Passive Income (and Inspiration) from Laura at Laundromats101

I absolutely love stories of people who are doing great things in life because they work hard and are willing to crunch numbers. I love the story even more if the people behind it are awesome. My friends, Laura and Randy fit this description perfectly.

Awesome story: Laura and Randy went from never owning a business to running two successful laundromats. If you’re interested in owning a laundromat, their site Laundromats101 is an awesome resource. No fluff either. Laura dives into the numbers. She knows her stuff.

Awesome people: I first met Laura and Randy at a blogger conference in New Orleans back in 2014 and liked them immediately. We met again in Colorado a short time later and have since had fun hiking around San Francisco and San Diego.

And I love this guest post from Laura. It’s inspirational and hilarious, but it also details how Laura and Randy took a huge leap of faith to become first time business owners. I hope you enjoy the post as much as I did!

(Photo credit: Me)

There’s an annoying saying that goes something like:

You’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did do. 

(In fact, there are a lot of annoying sayings, but we only have so much time here.)

My best guess is that we find them annoying because we kinda sorta know these inspirational one-liners are probably true, and that fact haunts us a little.

And for me, it began a little over two years ago. I felt stagnant. We had paid off our debt, we were saving over half of our income, and our net worth was slowly but steadily climbing each month. But it was like watching grass grow. Or paint dry. Man does that get old after a while. And when things get boring, I tend to stare off into space and drool a lot. 

I needed something new to get our net worth figure really moving upwards. But new is scary. And I could swear I started to hear those annoying inspirational one-liners in my dreams.

You’ll never know if you don’t try!

The only race you can’t win is the one you don’t enter!

A watched pot never boils!  (Ok, this one is completely unrelated, but thought I’d throw it in for good measure.)

Everywhere I turned, there they were. Facebook, bumper stickers, Starbucks mugs, posters at the doctor’s office. Annoying inspirational quotes plopped on top of a breathtaking photo of a mountain. It’s like when you’re interested in a particular car and suddenly you start seeing them on the road…everywhere.

So it was time to start thinking outside the box. I wanted to increase our income, but selling a kidney or becoming a famous rapper were not on my short list.

Laura’s Swinging Idea

At first, I farted around a lot thinking of “great ideas” and “what ifs”. As I would drift off to sleep at night, grand visions of success would consume me. Many times the glow from my phone would light up our bedroom at 2am, while I wrote down the “life-changing” ideas that were swimming around in my brain. 

First, I planned to change the fashion world with my online T-shirt company. Then I was going to consume every American’s free time with my new strategy board game. Then I would really lock down my place in the history books with my prototype for an automatic wind-up-motor hammock swinger thingy. Shark Tank, here we come.

[Side-note: Let’s be real, that last idea is actually pretty kick-ass. Don’t know about you, but I’d pay good money to lay in my backyard hammock, automatically swaying back and forth like a baby. I could call it something like “Laura’s Swingers”. Ummm…now that I’ve looked at that name for a few seconds, maybe not.]

Getting back on topic, I admit that I gave each of these ideas some mental energy. I marinated on them for a day or two until the fever passed. (Go ahead and snicker/laugh/snort at my hammock swinger, I don’t mind.) 

Some of us would call this wasted time. (Ok maybe not some of us, more like all of us.) 

But what if we called it preparation?  What if we called it brainstorming?  Not every idea is going to be a winner. Not every attempt is going to mean success.  But what’s that one annoying quote again? The only race you can’t win is the one you don’t enter? 

I began to think a little more critically about our options to increase our income. 

It needed to be something solid, no guessing games or start-ups. It needed to be relatively passive, as we both had day jobs. It needed to have a solid return on investment, significantly higher than the stock market, to make it worth the effort and risk.

So we went back to the core pillars of wealth; meaning that the vast majority of wealth in the world has been achieved through one or more of these three areas: (1) investments (stocks, bonds, etc), (2) real estate and (3) owning a business.

