As I was saying, laundromatic.com is the second best domain I ever got a hold of, after mwi.com. Not that you, dear blog reader, would see it as I do, since you lack the glorious vision I have long held for what this domain name would become. Dare I share it? Promise not to steal my idea? Well then, listen close and I’ll whisper in your ear my secret plan…
I plan to develop the most comprehensive online directory of laundromats in the world. Yes, it’s true, and as you slap your forehead and exclaim “Sweet fancy Moses! Why didn’t I think of that?!” Allow me to tell you the whole story of how it came to pass.
It was a late night. A dark night. I was in my junior year of college and had been working on assignments into the wee hours. Papers were strewn across the desk, enveloping open textbooks, covered with words scribbled in haste, then crossed out, then circled, and then crossed out again with the broad strokes of a #2 pencil that had seen better days and sharper tips.
It was well after midnight when I remembered two things; first, I had an important meeting the next day, and second, I didn’t have a clean shirt to wear. At this point in my life I didn’t have my own washing machine, and that meant washing clothes at a laundromat. I jumped online, typing in keywords like “provo utah laundromat open all night” and “24 7 laundromat” but nothing would come up that was of any use to me. In desperation I turned to my last resort, the phone book. The phone book only listed phone numbers for most laundromats. Even the laundromats that spent the money on larger ads had neglected to tell me what their hours were. I started calling the laundromats one by one. I figured if they were open 24 hours a day maybe somebody would answer the phone. But no such luck. And none of them had messages telling me their hours either.
I jumped in my car and started driving around. It was a college town, so there must be laundromats all over the place, right? I drove around for at least an hour. I only found a few laundromats, and they were closed. In frustration I drove back home, and resigned myself to coming up with some other solution. Dang it, if only there were an online directory of laundromats that told what their hours were. Would that be so hard? C’mon, I’ve got dirty laundry here! Even a list of laundromat addresses would have been helpful. At least I wouldn’t have had to drive around just randomly hoping to find one.
The next day, I drove past a laundromat that was just a few minutes from where I was living. In large letters it notified passers-by that it was open 24 hours. Argh! Somehow in my hour of driving around the town the previous night I had neglected to turn down this street. Argh again!
I decided to do something about it. If there wasn’t an online directory of laundromats I’d create it. First, I would need a domain name. So I typed in “laundromat” and started looking at the results. Of course laundromat.com was taken, no surprise there. But what have we here? Apparently a group of teenage girls had started a community website for themselves and were calling it Laundromatic. That was pretty catchy. But they didn’t have the domain name. They were using laundromatic.yahoo.com. I checked and saw that laundromatic.com was available, and promptly bought it.
(Note: My memory is a little hazy. I may have actually thought of the name “laundromatic” on my own, prior to seeing the other website using that name, but I honestly can’t remember so I’ll give them the credit for it for the time being. But you girls try to sue me for the name, I’m going to say I came up with it all by myself and it’s a totally original creation.)
I was trying to learn PHP at this time, so I figured this would be a good project to cut my teeth on. A month later I decided that real programming was for real programmers, and that I was better at telling people what to do than doing things myself. I was probably a king or some sort of royalty in a former life.
So I hired Carl to program it for me, on contract. Carl got $1,300 of the way through it and then was unable to carry on. So then I had Pete work on it. But Pete was an ASP guy while Carl was a PHP guy, so Pete had to start from scratch. There went another $1,500 or so, and Pete didn’t finish it either. Then one of my full-time guys worked on it in .NET, but didn’t finish it. That was probably another $2K or so. And that’s the short story of how I spent a few grand and eight years trying to get laundromatic.com off the ground and it never happened.
But I’ve never lost hope. You see, I had been grooming my own long tail years before saying “long tail” at cocktail parties was cool. I knew I was onto something. Think about it. Nobody else is interested in this industry except the Laundromat Association of America. But there are 35,000 or so laundromats in the United States. Many, if not most, of the owners of these laundromats are paying for phone book listings or actual ads that cost them anywhere from $30-$200 per month. Just making your listing bold and adding your address can cost $30/month.
So I thought hey, I can offer these guys a listing for $10 per month, or even $5 per month, or even $1 per month, and even if it’s just $1 per month and I only get 500 laundromats signed up that’s still $6K per year, which means the site pays for itself in one year and then it’s gravy after that. Nothing big, but $500 per month is at least a nice dinner with the wife once in a while and maybe a pint of Ben and Jerry’s when nobody’s looking. But what if I could charge $10 per month and I could get 5,000 laundromats signed up? Well now we’re talking some serious money for an individual.
And of course it wouldn’t stop with laundromats. Once I had a good directory system I could make copies of it for any industry. Web design firms, dentists, bowling alleys, eating disorder treatment centers, therapists specializing in the treatment of retired carnies–all I needed was someone who could design a new site and do some decent SEO work to get it ranking, and of course I do both, and I could have a huge network of long tail directories that did a far better job than any other directory out there.
But it was all easier said than done. Heck, I couldn’t even get the one site built, let alone experience the challenge and potential failure involved with trying to get the first customer to sign up. And I own a web development firm for Pete’s sake! You’d think things like this would be a snap.
So will laundromatic.com ever get off the ground? Who knows. I actually have somebody new working on it right now. I think this makes the fifth attempt, and this one seems to be going the best so far. Keep those fingers crossed, and perhaps together we can end futile late night laundromat searches forever.