By all appearances Neighborhood Washâ€™s storeowner, Boyd Woodward, already had an enviable career â€“ as an engineering manager working for one of the most desirable companies on the planet. However even with his corporate success something remained amiss for the Southern California native. â€œI always wanted to be an entrepreneur,â€ Boyd divulged. â€œAnd I couldnâ€™t shake the feeling of urgency â€“ that if I didnâ€™t figure out something soon, I may never fulfill my dream.â€
With this sobering realization, Boyd actively began researching businesses that would allow him to work at his â€œday jobâ€ while pursuing his dream. Then Boyd met a businessman whose professional path spoke volumes to Boydâ€™s entrepreneurial spirit. â€œHe was a Laundromat owner in the process of opening his seventh store,â€ shared Boyd. â€œHis success and the simplicity of the laundry business intrigued me. I felt strongly that owning a Laundromat would give me what I had been longing for in my career.â€
And so Boyd laser-focused his attention on learning everything he could about the laundry business. A good deal of that research came directly from storeowners. â€œI probably visited about 100 stores in the Southern California area,â€ recalled Boyd. â€œIn fact, I put so many feelers out that many of the storeowners told me they heard my name before I even had contacted them.â€
A meeting of entrepreneurial minds â€“ and spirits
It was during this research phase where Boyd secured two vital pieces of industry information: that the Electrolux brand had a great reputation among seasoned laundry owners; and the name of a highly regarded distributor of Electrolux professional equipment â€“ Sterling Phillips from SES Laundry, Inc.
â€œBased on my initial findings, I was already leaning towards Electrolux professional equipment,â€ explained Boyd. â€œYet after hearing praise after praise from so many laundry professionals, well, it just confirmed that Electrolux was the only choice for me.â€
Boyd also acted upon the second piece of advice by contacting Electrolux distributor and Laundromat expert Sterling Phillips. Boyd found Sterling to be generous with his time and business guidance. Based on their similar work ethic and experiences, Boyd also discovered Sterling to have a kindred entrepreneurial spirit. â€œSterling was very open, candid, and consistent with his advice from equipment mix to business strategies,â€ shared Boyd. â€œHis enthusiasm and discipline matched my own and certainly reminded me of my dad and the lessons he instilled in me.â€
â€œNever forget the importance of the people closest to you.â€
Boyd had always admired entrepreneurs, a sentiment that began with his father, Steve Woodard. â€œMy father illustrated how courage, discipline, and education are needed in order to take smart risks,â€ said Boyd. â€œBy his example, Dad gave me one of the greatest gifts â€“ the belief in my own ability to start a business.â€
Drawing on his upbringing and a masterâ€™s degree in Industrial Technology and Business Administration, Boyd decided that Sterling was the perfect distributor to help him launch his Laundromat. The first order of business was scouting for the perfect location.
A store with optimal visibility
Boyd wanted his store to be close to his home. â€œDid I mention, I spent a year and a half looking for this ideal location?â€ he mused.
Not wanting to delay his dream for a second longer, Boyd purchased a Laundromat located 35 miles away from his residence. Yes, it created some operational challenges and inconveniences. However it also offered up exceptional opportunity that Boyd felt would pay off.
The Laundromat shares a suite with an extremely busy 7-Eleven convenience store. It is surrounded by apartment buildings and has optimal visibility from the street, allowing for an abundance of walk-in and drive-in business. Plus there is amble parking. Boyd named his store Neighborhood Wash due to its prime location in the middle of a high-density neighborhood in Hawthorne, California.
Now the task at hand was transforming the badly maintained store into an efficiently run, thoroughly modern Laundromat.
Neighborhood Wash gets a facelift Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
â€œThe 1,400 square-foot laundry underwent a complete overhaul,â€ shared Boyd. â€œTo limit losing sales and customers, we kept the store open as long as possible during the reconstruction.â€
The once neglected Laundromat now has a fun, friendly vibe with lots of family appeal. Neighborhood Wash is bright, open and has a large mirror giving patrons a superior view of their surroundings. â€œSafety is key,â€ shared Boyd. â€œIn addition to creating a much more open floor plan, I installed eight security cameras.â€
Boyd also increased the folding space throughout the store, and, as an added security measure, made certain all of the folding tables faced the front of the store. â€œThis way my patrons can monitor who is coming in and out,â€ said Boyd.
