A veteran entrepreneur, Dewayne Bohannon of South Carolina has owned small businesses for the last 25 years, ranging from self-storage to real estate to coin amusement/arcade machines. Five years ago, he invested in the vended laundromat industry and hasn’t looked back since. Bohannon’s business ambition and willingness to learn from his laundromat partners has earned him the title, “Huebsch® Store Owner of the Quarter.”
At the time he opened his first laundromat, the economy was in a recession, and Bohannon was looking for a new business opportunity that was more recession-resistant. Being in the property management business, Bohannon was in-tune with the real estate landscape, as well as different businesses coming and going in the area.
“All at once, it seemed, I came across laundromats that weren’t managed properly and realized this could be a good business opportunity,” Bohannon says. “I began looking for laundromats that were failing or had gone out of business, would buy them, fix them up and re-open them. I had the advantage of existing infrastructure, as well as knowing why each business failed, and I started reviving stores.”
By January 2014, Bohannon had opened his seventh laundromat and he is currently working on opening an eighth. His stores – all under the name “Wash-n-go” – are strategically scattered around South Carolina, but his latest – and biggest – store is in Columbia, South Carolina and boasts 4,000 square feet. It sits in a strip-mall complex that Bohannon built and owns, next to the Wash-n-go corporate office and a maid service.
Bohannon has seen massive growth over the past five years and hopes to eventually own ten laundromats. However, he didn’t get to this point overnight; it took a mixture of entrepreneurial spirit, the right equipment and guidance from laundry experts from the highest rated distributor network.
Building a Foundation with the Right Equipment
Bohannon spent some time considering which laundry equipment brands to furnish his laundromat with, and by the time he got to Huebsch, he was sold. The selling point for Bohannon? Huebsch dryers.
“They offer an insanely fast drying time and are available in many different capacities,” Bohannon recalls. “I knew these machines would help me get customers in and out faster than any other brand and would offer sizes to meet the demands of different demographics.”
While Bohannon utilizes a variety of Huebsch equipment at each Wash-n-go store, he credits the success of his latest store, in part, to large capacity machines. These machines draw in a unique crowd of customers that correspond directly to his store’s demographics. Because his latest store is situated in a more upscale community, there are not as many residents that rely on laundromats to clean all their laundry – as they typically have in-home equipment – but instead use laundromats to wash big items like comforters.
“It became a puzzle to match the demographics of a location to machines with the right capacity,” Bohannon recalls. “I wanted to offer the customers in the area the right mix of equipment that would best serve their needs.”
Bohannon also utilizes the innovative Galaxy™ Controls for Huebsch to monitor energy and water usage at his stores, supervise turns-per-day, as well as automatically set multi-level vend prices and time-of-day pricing. For example, his machines automatically give customers discounts on slow days or slow times during the day to encourage use and drive incremental business.
“The equipment is very user-friendly and allows me to take a hands-off approach to managing my stores while still being able to oversee what’s going on in the big picture,” Bohannon states. “For me, Huebsch equipment has been an absolute homerun.”
The Best Partnership is a Mutually Beneficial Relationship
What also made the Huebsch equipment a grand slam to Bohannon was the distributor that sold him his equipment and helped get his business off the ground – Laundry Systems of the Carolinas, located in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Once he had decided to invest in the laundromat business and decided Huebsch equipment was the best for his needs, he attended Clean Show – the world’s most prominent trade show for those in the textile care industry – and ended up talking to Chad Bradley of Laundry Systems while visiting the Huebsch booth.
“Having a varied business background, I knew that Chad and Laundry Systems of the Carolinas could offer exactly what I was looking for,” Bohannon says. “I needed an extremely knowledgeable, trustworthy partner because I was new to the industry and didn’t know all the nuances of the business.”
Laundry Systems worked closely with Bohannon to open his first store, guiding him through the process.
“We invested in Dewayne just as he invested in Laundry Systems,” Chad says. “It was refreshing to work with someone with such impressive business acumen.”
Laundry Systems has since helped Bohannon open every subsequent store and provide him with all the guidance and Huebsch equipment he needs. Their expertise led him to acquire the right location for each laundromat, including detailed demographic information. Furthermore, they helped him plan and finance each operation. Most importantly, they act as a sounding board for Bohannon, giving him honest advice.
“If they know a laundromat won’t be successful at a certain location, they will advise against it,” Bohannon says. “They are invested in my success and would never mislead me. My relationship with Laundry Systems is a true partnership in every sense of the word.”
Setting His Store Apart Sets Him Up for Success
Bohannon sets his latest laundromat apart from his competition – which he explains is five other stores within a three-mile radius – with his Huebsch equipment and ancillary services. He understands that laundry is no longer simply a transaction; customers want a comprehensive experience.
To differentiate his business and foster a welcoming environment for his customers, Bohannon offers the convenience of both coin and card payment, accessible hours (6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.), attendants on site, bill-to-bill exchangers and vending machines with laundry products, snacks and drinks. He equips his store with free Wi-Fi, flat screen televisions, arcade machines and clean restrooms for his guests to use while they wait for their laundry to be cleaned. Wash-n-go customers can also take advantage of a generous loyalty program which allows them to earn credits for a free dry and other perks.
“With this store, I wanted to offer a complete laundry experience and have plenty of options for guests to occupy their time,” Bohannon says. “My goal is for every guest to have a positive experience while they’re here. Laundry doesn’t have to be a chore.”
The Right Financial Partner Lends a Hand to Impressive Expansion
Bohannon credits his significant expansion to his partnership with Huebsch Financial. He financed his stores and the machines he filled them with through his equipment manufacturer’s finance operation. Not only was Bohannon able to obtain his first loan during an economic recession at a time where other lenders weren’t as willing to partner with business owners, he was also able to expand his business from one store to seven in a matter of five years.
“The terms that Huebsch Financial offered me were very fair, and they were much easier to work with than going through a commercial bank or the Small Business Association,” Bohannon recalls. “It’s refreshing to have a lender in your corner who understands the industry and is invested in your success. It’s played a great role in our growth.”
Since starting his laundromat business, Bohannon has opened and completely paid off one new laundromat per year. And he isn’t done growing, either. With the goal of maintaining a cash-flow business for retirement, Bohannon plans to open a new store in the first half of this year, followed by a free-standing store in 2017 and another in 2018.
“In my experience so far, laundry is a bullet-proof business,” Bohannon says. “As a life-long entrepreneur, the vended laundromat business has given me the greatest ROI; however, I wouldn’t have gotten here as quickly and smoothly as I have if I hadn’t partnered with my Huebsch distributor and Huebsch Financial.”
Whether you are already a business owner, or have only dreamed about being your own boss, Huebsch can be your guide – from start to finish – for investing in laundry. To find a knowledgeable laundry expert in your area who is ready, willing and able to help maximize your return on investment, visit the Huebsch distributor locator or call 1.800.553.5120.