Devang and Chaitali Kothari knew they didn't have the experience or the knowledge to open an independent dry cleaning company. But when they were looking for a business that was financially attractive and not too high-maintenance, a franchised dry cleaning service turned out to be the perfect fit. As they soon learned, the couple's biggest challenge wasn't figuring out how to get red wine out of dress shirts: it was dealing with learning how to manage entry-level employees. Here's what they've learned over the last six years.
Name: Devang and Chaitali Kothari
Franchise owned: CD One Price Cleaners in Orland Park, Ill., (suburb south of Chicago) and another location in Chicago Heights, Ill.
How long have you owned a franchise?
We started our first store in 2008, more than six years ago.
We wanted to reduce the learning curve and buy into a proven business model. In our opinion, this reduces your risk and allows you to learn from a proven system. For example, there is no way we could have started a dry cleaning business on our own -- we wouldn't have known where to start.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Chaitali was an IT consultant and Devang worked as an equity research (stock) analyst.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
First, we wanted a business that was both financially attractive and provided us a decent lifestyle. Second, we were looking for a business that was scalable and would not require our constant presence at the store. Last, we wanted to work with a franchisor that was supportive and acted as a true business partner. CD One Price met all of these criteria.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Almost all of the investment is in overhead, which has to be in place before you can open. Therefore, we spent almost the entire investment, well over $500,000, before we were open. I am not comfortable sharing specific numbers.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
We had a family member that was in the dry cleaning industry and introduced us to CD One. We relied on his advice quite a bit. In addition, we spoke to a few existing franchisees, which was very helpful.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
There were a number of challenges, but the primary one was working with entry-level workers. Since both of us worked in corporate jobs, we did not anticipate the challenges of employing entry-level workers.
Also, we were probably not very good managers our first year. It was a skill we learned over time.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Don't rush into it -- it takes a while to find a business/franchise that will meet your criteria. Be wary of any franchisors that try to get you to make a quick decision. Research, research, and research -- you have to speak to existing franchisees and really understand the challenges of the business. Most existing franchisees will be hesitant to say anything bad -- so you really have to be persistent in getting both the good and the bad.
What’s next for you and your business?
We are planning to continue to grow our CD One Price Cleaners business with the addition of new stores, both locally and in new markets. We expect steady growth over the next few years.