From coin-op laundry operator to job creator: How a once-small Sacramento company grew to service 33M pounds of hotel linen each year
February 5, 2021
A version of this blog post originally appeared on CNote’s website. CNote is a financial platform for socially conscious savers and investors. FE Small Business Finance proudly partners with the Bay Area-based organization.
2009 marked the beginnings of the Great Recession, a time when many businesses pumped the brakes on their plans to grow. Yet, for Sacramento Laundry Company, this time period was the start of their incredible business trajectory.
Founded by husband-and-wife-duo Julia and Keith Pooler, the business provides professional laundry services to hotels in Sacramento, San Francisco and Lake Tahoe and now employs 400-plus people.
They didn’t reach this point overnight. They started small and through hard work, some luck and access to affordable SBA capital from our partner, FE Small Business Finance, they grew bigger and bigger.
Related: Checklist: Top Questions To Ask If You’re Considering Buying Vs Leasing Commercial Property
With the help of several SBA 504 loans, they’ve been able to buy their own building and major equipment, allowing them to service more than 33 million pounds of hotel linens every year.
In fact, the Poolers’ business is one of the largest commercial laundry servicers in Northern California.
“I don’t know if I could have done it without them ( FE Small Business Finance),” Keith said.
An unexpected offer leads to opportunity
The Poolers started out operating a handful of coin laundry facilities that focused on small-scale personal laundry needs in local neighborhoods.
That changed one day when Keith got an unexpected offer from a hotel manager who wanted to use the couple’s services for his hotel’s linens. The manager gave the Poolers 15 minutes to decide if they could handle his business.
Uncertain if they could adequately meet the challenge, Keith called his wife who agreed they should take the plunge.
The common struggle of finding a conventional business loan
That one phone call ignited Sacramento Laundry’s transition from the local laundromat to massive hotel-linen servicer.
Just a year or so later, Sacramento Laundry Company expanded its services. By then, they were already employing 25 people and servicing 8,000 pounds of hotel linens daily.
Related: Top 3 reasons small businesses should buy a building
The business was growing fast, but they ran into a major problem. In the depths of the 2008-2009 recession, banks were hesitant to lend capital in general, which meant the Poolers were struggling to find financing.
They went to bank after bank to no avail. Determined, they pressed on because they knew that without the additional space and equipment necessary, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with demand.
Securing ‘critical’ SBA 504 loan through community lender
The Poolers eventually connected with Ed Ryan, a senior SBA 504 loan expert with FE Small Business Finance. FE is a small business lender focused on helping entrepreneurs build sustainable businesses that support their communities.
FE, in partnership with a bank, helped the Poolers secure critical funding — an SBA 504 real estate loan — so the dynamic duo could expand their operations and acquire state-of-the-art equipment.
SBA 504 loans provide small business owners affordable, fixed interest rates — which helps keep monthly rent payments stable. They’re made possible by a partnership between certified development companies, such as FE Small Business Finance, and banks.
Keith fondly reflected back to 2011 when, with the backing of FE Small Business Finance, Sacramento Laundry purchased a 60,000-square-foot building where they’re still based.
Since then, the operation has grown quickly and now services more than 33 million pounds of hotel linens, 365 days a year. The additional space also meant that the Poolers could also hire more employees, which now number 425 … and counting.
With their increased capacity and improved processes, the Poolers became owners of one of the largest commercial laundry servicers in Northern California. Not only have they built an impressive business they’ve also built a community of employees, partners and customers along the way.
Multiple SBA 504 loans spur business growth, hiring
In recent years, Sacramento Laundry Company has leveraged more SBA 504 loans through FE Small Business Finance to support their continued growth.
That financing has helped them purchase the newest environmentally friendly washing and drying equipment to service their massive operations. This cutting-edge equipment reduces nearly two-thirds of the company’s water usage and limits discharge into the county sewage system. Through its economical and ecological-friendly approach, Sacramento Laundry Company has also saved a tremendous amount on electricity and gas, another green outcome.
Without the help of FE Small Business Finance, Keith is certain that their company would not be where it is today, nor would those 425 employees have a place to work.
Related: Tired of paying rent? With just 10% down, you can own your own building
Small businesses are the backbone of thriving communities. Today, Sacramento Laundry, still a mom-and-pop operation led by the Poolers, is giving back to the community through local sports sponsorships, working with Make-a-Wish Foundation, and providing a source of income for more than 400 employees in the Sacramento area.
They serve as an inspiration to others for what’s possible and the magnitude of impact one can have when they take a risk and put their efforts into a business they believe in.
Jobs created/preserved: 425
More on CNote: The Oakland-based company’s flagship product offers a 2.5% return on savings — and 100% social impact — by tapping into Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, which exist to help finance underserved small business owners. Learn more about CNote and their mission here.
A building purchase may seem out of reach. But it can be more attainable than you think. If you’ve been thinking about buying your own commercial property, get in touch with us today. Tell our SBA 504 loan experts about your business, and they’ll work to match you with a financing plan that best suits you. Let’s talk! Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (619) 243-8667.
In case you missed it: