When Randy Newman, a director of human resources, learned his employer was going to be sold, he and his wife, Melody, began working on a business plan. They weren't sure what they wanted to do, but having previously run an independent fish-bait delivery business up and down the California coast, the couple felt franchising this time around was the right choice. The Newmans chose 1-800-DryClean, a dry cleaning pickup and delivery service, and used some of Randy's severance to finance the business. "I liked the idea of franchising [and] having support if you need it," says Randy, 53.
Randy and Melody, 49, opened their Houston franchise in March 2001. Franchisees with 1-800-DryClean pick up clothing from clients, bring the orders to a dry cleaner, then deliver the finished orders to the clients. The couple had operated the business out of their home, but they won a bid to provide their services to a Fortune 50 company. The business is now housed in that company's building. "We've got about 250 customers that use our storefront operation, which our daughter runs, while I run the route," Randy says. "My wife helps at the store once a week, and she helps with marketing as well."
Marketing consists of hanging bags and other materials on the doors of potential residential customers once a week and returning later in the week to collect bags. The rest of the week is dedicated to servicing customers on the Newmans' two routes as well as corporate customers. Randy handles residential customers, doing pickups on Monday and Tuesday and drop-offs on Thursday and Friday. Corporate customers drop off their clothes any day of the week and get them back two days later.
The Newmans plan to add another van in the fall, growing to four or five vans servicing various routes. Beyond that, their goals are flexible. "We started out wanting to make a decent living and provide a quality product and service to customers," Randy says. "Now we're more interested in making sure we grow the business, keep [our daughter] and granddaughter secure, and take care of our customers and vendors. You look less at your needs and more at the needs of others."