Real Estate

We decided to start with real estate. And we were scared out of our minds. We didn’t know the first thing about real estate investing.  So we dug into BiggerPockets.com, and immersed ourselves in industry info. (Highly recommend that site, by the way.)

Then we discussed our game plan. We’re both extremely handy and have a lot of remodeling experience, so the idea was to buy a cheap fixer-upper duplex in a working-class neighborhood, fix it up, rent it out. 

Mr. 1500 note: Laura can set tile better than most pros, no joke.

We started looking.

This one was cash-only, that one was more fixer than upper, another one had foundation issues, blah, blah, blah. 

Then we finally found the one we wanted. 

We were already pre-approved for a small loan, it was bank-owned and priced low, so we put in an offer at full asking, and waited. And waited some more. Then we heard that an investing group from Southern California had decided to join the party and they made a last-minute offer; full price, sight unseen, all cash at close, 15-day escrow.

We already knew. They were going to pick an offer, and it wasn’t going to be ours.

After licking our wounds and throwing a few pity parties, we went back to square one. We realized that with real estate in our area being highly competitive and overpriced for investors, you needed to be either a big dog with cash in hand, or able to find pocket listings (not on the market) in order to get in the game.

So we set real estate aside and turned our eyes to the last core pillar of wealth…owning a business.

There’s Money in those Machines!

And at the end of 2014, we found what we were looking for.  An unattended self-service laundromat for sale, in our neighborhood shopping center.  It had been in business for 40 years, and was still making good money.

We submerged ourselves in information about the industry, business ownership and purchasing a business. Then took the plunge.  We invested $50,000 of our savings and purchased our first laundry. We were officially business owners.

The feeling was euphoric. 

But something else happened that we didn’t expect…it’s called empowerment. It was the rush we felt from pursuing and getting what we wanted, even though it was initially outside our comfort zone. 

For so long, we had the perception that “other” people owned businesses, not regular Joes like us. 

A Changed Life

But after buying that first business, our mentality changed. We began to pursue other things that felt out of reach before. And the domino effect began…

  • I started a blog about our personal journey to financial independence (MyShinyNickels.com)
  • The blog led to writing my first eBook about our financial journey, and I began selling it on Amazon.  (It’s still selling today!) Link: www.amazon.com/SMART-ELIMINATE-DEBT-BUILD-WEALTH-ebook/dp/B00MPAMQ7S
  • We bought a second unattended laundromat. 
  • Blogging about our laundromat ownership journey eventually caused our traffic and Google ranking to skyrocket.
  • The traffic we were seeing on the blog led us to write a second eBook, on how to purchase and invest in laundromats and we started selling it direct from the blog.  We made $5,000 in just the first few months, and it continues to bring in $1,000 a month in passive income. Link: http://laundromats101.com/guide-with-software-bundle/
  • The success of that second eBook led us to develop an entirely NEW website, Laundromats101.com, where we now provide both free and premium content for current laundry owners and potential investors.  (We now sell all of our laundromat investing products on the new site instead of the personal blog.)  We’re now getting ready to offer ad spots directly to corporate advertisers, to create yet another online income stream.

The truth is that we’re still blown away by the success we’ve seen after taking that first uncomfortable step. 

We had finally stopped talking about things we wanted, and started actually putting things in motion. I still remember making that first phone call to the listing broker about the laundromat in our neighborhood. I was nervous and scared, rehearsing what I was going to say, oddly wishing that it would go to voicemail. But I did it anyway.

That one decision has led to so many other income opportunities. Opportunities we never could have predicted when this whole journey started.

With two businesses and the additional income streams, our net worth grew more than we’d ever hoped.

I know it takes courage to step outside your comfort zone. I get it. But once you do it the first time, you’ll find yourself believing things are possible that didn’t seem so before.

Maybe 2017 will be the year you decide to pursue that first elusive goal that seems unattainable, or something “other” people do. 

Just get a little brave and knock over that first domino. Who knows what it will set in motion?

And because I can’t leave you without providing an annoying inspirational quote with a mountain in the background, here it is. And…you’re welcome. 

Thanks so much Laura for guest posting today! Hope to see you and Randy soon!

