Taking It To The Streets

Dry-Cleaning Pickup and Delivery

For some busy consumers, having a dry cleaner that picks up and delivers is a worthwhile expense. This translates into big profits for the entrepreneur who's up to the challenge.

Five years ago, Steve and Diane Thompson started Dryclean Express of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Florida. They made $25,000 in sales the first year and $150,000 the third year. The Thompsons opened their own dry-cleaning plant in 1996 and anticipate sales of $600,000 this year, with 50 percent coming from the mobile side of the business.

To be successful with dry-cleaning delivery, Steve has a couple of suggestions: Try not to compete with discount dry cleaners, and get a good mix of business and residential customers.

The Thompsons charge walk-in customers $7 to have a suit cleaned, while delivery customers pay $8.

Your biggest expense will be yourYour biggest expense will be your vehicle, which should look as good as possible because it's your showcase, says Thompson.

The Thompsons invested $18,000 in a panel truck, a large van that looks like an ice cream truck, with their company's logo. A reliable vehicle in good condition will cost between $5,000 and $20,000. You'll also need a computer and billing software.

If you don't own a dry-cleaning facility, who will be cleaning your clients' clothes is a major consideration.

"You're only as good as the dry cleaner doing your work," Thompson says. "Make sure the cleaner is reputable and willing to stand behind his product. And have a backup plan in case something goes wrong."

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This article was originally published in the August 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Taking It To The Streets.

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