So what does an out-of-work single mom with three kids do in the middle of a recession?
If you’re Stephanie Anderson, a self-described “fixer,” you start your own business, of course.
And not some “Oh-I’ve-always-wanted-to-work-for-myself” whimsy that may or may not make it.
You do your homework: Researching demographics and the best location for your customer base. Seeking out mentors who already made it in your industry so you can learn from their successes and mistakes. You’re that determined entrepreneur with a clipboard in Home Depot comparing every price tag. You also tap into local advisory resources, like the Mercer County SBDC.
The result? Hamilton Washery. Unlike any laundromat you’ve probably ever seen. Spotless. Comfortable. 56 fully-functioning USA-made washers and dryers. Free WiFi. Three flat screen TVs. A children’s play area. Plus, the most unique amenity of all: Ms. Anderson.
“She’s truly one of a kind, always making your day brighter” says long-term client Gayle Leonardo.
“Even though they do pick up and delivery, the biggest thing Stephanie picks up are your spirits.” Leonardo adds that her entire extended family relies on Hamilton Washery, often enjoying the convenience of its Wash & Fold services to save time. “We could just drop everything off, but still come in anyway to be part of the family atmosphere.”
Which was all part of the plan, according to Anderson. “You have to be your own customer, putting yourself in their shoes. It’s a privilege to be trusted with someone else’s clothing, a very personal choice, so we respect them for that decision every day.” Noting that Sundays during football season are particularly popular, with fans stopping by to cheer (and perhaps wash sportswear representing their favorite teams), Anderson tries to make the experience even more positive with free snacks, beverages “and high-fives all around.”
Yet kicking off the company’s first year wasn’t easy. “Getting financing, getting everything up to code and getting people to change where they did their laundry was a big challenge,” Anderson admits.
“I printed thousands of flyers, walking door to door asking people to try us.” Word of mouth helped. That’s why she is exceptionally careful about hiring. “Customers who care about us like WE care for them are the best brand ambassadors out there. So it’s important to have employees who welcome that responsibility – AND make everyone who walks in feel welcome too.”
Maddie Miller of Hamilton, one of their very first customers, appreciates such personalized service. “They’ll help any way they can, even coming out to your car and bringing laundry in or back out.”
Gary McKinnon of Trenton agrees. “I save two hours every week because they wash, fold, put it on hangers and have everything waiting for me. Done. It’s perfect for busy people.”
Four years later, Hamilton Washery continues to expand its services, recently partnering with an offsite dry cleaning company networked through America’s SBDC at the College of New Jersey.
As a frequent participant at SBDC events, Anderson has taken advantage of many seminars, free business counseling, legal and bookkeeping consults. “They’re my guardian angels,” she adds.
“I’m a fixer by nature, you have to be as a business owner. And they help me keep my tools sharp.”
Find out more at www.hamiltonwashery.com