“Electrolux Professional washers and dryers are my lean, green machines! It made good business sense to go with Electrolux.”
First-time store owner Connie Ihrke was looking for a new career with flexibility and found it in the coin laundry business. She also discovered that the versatility and flexibility of Electrolux Professional machines met her environmental conservation requirements for her new business venture.
“Due to a corporate buyout, my position in the banking industry was eliminated,” shared Connie. “I had been experiencing corporate burnout and knew it was time to evaluate how to balance my work with other important areas of my life. I began researching small business opportunities and the coin laundry business made it to my short list of businesses to explore. I spent the next six months studying the industry to determine if it would meet my requirements for what matters most – flexibility in my day.”
Connie’s research lead her to the Coin Laundry Association which provided her with valuable industry information that she incorporated into her due diligence process.
“My next step was to develop a good business plan, look at the equipment choices and start thinking about store locations. In order to choose the right location I visited every store in Portland, Oregon and its surrounding areas,” noted Connie.
With low environmental impact equipment high on Connie’s list of priorities, she was immediately attracted to the Electrolux brand; a brand globally recognized for quality, sustainability, and eco-friendly high-performance products and manufacturing.
Electrolux provides unique high-tech features and innovations
“It made good business sense to go with Electrolux,” said Connie. “My husband Jay and I are very interested in preserving the planet’s precious resources, so it made sense to purchase high-efficiency, water and energy-saving Electrolux equipment for a business that is utility-driven. The fact that Electrolux machines are equipped with AWS (Automatic Water Savings) to automatically weigh the laundry in order to determine the best water level so as not to waste water, was a huge deciding factor in choosing the brand. The fact that the machines extract water from the load at a super-high speed extraction therefore reducing the dry time and gas consumption, was also of great interest. Not only that, Electrolux dryers also come standard with EcoPower technology which reduces gas consumption another 15%.”
EcoPower determines when laundry is dry and then automatically lowers the dryer temperature. The dryer keeps turning so customers are satisfied – no wrinkles, less wear-and-tear on clothing – while the dryer uses less gas.
“Combine that nifty feature with reversing cylinders, also standard on Electrolux dryers, and you have a recipe for huge savings. Electrolux Professional washers and dryers are my lean, green machines!” laughed Connie. “We also love the Text Messaging feature – what a unique way of doing business! It gives us a great marketing edge over the competition.”
The SMS texting feature is a unique option on all Electrolux Professional washers. It gives customers the freedom to combine laundry time with shopping, errands, or to simply relax with friends while their laundry is being processed. The washer sends your customer a text message when their laundry is almost ready.
It’s also a valuable tool for store owners. You can receive a text message immediately if there’s a error or a machine needs service, you can activate or deactivate machines, access the price programming menu, receive statistics, check the coin counts in your money boxes, and more. Costly downtime is reduced and preventative maintenance is easier to plan with direct access to machine performance and service statistics.
Eventually, Connie found a store and location that met the requirements of her well thought out business plan. Plus, Connie fell in love with the community feeling of the neighborhood.
“My customers are the best!” exclaimed Connie. “They clean up and keep the place looking great.”
After speaking with several distributors, Connie decided to partner with laundry expert Lisa White, owner of Absolute Laundry Systems. “From our very first meeting, I knew this was a person I wanted to do business with,” said Connie. “She is professional, has a wealth of industry knowledge and is very personable. Lisa has all the traits that make for a good business partner. From day-one, Lisa was providing guidance on creating a workable business plan, planning the site, identifying my equipment needs and advising on-site construction.”
Connie continued, “Lisa’s industry knowledge was extremely valuable and helped make the equipment purchase process easy. The entire staff at Absolute Laundry are very professional and took the time to explain the wide range of new features and benefits the Electrolux line offers, including text messaging, water-saving AWS, energy-saving EcoPower, and soft-mount machines. The team at Absolute Laundry is very down-to-earth with good business ethics and personal values. This was as important to me as the equipment.”
Once the 2,800 square foot store was purchased, the total renovation could begin. The work started December 1, 2010 and took an incredibly fast two-and-a-half months to complete.