Folks, if you’re interested in laundromat investing, Laundromats101 is the place to go. The wife and I were so inspired by Laura and Randy’s success that we’ve looked into buying our own laundromat.

Join the 10s who have signed up already!

Subscribing will improve your life in incredible ways*.

*Only if your life is pretty bad to begin with.

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40 Responses to Passive Income (and Inspiration) from Laura at Laundromats101

  1. Thanks for sharing, Laura!

    It’s very awesome and inspirational when I read a story about someone who steps out of their comfort zone and become successful!

    Owning a laundromat business seems really interesting, especially if the laundromat is self-service!

  2. Cool article. My Step Dad owns several multi unit apartments and it took him years to realize the value of putting his own coin op machines in the laundry rooms. Turns out, this turned into a significant money maker for him!
    Freedom 40 Plan recently posted…Paying off Student Loans – 15 Years Later!My Profile

    • Thanks F40P. Apartment laundry rooms like you mention are some of our biggest competition. 🙂 We offer high-capacity machines, free Wifi, device charging stations, etc all in an attempt to get people away from the on-site laundry rooms and into our stores.

  3. Very cool! I think there was a fellow moustachian doing vending machines as a side business or full business and making a very nice living of them with not that much work. On occasion I have looked at businesses for sale but very often they just are to work intensive…

    • Yes, I remember the vending business model being discussed on either MMM’s site or his forum. It could certainly be semi-passive (or completely passive) if it’s set up right.

      And yes, many businesses for sale are the typical heavy-owner-involvement type. We knew what we were looking for was unique; it had to be passive enough that we didn’t have to trade in our current high-paying jobs.

  4. Cool! I’ve never really thought of myself as owning a business, like you said, but I guess I’d be open to it if it would earn me a ton of money 🙂

    I am the sort of person who is always on the lookout for another way to earn, so I’m constantly picking up new side hustles and I thought I was pretty creative about it, but I never thought of owning a laundromat!
    Ellie @ The Chedda recently posted…My Most Profitable Side GigMy Profile

    • “…but I guess I’d be open to it if it would earn me a ton of money.”

      You hit the nail on the head there Ellie! Earning a ton of money was certainly one of our criteria. The very cool thing is that in addition to the cash flow that’s generated every month, we’re quickly building equity in the business itself. Our business loans are 5-year terms (which is typical), so in just 60 months those businesses become large assets that we own free and clear (and can be sold for big $$$ to add to our nest egg).
      Laura aka Mrs Nickels recently posted…How Much Time Do I Actually Spend Running My Laundromats? Here’s The Answer.My Profile

  5. Way to go, Laura & Randy. You’re really cleaning up! So much that you can probably afford to front-load those retirement accounts I’ll bet! Sorry, I usually have a dryer sense of humor, but the puns are dropping like quarters from a change machine today.

    I don’t hang around laundromats too often, but we did live in a Midwest town a few years ago that had a pub & laundromat combo. I did frequent the place, dropping my quarters in the dart and pool machines, and enjoying happy hour beers.

    Cheers!
    -PoF
    PhysicianOnFIRE recently posted…Top 5 Reasons to Front-Load Your InvestmentsMy Profile

  6. Ning says:

    Great article! I would’ve never thought laundromat would be a great business! Learned something new today and now I know why I get charged an arm and a leg to dry clean my dresses. j/k

  7. I never would have considered a cash Laundromat as a business. It just goes to show there are opportunities all around us. It sounds like a decent relatively passive business.

    Your also right as to why people don’t succeed. They simply don’t take the leap. Just do it! (to quote Nike).

