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+ How to make a killing in the laundry world
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It's Sunday evening and I'm faced with the daunting task of tackling my towering pile of dirty laundry. Despite being a relatively simple process, I can't help but dread the three hours it takes to wash, dry, and fold everything. But that's where Sudshare comes in.
Think of it as Uber for laundry. With just a few taps on your phone, you can connect with a personal launderer, or "Sudster," who will pick up your clothes and return them clean, dried, and folded by the next day. The pricing is simple, with customers paying $1 per pound of laundry and Sudsters earning $0.75 per pound (plus tips). The platform takes the rest.
Founded as a family business in 2018, Sudshare has since exploded in popularity and now operates in over 500 markets in the US, providing income for over 200,000 Sudsters. Last year, it raised a $10 million Series A round led by Headline. I recently had the opportunity to chat with CEO and Co-Founder Mort Fertel to learn more about the story of building this successful startup, and I can't wait to share it with you.
Let's dive in!
Mort Fertel has been killing the entrepreneurship game for over 30 years. After getting his degree from UPenn, he hit the ground running with his first business in the direct mail advertising space, which he sold in 1995. But he wasn't done there - he then turned his focus to helping couples save their marriages and created programs like Marriage Fitness Tele-Boot Camp. And now, he's back at it again with Sudshare - the latest in a long line of successful ventures born from daily frustrations.
Mort has a big family of seven - that’s a lot of laundries! But, even with all the advances in technology, Mort's wife Ari found herself still spending hours on laundry just like her mom and grandma before her.
“I was homeschooling five kids, so we had a ton of laundry. I could tap an app and get to the airport, FaceTime someone on the other side of the world, and deposit a check without going to the bank, but I was still spending hours doing laundry as my mom and grandma did.” - Ari
Their teenage son, Nachshon, recognized the need to solve the laundry problem and created Sudshare – an Uber for laundry. With just a few taps on their phones, people can now get their clothes cleaned.
Nachshon, who taught himself coding as part of his homeschooling curriculum, spent two years developing the product and launched it in Baltimore in February 2018. Mort joined as a mentor and later became a co-founder. Several of their other children have also joined the family business to help it grow.
Sudshare's success with its customers is driven by its compelling value proposition. It offers families a much-needed break from the weekly chore of doing laundry and does so at an affordable price of $1 per pound.
They used Google Ads to get the first 10 customers and since then growth has been overwhelmingly driven by word-of-mouth. Once folks tried Sudshare and realized they could say goodbye to laundry forever, they couldn't stop raving about it.
Due to the nature of laundry, Sudshare serves a diverse range of customers, from RV-dwelling families to busy business travelers. Not only does it save time but it also provides a convenient solution for those without access to washing machines and dryers nearby.
Today, it operates in over 500 markets in the US and was reported to have over 80K customers in early 2022. It's safe to say that this number has likely grown significantly since then.
The value proposition of Sudshare is attractive to those looking for a way to make money from home. Anyone can become a Sudster, provided they have a washer and dryer and can pick up and drop off laundry bags. According to Mort, it is the first work-from-home manual labor job, making it an ideal option for stay-at-home moms who want to work but can't leave their homes often.
Sudshare provides a great opportunity for earning supplemental income. Most sudsters make around $15-20 per hour, while top performers can earn up to $2,000 a month and some have reported earnings of up to $5,000.
Since its founding, Sudshare has primarily focused its product development efforts on the supply side, with the aim of delivering the best laundry experience to its customers.
First, the company invested in training, creating numerous instructional and best practices videos to help Sudsters excel. These resources are integrated throughout the platform and in communication emails.
Second, they established a tiered points system to incentivize exceptional customer service. New Sudsters can only accept one order at a time, but as they accumulate more points and advance in rank, they can accept more orders per day and earn additional benefits, such as early payment.
Sudshare also fostered a close-knit community for Sudsters by creating a Facebook Group, where Sudsters can receive support from their peers and share best practices. With over 11K members and 1,000 monthly posts, the group has proven to be a valuable resource.
These investments on the supply side have paid off and attracted over 200K Sudsters from all walks of life seeking to earn additional income working from home.
Laundry industry and product differentiation
Laundry is something we all have to deal with. On average, American families wash 300-390 loads of laundry a year and spend around $170 on it. The US laundry & dry-cleaning market is worth over $10B in 2021, with coin-operated and retail services making up more than half of it. There is significant room for growth in this market, with the potential for a 10x better solution, similar to what the ride-sharing market has achieved.
"Uber for laundry" has been tried before but without much success. Washio was one of the more well-known examples, raising around $16 million from investors like Canaan Partners and Ashton Kutcher. They relied on outside laundries and employed drivers to pick up and deliver laundry. But it all came crashing down due to high expenses for drivers and marketing.
Sudshare is different, though. Instead of using dry cleaners or professional companies, they use gig workers aka Sudsters to do the laundry. Instead of doing the laundry in commercial facilities like Washio, Sudsters often do it from home. This has allowed them to grow without the need for big marketing budgets or partnerships with laundry companies when expanding to new markets. Plus, by focusing on just laundry and not dry cleaning, Sudshare can offer a better experience and margins for both their platform and Sudsters.
Vision for the future
In the next three to five years, I envision Sudshare becoming an elite consumer brand, used by a substantial portion of the population. The hallmark of our achievement would be the growing number of households that choose to transform their laundry rooms into dedicated storage spaces. The only people with washers and dryers will be Sudsters. - Mort
That’s it for this week!
See you soon 👋,
Leo Luo (follow me on Twitter @_leoluo)