to buy supplies and 3.5% paying the SMBX capital raise fee.
Chandler aims to scale up to 60 orders a day by the end of the year, aiming for gross revenue of about $1.5 million, he told an interviewer with SMBX.
From the Iraq War to a laundromat and beyond
An Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Chandler got tired of working for the man long ago. When he read the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” he became inspired to start a business. He tried setting up passive income streams involving forklifts, 18-wheelers, even iron importing.
Then he saw an ad for a laundromat—all cash business, high cash flow, no hands-on management needed. It seemed like the ideal cash cow.
So in 2017 he and his wife, Laura, bought a laundromat 10 minutes from his house. But instead of sitting back and watching the money flow in, they found themselves dealing with quarters that got lost in the dryers. The business was a lot less profitable and more hands-on than they’d thought.
On a collision course with failure. Chandler leaned on something he’d learned while serving with the Army in Iraq.
“The military taught me that there is no obstacle too big to overcome and that sometimes jumping in and getting your hands dirty is the best way to start,” he said. “Being an entrepreneur is a roller coaster, and the intestinal fortitude instilled in me during my time in the service has been invaluable.”
So he and Laura pivoted, focusing the laundromat’s offerings on a laundry service built on weekly pickups and deliveries, fast turnarounds, and flat-rate pricing. It quickly became the profit driver of their business. Laura wondered why this wasn’t more widely used—and what would happen if they scaled up the service with a peer-to-peer service like Uber?
At first James didn’t take her idea seriously. But after a couple of years of refining their laundry service, the idea of an “Uber of laundry” seized him too.
Selling the laundromat, launching the app
Last year Chandler sold the laundromat and used the profits to fund the new company. He’d hired contractors to develop two other mobile apps in the past—including a car wash membership—so he went back to them to create the Laundry On Demand app, launching it last January.
One key to making the service work was finding more laundry pros. Chandler says finding them through word of mouth and social media advertising has been “tremendously successful.”
“Our platform is built on making sure we have the very best pros and they are compensated as such, which leads to lots of organic growth,” he said. “LOD is only as successful as those laundry pros.”
Laundry Pro Academy
Chandler says he has an in-depth system in place to vet the laundry pros, do background checks, and even offer training through what he calls the Laundry Pro Academy. One-on-one coaching is available as well.
Laundry pros who sign on with Laundry On Demand use their own vehicles to pick up and deliver laundry, just like Uber drivers. They’re connected to customers by proximity, “but they can also build their own book of business,” Chandler says. “Their customers can request them and only get that provider when they order.”
Serving the servicers
One thing that can help the company scale up even further is moving beyond consumers to commercial clients.
“Laundromats have a staffing problem,” he told the SBMX interviewer. “Most of them are mom and pop, it’s a very disjointed industry. So somebody quits, they get fired, they’re sick, they get pregnant, whatever the case is, then either service gets disrupted, or the owner is in there doing the work.”
Laundry On Demand hopes to be a backstop for that, with Chandler’s laundry pros picking up and delivering laundry to laundromats as needed. The service would be invisible and back-end, with the third-party business keeping it under their brand.
Coming soon to a billboard near you
To drive sales and cultivate referrals, Chandler plans to put up an “exciting” billboard in the Dallas-Fort Worth area soon. His other channels to spur growth include pay-per-click marketing and social media outreach.
We’d tell you more about this startup, but our washer just buzzed to tell us it’s time to put our load of socks and towels in the dryer.
You know what? Laundry really is dumb.
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