  8. Money Beagle says:

    What a cool story. It reminds me of someone I used to know that I worked with in IT. He had a dream of buying a self-serve car wash. He had done research and they are cash cows once they get going. Unfortunately he never got to fulfill the dream as he unexpectedly passed away at a young age, but his dream does stick with me. Seeing a similar story turn into success is very uplifting. Thanks for sharing.
    Money Beagle recently posted…Are Credit Companies Giving Out Too Much Credit?My Profile

    • So sorry to hear that your coworker never got to fulfill his dream. Self-serve car washes and self-storage facilities are definitely in the same semi-passive “family” as laundromats.
      There’s a self-serve car wash just a few miles from our house that we considered reaching out to the owner, to see if they were interested in selling. (Which we never would have felt comfortable doing before taking that first step, by the way.) But we realized that with two laundromats and jobs and just life in general, we should probably hold off on purchasing a 3rd business.

      Businesses are like Doritos. It’s hard to buy just one.

  9. Kyle says:

    You are a very entertaining writer, as I’m sure you’ve been told. I enjoyed your story a lot. I’ve thought many many times of owning a business. In 2007 for a couple years I did freelance computer repair work while in college, a year after college I tried to help a friend start a computer programming company. I’ve also thought of many things from manufacturing (I’m a controls engineer now), starting a brew pub ( I brew beer and love to cook), and even thought of running a home day care with an ex or a doggy day care. Business success is still very hard for most, but it’s always inspirational to hear from someone who’s doing well on that side, and in multiple areas!
    Keep up the good writing.
    Kyle recently posted…2017 Goals and 2016 ReflectionMy Profile

    • We definitely knew we wanted to buy an existing business and not start one from scratch. Too much risk. So we did our homework, and took the plunge when we found the nearby laundromat for sale.

      And thanks for the kind words!

  10. Laura,

    I have devoured your series on Laundromat investing. I have a sweet spot for cash generating machines that are bought at a low multiple.

    I wish you good luck in your investing journey!

    DGI
    Dividend Growth Investor recently posted…14 Dividend Growth Stocks Rewarding Shareholders With a RaiseMy Profile

    • Thanks DGI. I devoured quite a bit from your site as well a while back! And in addition to having a sweet spot for cash-generating machines, I also have a sweet spot for sad, rundown laundromats. I wish I could buy them all!

  11. Eric B says:

    That was everything a guest port should post should be — unique, entertaining, thought-provoking.

    I still find the potential liability of running a physical business to be intimidating, although I guess that’s what insurance is for 🙂

    Thanks for the inspiration. Last year, health scares prompted me to finally change jobs, and this year I’m hoping to make even bigger changes!

    • Man Eric B, you’re making me blush over here! Seriously though, thanks for such kind words.

      And you used the perfect word…intimidating. That’s what we felt too. But yes, we have a $2 Million general liability insurance policy that only costs us $165 per month (per location, so we pay x2, a total of $330 per month).

      Good for you making changes in your job situation. Too many times people stay in toxic situations until it’s too late. Like you said, maybe 2017 will be a year of even bigger changes for you.

  12. I love learning about these type of stories. It’s definitely a big investment – $50k is no joke for sure. Anyone interested in this route definitely needs to do the appropriate research to make sure that they’re making a good investment. But really amazing to see that the investment paid off.
    Financial Panther recently posted…Use A Netspend Account To Get 5% Interest On Your Emergency FundMy Profile

    • Yes, investing $50k is certainly not pocket change (for us, anyway). But we definitely did our homework before moving forward (and we always encourage our readers to do the same).
      We did months of research, and a lot of vetting on the first laundry purchase. $50k was the number we were comfortable with in getting our feet wet; enough to make a big difference if it went well, but not so much that it would be catastrophic if things didn’t go as we hoped.
      The first laundry had been in business for 40 years, the most recent owner had owned it for four, and it was making good money. But it was slowly getting run down. We knew we could do a cosmetic overhaul and it would likely make even more money. Which is exactly what happened. Income went up 40% in 18 months. In fact, we talk a lot about finding “diamonds in the rough” in the eBook.
      Laura aka Mrs Nickels recently posted…How Much Time Do I Actually Spend Running My Laundromats? Here’s The Answer.My Profile

  13. I had seen a few of these for sale when I was looking for business to purchase last year but never really gave it full thought.
    Back on the research to see what sort of prices these go for and money they make in our country, thanks for the links as it looks like a great place to start.