“We gutted the site back to the bare studs, giving the building a fresh look and feel,” noted Connie. “We recycled doors, wood, lights, heaters, and anything that was accepted at a recycle site. We installed eco-friendly T12 lights, energy-efficient heating and air conditioning units, and energy-efficient hot water tanks. ‘Think green’ was our project theme.”
To defray renovation costs, Connie turned to Oregon’s State Energy Trust Department, which was instrumental in getting Belmont Eco Laundry the most money from available rebates.
“They were awesome to work with, they walked me through the paperwork and helped make the whole process painless,” noted Connie. “At the same time, Absolute Laundry worked diligently to obtain all the necessary building permits. December is a difficult month to begin a construction project and the Absolute team did everything possible to move the project along. They kept us on target and helped us stay focused when things got hectic during the remodel. In the end, by using Electrolux soft-mount equipment we saved more than $25,000 in construction costs and opened 4 weeks earlier than we would have with a solid-mount store.”
Absolute Laundry was also instrumental in helping Connie launch Belmont Eco Laundry. “Once the equipment was installed in the new store, Absolute Laundry provided training and insight into daily operational issues,” said Connie. “Our relationship continues today. They contact me to make sure everything is going smoothly and provide guidance for equipment maintenance. It’s been an amazing experience.”
Belmont Eco Laundry’s grand opening was February 21, 2011. “Those who attended enjoyed a free wash day while sipping coffee, snacking on cookies and visiting with each other. We also took this opportunity to teach our customers about the fabulous features of the new machines,” noted Connie. “Jay and I were thrilled to get to know our customers and excited to educate them on the savings they would experience while using eco- friendly equipment.”
The couple advertises in several local papers and uses a sidewalk sandwich-board to catch the attention of commuters. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising in this tight-knit community. Customers are made comfortable and appreciate the clean facility, safe atmosphere, brand new Electrolux equipment, and fair prices. The store includes a 42” TV, free Wi-Fi, a soap vending machine, and lots parking.
“Customers choose to wash with us because they love the efficiency of the equipment (which gets them in and out faster), the large capacity machines (so they can do the whole week’s worth of family-sized laundry in one fell swoop), and the convenient text messaging feature – but we are also focused on creating an appealing environment where they enjoy doing their laundry,” remarked Connie.
Belmont Eco Laundry boasts (21) H-Series ultra high-speed extract Electrolux Compass Control washers. The high G-force extraction ensures maximum water removal, which means laundry dries quicker using less gas/energy. Electrolux dryers, standard with EcoPower, also lead the way in efficiency, saving customers time and money.
“Since clothing comes out of the washers so much drier, drying time is always at least 10 minutes less than with other equipment on the market,” noted Connie. “My utilities are running between 9-11% every month, much lower than with old solid mount machines.”
Since opening, Connie’s business has been steadily growing and is now making 300% what the old laundry was making per month. “Sometimes the concept of taking an old, run down and non-profitable laundromat and retooling it is too much of a reach for investors and that’s really too bad,” shared Lisa White, owner of Absolute Laundry. “Many times investors focus on what income the current store is generating, and cannot fathom the success a retool will bring. Connie and Jay were able to see the big picture and completely grasp the concept as well as the profit!”
Connie offers these words of wisdom to anyone considering opening their own laundry:
“Do your homework, gain knowledge of the industry, work with a qualified distributor and have a good understanding of what you expect from the business. A solid business plan and guidance from industry experts are critical to success. It’s also essential for business owners to stay committed to their business plan. You must have a passion for what you are doing and stay focused. The biggest success factor is having a good time along the way. If you lose site of the present moment the joys cannot be experienced.”
As a successful new store owner Connie has come a long way in her journey from banking to Belmont Eco Laundry. “The idea of owning a laundry business was uncharted waters and raised a lot of eyebrows from my family and friends. However, I learned a long time ago that if you keep your focus and do not let others distract you, you will succeed.
Laundrylux distributes Electrolux® professional and Wascomat® commercial laundry products in North America through its extensive distributor network. We offer state-of-the-art commercial laundry and wet cleaning equipment for the Vended/Coin Laundry and On-Premises Laundry markets, as well as financing and marketing support. Electrolux and Wascomat products are world-renowned for exceptional quality, durability, and water and energy efficiency.