In the spirit of National Small Business Week, we've shared tips here on the blog for anyone who has considered opening a brick-and-mortar or e-commerce store. We're also sharing some additional tips from Corinna and Theresa Williams (sisters and co-founders of Celsious), for anyone who is specifically interested in entering the laundry industry with an eco-friendly laundromat. You can find those tips below, in Q&A form (based on most commonly asked questions):
🧺 How did you decide on the location of your laundromat?
Corinna & Theresa Williams: We were open to almost all locations in New York. That said, we were looking for a very specific kind of space (open, airy, great light and a minimum of 1,500 square feet). Once we had stumbled upon our current location—very unceremoniously—online, we pulled demographics to make sure the population density etc. was aligned with what we were looking for.
🧺 How big is your laundromat?
Celsious is 1,500 square feet with a full basement and a 400 square foot mezzanine.
🧺 What brand of washing machines did you choose and why?
Electrolux, 100%. They are remarkably energy-saving as well as durable. We’ve had very few issues with having to repair or replace parts in nearly five years of operation.
🧺 What's it like to open a "green" business?
We made a commitment to look for low-impact options and minimize waste, so it took several years to plan and build out the laundry space. We repurposed building materials, sourced vintage furnishings, and installed energy-efficient equipment. Our mother was a huge inspiration during the buildout—she was an early adopter of the eco-conscious lifestyle in the 90’s.
🧺 Do you think your laundry business is helping the environment?
Yes! The specialty settings on our washers make it easier for customers to avoid drycleaning and nasty chemicals. Our 100% biodegradable laundry powder comes in bulk via a closed-loop system with our manufacturer, and we offer natural solutions for stains, pilling, static and scent. We even carefully collect dryer lint so that it can be made into insulation.
🧺 Have customers reacted positively to the green/eco-friendly aspects of your laundry business?
Absolutely! It does take some customer education and meticulous training of our staff to be able to convey the message.
🧺 Do you work with any commercial businesses (restaurants, AirBnb, etc.)? How do you know how much to charge them?
We have just a handful of commercial accounts (they’re not the focus of our business), with some of them receiving a slight volume discount. Others have smaller volumes that are similar to residential volumes, and charged as such.
🧺 What percentage of revenue do you allocate to marketing?
Usually between 5-10%, which is more or less along the lines of what the Small Business Administration recommends.
🧺 What were your total start-up costs? Did you use debt or private investors?
We were able to raise a friends & family round and took out a loan for our equipment, which in total amounted to approximately $500K in startup costs.
🧺 What struggles do you face as a green laundromat owner?
More often than not, the cheapest option is not the most eco-friendly option. We sometimes have to spend more in order to do things in a way that aligns with our values, however, most of the time we get creative and think outside the box in order to find an affordable solution that ticks all the boxes.
🧺 Is there anything you wish you could have done differently?
We don’t have any regrets, but the most important learning we had for future locations is: Dryer venting is key! If you have a single story space, you can vent out your roof, which is easy and perfect. If you have residential units on top, things get trickier and more costly, as you’ll need longer vent runs.
Read more about the sustainable choices we've made at Celsious laundromat here.
Tips by Corinna and Theresa Williams
Edited by Mutia Adisoma
Photo by Francesca Rao