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The Rise, Fall and Comeback of an American Immigrant U.S. Marine Turned Commercial Laundry Entrepreneur

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In this episode, we tackle an industry that you don’t often hear about in entrepreneurial or investment circles – the commercial laundry business.  Join me as I talk with Sang Cho, Chair & CEO of Cooperative Laundry – the most technologically advanced commercial laundry services company to hospitality markets (hotels and hospitals) in the United States.  

Sang talks about the early days in NYC where his family owned a laundry that he grew up in and worked in as a teen, his self-admitted lack of knowledge as far as operating a massive commercial business, and the many pitfalls that befell him and the company, and the lessons learned from that experience that are contributing to the success of Cooperative Laundry today.

Sang started working in his family’s dry cleaning business in 2005 and grew it from a 20-employee, $2MM company to a 600+ employee, $50MM revenue company.  Sang exited that business through a private equity transaction in 2013 and has since embarked on investing in and operating Cooperative Laundry. Their custom-built, 60,000-square-foot facility is located in Kearny, New Jersey, delivering the best commercial laundry services in North America.  Its fully automated workflow delivers an end-to-end level of precision that the laundry industry has never known. 

This podcast is brought to you by Axial, (www.axial.net), a trusted online platform for business owners & their M&A advisors to use to safely and intelligently explore and execute capital raises, acquisitions, and exits with strategic buyers or professional financial sponsors. I am your host, Peter Lehrman, Founder and CEO of Axial. In every episode, we will explore the vast world of small business M&A. We will interview both the proven and emerging owners, operators, investors, and advisors whose strategies and methods have been put to the test. 

If you have enjoyed this episode, check out Axial.com for more.  There are recorded Axial member roundtables, downloadable tools for dealmakers, quarterly lead-table rankings, and lots of other useful information. To join Axial as an acquirer, an owner considering an exit, or as a sales-side M&A advisor, you can get started for free at Axial.com.  Feel free to reach out to me directly at Peter@axial.net with questions, suggestions, or show topic ideas.

Discussion points:

  • What is the commercial laundry business all about?
  • There are no national players – regional and mom/pop are the main players
  • A day in the life of the commercial laundry business
  • Shorter contracts allow for easier price adjustments
  • What happens if you lose a customer?
  • Sang’s Korean/American family background owning a laundry in NYC
  • Combat infantry and a philosophy degree
  • Buying a competitor out of bankruptcy
  • Structuring an investment deal within his family’s company
  • Lessons learned after leaving Prestige
  • Data-driven results and successes with Cooperative Laundry
  • Everyone on the team must agree that the data is important
  • Some of the key differences Sang works on now with Cooperative operations
  • Who was your mentor? How did you learn your lessons?
  • Surround yourself with smart entrepreneurs, join YPO

Resources:

Sang Cho LinkedIn

Cooperative Laundry Website

YPO for Entrepreneurs

Peter Lehrman LinkedIn

Axial Website

Learn More About Joining Axial

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