Neighborhood Wash also boasts free amenities such as Wi-Fi and flat-screen televisions. Based on his findings Boyd implemented the SpyderWash credit card system on all his machines. â€œResearch has shown that the younger generations are more comfortable and even prefer using credit/debit cards for small purchases,â€ he explained. â€œMy target is for 30 percent of my business to be in credit card transactions, with a majority of the usage on the larger machines.â€
Boyd believes the convenience of multiple-payment options will bring in customers that are not currently using the store today, and may not have otherwise walked through its doors. But perhaps the most important differentiator is Neighborhood Washâ€™s brand new Electrolux equipment.
Electrolux â€“ eco-minded and a stellar reputation
The old equipment mix was about 75 percent top loaders, which have since been eliminated. â€œI donâ€™t think Southern California operators are going to be very profitable with top loading machines given the water situation,â€ reasoned Boyd.
Needless to say, Neighborhood Washâ€™s outdated washers and dryers have all been replaced with H-Series Electrolux washers and Electrolux dryers.
The Electrolux High Speed (H Series) machinesÂ are part of the ENERGY STARÂ®Â program. Laundry owners can lower their utilities by 20-40% with these high extraction models. TheyÂ are designed to respect the environment at every point of production, usage, and disposal. InÂ addition, the H Series machines save your customers a great deal of time — a priceless commodity these days.
â€œI believe that people will continue to put a premium on their time,â€ said Boyd, â€œso I wanted my store to offer up features that ensure convenience and efficiency, ultimately saving my customersâ€™ time. The Electrolux high-speed extract equipment in combination with the Electrolux dryers truly provides this service.”
â€œSince customers like large-capacity washers, my 75-pound and 65-pound Electrolux machines are right in the front of the store while the smaller 18-, 25-, and 45-pound machines are in the back.â€
Throughout the remodeling process, Sterling provided Boyd with his expertise in lease negotiations, equipment mix and layout, and grand-opening ideas. He also advised Boyd on pricing strategies and operational procedures that have proven successful with other clients as well as Sterlingâ€™s own laundries.
Everything falls into place
The Grand Opening weekend was well attended and featured lively Mariachi music and a taco stand. Special decorations and banners added to the festive feel of the day. A weekend of free wash and dry followed by a period of half-off wash and dry before rising to market pricing will better ensure that this is one neighborhood party that keeps right on going. Since then, Boyd has continued to advertise with mailers, door hangers, and digital marketing.
In a marketplace crowded with aged laundries, Boyd is confident that Neighborhood Wash will continue to make its mark. Even the newer laundries canâ€™t compete with it, according to Boyd. â€œThey donâ€™t offer the conveniences, such as multiple-payment options and the time-saving, high-speed Electrolux equipment that my store offers,â€ said Boyd. â€œIâ€™m excited about the future of Neighborhood Wash.â€
So much so that Boyd opened a second Laundromat, Magic Laundry in Lawndale, that is also thriving.
Some words of advice
Boyd cautions other entrepreneurs: â€œDo your homework, talk to owners, or anyone in the industry who will talk to you; build a network. This is how I discovered that Electrolux equipment was the best choice for me. Whatâ€™s more your experienced contacts, especially a reputable distributor such as Sterling Phillips, will help to provide a sanity check.â€
Boyd found that some Laundromat listings significantly discounted the operating costs, inflating the net and subsequent value of the laundries. â€œI purchased my laundry at 50 percent of the asking price,â€ shared Boyd. â€œSo do your homework and make sure the information checks out.â€
He also places a heavy emphasis on a sound business education: â€œLearn how to do a cash flow analysis, create projections, and challenge the assumptions that form the basis of your cash flow analysis.â€
Keys of success
Boyd feels he would be remiss in failing to mention the important role his wife, Kendra Woodard, has played in the process. â€œKendra has supported and believed in me and has taken up the slack raising our two young children while I was out prospecting, planning, and building,â€ said Boyd. â€œIâ€™m very fortunate to have such a fantastic partner in life.â€