Sisters seek gold in laundry business

The two sisters move from house to house to offer their services such as washing cloths, cleaning compounds and cleaning living rooms. PHOTOS | GODFREY LUGAAJU

What you need to know:

  • Owembabazi who is a graduate of Business Administration and Management and Katusiime who graduated in Petroleum GeoScience had for long looked for ways they could get income away from their fields they studied.

In November 2019, Sarah Owembabazi resigned from formal employment and joined hands with her cousin Justine Katusiime who was a fresh graduate to form Njoza Solutions.

Owembabazi who is a graduate of Business Administration and Management and Katusiime who graduated in Petroleum GeoScience had for long looked for ways they could get income away from their fields they studied.

They later settled for doing housework, a thing they say they have always comfortably done from childhood. It was after a thorough research in the laundry business that they finally took up the idea of offering mobile professional laundry and housekeeping activities.

“We realised we have always done housework from our childhood to date so we took up the idea of cleaning people’s homes professionally and for money. We did flyers about our mobile services and circulated them on social media,” Owembabazi explains.

She adds that they made research part of their daily routine and watched a lot of YouTube tutorials on the best practices of cleaning and how to do it best. She explains that reading the Homes and Real Estate magazine of the Daily Monitor also helped them to know certain tactics in core house cleaning and keeping.

With a capital of Shs150,000, they bought a bar of soap, star soft, disinfectant balls, dishwashers, gloves, jik, washing powder, made flyers, business cards and receipt books they used to kick start their business venture.

They started going to various gatherings supplying their flyers and business cards for prospective clients. Here they also got connections and referrals from friends, cementing their roots in the business.

“We eventually got our first client in Kawempe who was my cousins classmate. We washed his clothes, dusted his house and ironed the clothes we found clean. Here we made a profit of Shs30,000 exclusive of costs from the Shs70,000 he gave us,” Owembabazi explains.

She adds that with time, they kept on getting clients and their laundry hustle  grew. This was through the various online engagements since they made it a point to keep their online presence felt at all times.

Registering the company
The duo later on made the decision to register their company in September 2020 with a view of being easily traceable as well as earning trust from clients. They settled for the name Njoza because they found it more appealing in a sense that they do not have to labour explaining what they do to the prospective clients.
They currently have five permanent staff and six temporary staff at Njoza who are mobile and always ready to serve the clientele.

“We registered the company after realising we can actually grow what we were doing into a mobile professional business. We looked at this step as one that would render us credible and we wanted to grow it beyond just the two of us and employ other people,” Katusiime says.

She adds that they do not have fixed working days. They work both on weekdays and always have between five and 12 jobs in a week. Of these, they have weekly, bi-weekly and monthly clients who they serve their professional services.

According to Katusiime, they do a survey of the work to be done first and liaise with the clients on what and where they want done.
They do not have constant pricing but consider the average middle class people as their target customer.

Sarah Owembabazi tends to footwear

“We initially charged Shs1,000 per piece of cloth but later on realised that it was not sustainable. Now, two bedroom house, sitting room for a kitchen houses where an individual lives alone, we charge between Shs75,000 to Shs90,000 upon negotiation. A family home of three rooms and a kitchen is Shs150,000. Our prices usually range between Shs20,000 to Shs80,000 depending on the quantity of work to be done,” she explains.

Aside from buying serious equipment such as washing machines, the duo also plan buying a delivery van which they can use to transport their materials they use for the cleaning.

“We also plan to set up Njoza regionally with physical locations. We are mobile at the moment but know that people prefer physical dropping off of laundry since the Ugandan market is semi traditional. This will eventually give us an address and we are also working on an app where clients can order for Njoza staff anytime to do the cleaning with a view of expanding our reach,” Katusiime shares.

Transport still remains their major challenge since they are a mobile service. They always have to pay fares for the laundry materials in the taxi they take to meet the clients.
“I carry cobweb broom, scrubbing brushes, laundry baskets and bags with the detergents and other materials we use,” Owembabazi notes.

The money
The duo does not pay themselves but the business pays their costs such as data and transport to do the work.
This prompted Owembabazi to eventually go back to formal employment to keep the business running and also sustain herself. 

She explains that they never carry the ‘boss’ attitude in their day to day works since they actively take part in the whole activities of cleaning. They pay other staff per job between Shs15,000 and Shs20 000 depending on the money made. This is always minus transport and costs incurred for the job done.

