The first thing that Calvin Els and Laundry Dynamics’ franchisor, Tracey Fawell (née Lehmbeck) will tell you is that despite the conventional term, this is no laundromat franchise. The traditional laundromat model is a self-service coin-operated process, whereas this franchise offers a range of services designed to save its customers the most valuable thing of all: time.
A growing sector
When Calvin first decided to join Laundry Dynamics, he did so because he recognised the potential in the market. “I own a few commercial property sites, and I saw that there is a definite market for laundry services,” he explains. “People are busy, they often live in complexes that are pressed for space, and let’s face it, who loves ironing?”
He met Tracey through one of her other stores and the two began discussing his own franchisee prospects. “I wanted to join an established brand and system. I’m new to the industry, and someone who understands the ins and outs and has a system in place makes the whole process smoother, and the investment safer,” he adds.
The ins and outs of laundry
The person who knows the industry is of course the franchisor, Tracey Fawell. Tracey’s career began selling equipment to laundromats and industrial cleaners. She soon developed a strong understanding of not only the equipment, but setting up new stores, the best store layouts, the most efficient work flow processes and the industry in general.
“I first opened my own store based on this knowledge, and then franchised the concept in 2010,” she says, adding that the concept has continually been tweaked based on market needs since its launch.
There are two types of clients for any laundry service: private customers and commercial clients. “Securing commercial contracts is cut throat,” explains Tracey. “Service providers undercut each other on price, and you end up not making a proper profit on the work.”
Instead, she recommends focusing on private clients as well as commercial. “You need a few key contracts that are your bread and butter, but private clients are where you make your profit.”
While key cutting is not typically associated with laundry services, Tracey’s philosophy is to always make the lives of her customers easier, and save them time. “In centres where there is no key cutting facility this was an obvious add-on,” she says. “I believe in diversifying a product to offer a number of different revenue streams, as long as the services all complement each other.”
Full service store
Calvin’s store is full service. In-store it offers washing, drying and ironing services, key cutting and a tailor, while dyeing of clothes, shoe repairs and dry cleaning are outsourced. The additional and varied services mean that there is always a steady stream of customers.
“The consumer mindset has shifted over the past few years,” Calvin explains. “What surprised me the most when I opened the store was how many customers come in to dye clothes that are either faded or simply a colour they no longer like. The same is true of shoes. People are fixing and altering items instead of replacing them. We all want to be more sustainable.”
The main service that the store provides is of course washing, drying and ironing. “The trick in this case is speed,” says Calvin. “The faster our turnaround time, the better our service, and the more our clients trust us.” This is achieved through the right equipment to manage the task.
“We have the Rolls Royce of ironing machines attached to boilers that link directly to the water supply,” Tracey explains. “This means a steady supply of always-on steam, which means fast ironing and great turnaround times.”
Day to day flow
Calvin is an owner/operator. He opens the store at 7am each morning and closes at 6pm. “We need to cater for our customers who can only drop off and fetch their items outside of work hours,” he explains. Calvin will also do pick-ups and drop-offs, which suits the fact that he needs to be able to check on his properties each day as well.
“The franchise insists on owner/operators because we care about our stores, and can manage our employees and workflow properly if we’re hands-on, but it’s extremely useful to have a good manager who I can rely on,” he adds, something which will become even more necessary as he opens more stores and will need to move between them, making finding strong managers even more important.
Laundry Dynamics currently has nine stores, one of which is in Botswana. Tracey has also received requests from Egypt and Namibia, and while focusing on growing a national footprint, she also plans to take the brand into Africa. Calvin’s own mid-term plan is to open more stores locally, although these will all be within a short distance of each other, enabling him to visit each store daily.