How to Start a
Dry Cleaning Business
Complete Guide.

The insights you need to make your dream of starting a dry cleaning business a reality.

Build Industry Experience

Before you do anything else, you should work in the industry for at least a short time.

A week or a month is likely not enough to wrap your head around the intricate details of the industry, but taking a year, or at least six months, to work at the ground level of the industry can help you understand all the ins and outs that come with the dry cleaning business.

No industry or job is as simple as it appears from the outside, so make sure you work in the industry before you dive in.

Not only will this help you understand the industry, it will help you understand whether or not this is a business in which you would want to spend your entire career.

If you are unable to work in the industry, at least do extensive research.

Interview people in the business, consult with industry professionals, and review literature that covers the topic.

Again, the goal here is to learn about the business and discover whether or not it’s right for you.

“The only source of knowledge is experience.”

-Albert Einstein

  • Task List

    Your next steps to starting your dry cleaning business.

    • Work in the industry for at least six months
    • Review industry literature and information
    • Talk to at least three people who own dry cleaning businesses

Franchise or Start an Independent Dry Cleaner

While researching the industry, you’ll also want to consider franchising. Operating a franchise has many benefits, but may not be the right choice for you specifically.

With franchising, you pay a specific amount and are essentially handed a ready-made business from an established brand. Depending on the company, you’ll get out-of-the-box marketing materials, operating guidelines, and proven plans for making the business a success.

However, with the convenience and ease of franchising, you lose your independence, as you have to stay in compliance with the company. You also have to pay a fee or share of the profits to the company, which can reduce long-term income.

Quick Dry Cleaning Franchise Facts

  • Liquid capital required
  • Net worth required
  • Investment required
  • Average Franchise fee
  • Franchise Royalties
  • $50,000 to $500,000+
  • Starting at $100,000
  • $80,000 to $1,500,000+
  • $15,000 to $50,000
  • 5% per Month
  • Task List

    Your next steps to starting your dry cleaning business.

    • Talk to franchise expert or franchise attorney for more insights.
    • Evaluate the pros and cons of franchising for your business.
    • Investigate the cost of buying an existing dry cleaning or laundry business.
    • Decide between a franchise or an independent store.

Thoroughly Research and Plan the Business

Now it’s time to create the plan for your business, starting with extensive research on how to make a profitable dry cleaner.

Start with primary research, which should include multiple phases that will help you understand the best practices for running the business. This can include surveys of owners, workers, and customers, as well as questionnaires and interviews of people in the industry.

You may also consider implementing focus groups, and mystery shopping could be a useful tool for gathering information.

During this time, you should also consult with government resources, including the local chamber of commerce and the Small Business Administration, which has offices in areas across the country.

Your planning should also include secondary research. Take the time to read information from reputable sources that outline the path to success for dry cleaners. This can include online sources, books, newspapers, and trade magazines.

  • Task List

    Your next steps to starting your dry cleaning business.

    • Conduct Primary Research (Interviews, Surveys, Etc.)
    • Conduct Secondary Research (Books, Magazines, Etc.)

Find the Right Location

Now it’s time to find a location for your new business.

Like many different industries, the location of a dry cleaner is crucial.Start by understanding the style of your operations and what you need for a facility. Take a look at local demographics to understand whether the area can sustain a dry cleaning business. Look for locations with foot traffic and accessibility, as well as available parking space.

The research of your location should also consider competition. You don’t want to enter an area that already has dry cleaning services; instead, look for an area that does not have a dry cleaner in place, as this will increase your chances of success.

It also helps to have a facility that is near other businesses, as this can boost your chances on bringing in new customers.

The image and history of the location matters, as do local ordinances that can affect your business. When you choose a location, be sure to take an extensive look at the building’s infrastructure. You don’t want to purchase or lease a building with extensive problems, so be very meticulous and careful with this step.

Be sure to have records of the cost of utilities for this facility, as this can have a significant impact on your bottom line.

  • Task List

    Your next steps to starting your dry cleaning business.

    • Work to understand your community of interest. Talk with other business owners, government agencies, and people from the area.
    • Find a quality location that offers parking and foot traffic.

Creating a Budget and Securing Funding

Now that you have your facility, you can begin to prepare the facility for operations. Start by estimating the cost of starting a dry cleaning business in your location. You can use handy programs that outline the costs and estimated income, allowing you to have a feel for what will be needed to keep the business in operation and what you can expect to spend.

Now we are ready to open the business. To launch the dry cleaner, you’ll likely need to secure funding. There are many ways to secure funding, but the best way is to simply save and fund the operations yourself. This gives you the best earning potential and long-term stability, as you won’t have to pay back a business loan or investors. You don’t have to fund everything, but the more you can save, the better.

Independently funding the business is not always an option. In this case, you may want to consider crowd sourcing or angel investors to fund the business. These can be a useful way to gain the seed money required to open a dry cleaning operation.

There is, of course, traditional options for funding, which include bank loans, venture capitalists, small business grants, and even credit cards. The Small Business Administration is another source for affordable lending to businesses.

Incorporate, Get Permits, and Become Licensed

With funding in place, you’ll be ready incorporate your business and get proper registrations and licenses. Depending on your needs, you can become an C corp, S corp, or an LLC. You’ll also need to see if the jurisdiction where you will operate requires any business registrations or licensing of any type.

  • Task List

    Your next steps to starting your dry cleaning business.

    • Talk with an account to determine what corporate structure would be best for you.
    • Incorporate your business
    • Speak with your local government to determine what licenses and permits are need if any.
    • Obtain appropriate licenses and permits.

Rent or Purchase Equipment

With the proper seed money in place, you can now go about renting or leasing equipment. Renting requires a lower up-front cost, but may be more expensive in the long-term. Purchasing, while more affordable long-term, requires a larger upfront investment.

  • Task List

    Your next steps to starting your dry cleaning business.

    • Perform a cost analysis of renting vs. buying.
    • Speak with a variety of vendors for pricing and information on each brand.
    • Determine what equipment your dry cleaning business will need.
    • Price shop. Don’t be afraid to negotiate for the best price.

Hiring Staff

You’ll also need to hire the right staff. It can be tempting to speed through the interview process, but take your time to make sure you interview thoroughly and find quality people who will represent your business and provide top-quality service.

You’ll need to choose between part and full-time employees and define your on-boarding and training process. Because you are now an employer, be sure to familiarize yourself with laws and restrictions for hiring.

  • Task List

    Your next steps to starting your dry cleaning business.

    • Outline your staff needs
    • Interview multiple candidates
    • Only hire high-quality, friendly people
    • Understand federal and state hiring laws

Market the Business

You’re now ready for business and it’s time to bring in customers! Start by creating a marketing checklist that allows you to advertise your services to multiple people all across your area. Create a budget template so you know how much you can spend on marketing.

  • Task List

    Your next steps to starting your dry cleaning business.

    • Create a marketing checklist
    • Create a realistic marketing budget
    • Determine what you can do on your own, and where you will need help.
    • Speak with a marketing consultant that specializes in local and online marketing.

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