“One of the five staff members is an accountant who balances our business books. We always hold monthly meetings, balance books and devise means on how we can do better going forward,” Owembabazi notes.
She adds that; “The profits keep differing as some months are good and others bad. The highest we have made is Shs500,000 in September 2020. Other months we usually get between Shs150,000 and Shs350,000. ”

Katusiime says the increasing corporate class in Uganda is creating demand for many services to ease their busy lifestyle therefore the moment you want to start something, go for it and learn on the go. She shares that they believe that learning by doing is the way to go in this day and age.

She notes that prospective entrepreneurs in such a business should consult those in the same trade and be open to learning in a bid to propel their business to greater heights. “Be persistent and patient when you start a business because it does not thrive on the very first day. It is also good to keep in touch with clients by doing follow ups and being mindful about feedback and how you treat the negative kind of feedback,” Katusiime advises.

• Decide what kind of laundry business you want to start.
• Choose a business name.
• Choose a business entity.
• Write a business plan.
• Register your business.
• Get the proper permits and licences.
• Find a location.
• Get the proper equipment

Tips for starting a laundry business

Laundry is an essential part of life for most people. As long as clean clothes are in demand, a laundry business will be too. After all, not everyone has their own washer and dryer, or the time (or desire) to wash their clothes themselves. This makes starting a business in the laundry industry a great option for budding entrepreneurs. 
Of course, this all sounds good in theory, but what does it take to launch a business of your own? If you’re wondering how to start a laundry business, this guide is here to help. There are a lot of decisions to make and work to be done, so let’s get started. 

Kind of laundry business
If you are already thinking about starting a laundry business, you might know exactly what kind you want to open. But if you are still exploring your options,  go through a few of the laundry business formats you should consider before deciding. 
Laundry businesses are most popular in areas with lots of apartment buildings or where people don’t necessarily have their own washing machines. 

You may choose to open a laundry business that allows customers to come in and do their laundry using your machines, or you can also offer wash and fold services, where customers can drop off their laundry, and then pick it up once it’s done. You might also decide to offer all of these services to your customers. Whichever you choose, you’ll need washing and drying machines and a location for the business. 

There are pros and cons to this type of business model, but if this is your first business endeavor, it can be helpful to work within an already existing and successful framework that a franchise provides. Ultimately, with all of these options, you will want to take the time to do your research before you decide which idea to move forward with.  See what other types of laundry businesses are in the area, conduct a survey of local people, or see what type of demand there is for your possible business. This information will help you decide if there is a need for a laundry business in the first place, as well as what type of laundromat would best serve your area.

Choose a business name
One of the most fun parts of learning how to start a laundry business is choosing the business name. Think of all the clever, catchy, and memorable names you can come up with but make sure it is also describing your business and is memorable and easy to pronounce. 

Once you have some ideas, you can look up whether your business name is available online in most states. The secretary of state website will likely be the best resource for checking business name availability, though some states have a different agency handling this business process, such as the chamber of commerce department.
If your business name is available, you will likely have the option to reserve it for a set amount of time. Although this step is not required, you may choose to do so if you aren’t ready to register your business but want to ensure no other business takes your name.  

Choose a business entity
Another decision about your laundry business that you will have to make early on is which business entity you’ will choose to legally structure your business. Choosing the right business entity is crucial, as it affects how you pay taxes, how much risk you will be exposed to, how you’ll organize your business, and more.
For example, if you decide to start your laundry business as a limited liability company, you’ll have liability protection for yourself and other business members. On the other hand, if you opt for something like a general partnership or sole proprietorship, you won’t have liability protection, but you also won’t have to register your business with the state.

Find a location
At this point, you have completed much of the behind-the-scenes work required in learning how to start a laundry business. And, in doing so, you have likely done some preliminary work on this next step, especially during your market analysis. 

This being said, however, it’s now time to get serious about finding the location for your laundry business. Although some smaller operations may be able to be run out of a home (if you are only doing drop-off/pickup service, for instance), you will likely want to find a commercial space.  Just how much it costs to start up a laundry business will vary depending on several factors, but know that your physical space will likely be a large investment. When it comes down to it, though, finding the right space is important, but equally as important is making sure it’s in the right location. In fact, finding a location with a demonstrated need for a laundromat business is probably the most important step of them all.

Renters, for example, generally represent a large portion of laundromat clients, so you might want to consider a location near rental units that do not have washers and dryers built into them, or college students living off-campus. You also want to make sure you’re conveniently located near your target audience. In fact, the closer you are to your customers, the better. Depending on the location, this could mean within walking distance.

Security should also be taken into account. Laundromats are susceptible to robberies and other types of crime, which is why ideally your laundromat should be located in a highly visible, safe area.