    • You’re welcome, Jason. I can’t speak for every industry of course, but coin laundries are valued similar to many other businesses; they are priced at a multiple of their annual net income. The multiple is usually between 3 and 5, sometimes lower if the store is a real eyesore and higher if the store is high-end with new equipment. Our first laundry purchase was at a multiple of 3.2 times the ~$32k annual net income (at the time) for a total purchase price of $105,000.

  14. It’s truly amazing how you can become wealthy in different niches. I never would have thought to buy a laundromat, or 2, or start a blog on laundromatting (is that a thing?)

    Do you think you will pick up rental property in the future?

    Congrats to you Laura and best of luck in the future.
    Erik @ The Mastermind Within recently posted…My Goal to Read 75 Books – January 2017 Check-inMy Profile

    • Well Erik if starting a blog on laundromatting wasn’t a thing, it is now. 🙂 And rental property is still something we may do in the future, but probably not in the near-term. But you never know…

  15. Joe says:

    That’s great! I heard the laundromat is a good business. Nice to see that you’re making it work. Did you have any problem with it?

    • RB40! You were one of the first FIRE/finance blogs I found a few years back. I’m a big fan!

      No real problems per se, just normal stuff that happens on occasion when you own a business. We’ve had a couple of washers broken into, a pipe leak that had to be repaired, etc. One time a mentally ill guy walked in the store and started throwing fried chicken at customers. (Nope, didn’t make that one up.)

      But those things are few and far between, most of the time it’s pretty boring.

  16. That is soooo crazy how you fell into a Laundromat, of all things. But hey, whatever works, right? It sounds like it was the right path for you. 🙂 It’s always terrifying to consider whether something is a risk for failure or a risk for success.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…How Roku Streaming Saves Us $100 A MonthMy Profile

    • Yes, as I like to say, do something beyond your comfort zone, but within your safety zone. We only take calculated risks, where we know we won’t lose our shirt if things go sideways.

      Not that calculated risks aren’t still nervewracking, but once you start moving forward and doing research, the confidence comes. We’ve become quite good at knowing what our strengths are as well as our limitations.

  17. Paul says:

    Excellent post and great example of how one can dip one’s toe in the water of entrepreneurship without risking everything!

    Congratulations and I hope the opportunities and success continue to flow. It’s amazing what happens when you open that door.
    Paul recently posted…The Best Withdrawal RateMy Profile

  18. Such a great story and I love this line – “We had finally stopped talking about things we wanted, and started actually putting things in motion.” People get scared to even talk about ideas like this. It can’t hurt to do the research and look at opportunities – you are such a success story! Thanks so much for sharing – heading to your site.
    Vicki@MakeSmarterDecisions recently posted…We’ve Had The Same Tenant for 22 Years and Haven’t Raised the RentMy Profile

  19. Loved your story Laura! It was a very entertaining read.

    I’ve looked long and hard at a number of small businesses, but the vast majority of them require way too much time. They’re just not passive enough.

    Maybe coin-op laundromats are a different story!
    Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes recently posted…Fixing Broken Stuff: MicroswitchesMy Profile

  20. That was truly a pleasure to read. Who knew so much to come from a laundromat purchase. Congrats on thinking outside the box and leveraging your laundry business into, what sounds like, a full-fledged empire. You guys make me want to start searching my local market for similar opportunities. I’m also a huge Bigger Pockets fan. My goal is to build passive income through buy and hold properties. I have one under my belt and can’t wait to acquire a second. Gotta love fresh motivation!

    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

  21. MrsWow says:

    “For so long, we had the perception that “other” people owned businesses, not regular Joes like us.”

    Yes, this is completely how I felt… If you would have asked me 5 years ago if I would be a business owner, I probably would have just laughed. It was never a “me” thing. But alas, I was wrong and I’m glad that I was. Having my own business has been a life changer. I have even starting helping people set up their own business too. Your story is definitely inspirational! Thanks for sharing!
    MrsWow recently posted…Balance – Living vs FIREingMy Profile

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