Matt and Aaron Simmons’ parents opened Super Suds Laundromat in 1998 at 250 Alamitos Ave. in Downtown Long Beach. About five years ago, the brothers took over operation of the business and quickly discovered several areas that could be improved upon by introducing more technology to the business.
“We started with a basic website that a friend of mine created for $400, and we saw an increase in business – mostly the wash and fold,” Aaron said. “Wanting to earn my keep, I saw the opportunity to continue improving the wash and fold business [a service where customers drop off their laundry to be washed, dried, folded and picked up at a later time].”
Brothers Aaron, left, and Matt Simmons are revolutionizing the laundromat business through their operating software that allows laundromat owners nationwide to better manage in-store and online sales. They are pictured in front of their Super Suds Laundromat at 250 Alamitos Ave. downtown. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Brandon Richardson)
Two more iterations of a website were built, with the final version created by Marathon Consulting, a Virginia-based marketing consulting firm. As the brothers hoped, improved marketing via the website led to increased wash and fold business, which went from a couple orders per day to almost 30. With such a drastic increase in business, the brothers hired more staff and discovered a new problem – keeping track of orders from start to finish.
Before the business boom, Super Suds would keep track of its orders with handwritten tickets. As business increased, this method became impractical and the brothers sought out a more technologically advanced point of sale (POS) system. Internet searches turned up few options, most of which were originally designed for restaurants and then tweaked for laundromats.
The problem with restaurant software, according to Matt is that the services are rendered on the spot and the sale is done. When it comes to laundering, a restaurant POS system is unable to follow the laundering process from start to finish. “With wash and fold, it’s complicated. The customer could have different preferences, they can pay ahead of time, they can pay after. The product is not delivered immediately, and you have to keep track of all those moving parts.”
This revelation led the brothers to develop their own software from the ground up. The result was a program capable of tracking orders from start to finish, including specific customer preferences such as water temperature. As the business evolved, so did the program.
The brothers introduced pickup and delivery laundry service to their customers, who initially called in to schedule pickups. As the service gained popularity, the software received an upgrade that allowed for orders to be placed online. This was a game changer.
“As soon as we added that ‘schedule pickup’ button to our website, business went up 30%. It was transformative,” Matt said. “For whatever reason, people just like to see the pricing, see the information and schedule it themselves. It’s like booking your own airline ticket. When is the last time you called a travel agent?”
After experiencing such positive results, the brothers realized there was high demand for these services and knew other laundromat owners could benefit from the software they had created. In June 2017, they unveiled their wash and fold software, Curbside Laundries, during the Clean Show, a trade show dedicated to the laundering, dry cleaning and textile care services industry.
Since the launch last year, Matt said around 25 laundromat owners have signed up for Curbside, which provides them with all the tools that have made Super Suds a success. Matt explained that in the past launderers would have to obtain a POS system, website and online order system separately. However, clients get all this with one program and work with Marathon to build the website and create marketing strategies, all included in the Curbside monthly subscription.
“It’s really sophisticated. It will remind the customer automatically that the truck is coming by tomorrow, and they get a text message when the driver is on the way,” Matt said. “Then it gives the driver notes such as gate codes, [and] it tells the launderer if the customer only wants cold water. It’s really a communication tool. It’s like an extra employee who does these things for you every single time.”
The interface allows for in-store orders, phone orders and online orders to appear on the same laundry list with all order details easily accessible to the laundromat team, which minimizes the likelihood of mistakes. Aaron explained that many laundromat owners struggle when a new competitor opens with a fresh facility and lower prices. However, the Simmons believe their business model and their software could help diminish the threat of being put out of business by competitors.
Curbside is operated as a separate business from Super Suds, though their laundromat acts as the first test for any updates to the software. After an update proves its worth at Super Suds, it is rolled out to Curbside’s beta testers and then its remaining clients. Based on the current rate of growth, Matt estimates Curbside will be a “very strong” business within two years.
Matt explained the laundromat business model, historically, has been to buy an existing facility, spruce it up and, once business picked up enough, purchase another. However, with the success of their software and different approach to the laundry business, the brothers hope to help fellow laundromat owners succeed. They stress that diversifying business through wash and fold, pickup and delivery, and dry cleaning services makes up for any coin-operated revenue that might be lost to incoming competitors. Matt said they treat each aspect of their operation as a different business, which is why the fold and wash increased from 25% of their business to more than half, surpassing the self-service laundromat.
With Curbside inquiries coming in faster than they can handle from laundromat owners nationwide, the brothers believe the trends they have experienced firsthand will continue. They explained that people are reclaiming their free time by utilizing technology and innovative services such as those offered by Super Suds, which will continue to prosper as a result.
“In the past, everyone took care of their own lawns, changed their own oil – those are things that nobody does anymore. Laundry is going the same direction where people are working longer and, if they have kids, they are taking them to different events,” Aaron said. “The free time that they can spend on themselves or with their families is valuable, and it’s worth it to go online, schedule a pickup and have [their clean laundry] returned. All they have to do is open the bag, put it in the drawer or on the hanger and they’re done.”