Maloney Recognized as Outstanding Entrepreneur by Center for Family Business

Posted on 9/29/2014 3:03:07 PM

Mrs. Maloney, surrounded by family, faculty and students at her award ceremony reception.

The Center for Family Business recognized Nancy Maloney ’95, owner of Maloney’s Coin Laundry of Indiana, as an outstanding entrepreneur on September 19, 2014. 

Mrs. Maloney and her daughter, Nancy Andromalos, were invited by John Lipinski to speak in his small business management class about their entrepreneurial story. Also present was Robert Camp, dean of the Eberly College of Business and Information Technology, and Ellen Ruddock, director of the Center for Family Business (CFB).

Maloney has owned and operated Maloney’s Coin Laundry, located at 34 S. 11th Street, with her late husband, Joseph, and children since 1962. The Maloneys opened the coin laundry as a way to make a living after Mr. Maloney was laid off from R&P Mining Co. in 1961. While the family had considered other business options, they ultimately decided the coin laundry was the right choice. 

Mr. Maloney assumed the role of general contractor to save the family money during construction. The Maloneys replaced their large backyard garden with their new laundry facility. Though they believed in their business, they still had a “Plan B” worked into the construction. If the laundry failed, they wanted the space to be easily converted into rentable office spaces.

They soon realized that without a general contractor they could not borrow money from the bank. Instead, they had help from a friend, used their son’s college fund, and used their house as collateral to get the money they needed. They also had to work with a Pittsburgh supplier to obtain training on using their new laundry equipment. 

On April 1, 1962, Maloney’s Coin Laundry was open for business with 20 washers, eight dryers, and six dry cleaning machines. The coin-operated dry cleaning machines had been suggested to them by their supplier because they were novel at the time. These machines were later taken out due to the health hazards they posed. 

The first year was a challenge for the Maloneys as they learned to minimize costs by not hiring extra employees. From fixing the machines, to greeting customers, to cleaning, every family member had a job to do. The Maloneys prided them selves on “selling cleanliness,” which meant that they would clean every machine every evening. 

“When we make our last payment,” Mrs. Maloney would say, “we will hire a janitor.” And they did. 

The Maloneys learned that focusing on customer service and attentiveness would put them ahead of other coin laundries in the area. With their laundry facility literally in their backyard, the proximity to their business was a blessing and a curse because customers always knew they were home and available. It was not unusual to have a customer knock on the door at 3:00 a.m. with a problem that required Mr. Maloney to get up and fix. While it may have been inconvenient working 24/7, their attentiveness made their business a success. 

“No customers; no bread and butter,” Mr. Maloney would often say, and his words rang true. They started their business to make a living and, without their loyal customers, they wouldn’t be able to eat. They discovered through their customers that the most effective advertising was through word of mouth. They kept their reputation up by always giving customers the benefit of the doubt and trusting them. Mrs. Maloney would sit and talk with her customers, much like she continues to do now, and makes them feel at home. 

Before word of mouth had made its impact, the Maloneys were afraid they would end in failure, like 70 to 80 percent of most small businesses do in their first year.

“It was pretty scary at times,” said Mrs. Maloney. “Until word of mouth gets around, you still have a mortgage.”

On April 1, 2014, exactly 52 years later, Mrs. Maloney sold the coin laundry. She decided to sell the laundry rather than pass it on to her children or extended family because she said they all already have good jobs, and running a successful business is not an easy task. Still, she had a hard time letting the business her family built go. 

“Investors don’t see the 50 plus years of blood, sweat, and tears,” said Mrs. Maloney. “It’s almost like selling your home. It has value to you, but the truth is the dollar value is based on what it’s made of.”

Mrs. Maloney felt that she got a fair price for her business and is pleased with its new ownership. The new owner added Wi-Fi and a website, but Mrs. Maloney continues to go visit it every day to make sure the business is running smoothly and to talk with customers, especially students. 

To the aspiring entrepreneurs present at the interview, the Maloney’s story was motivating. 

“It’s inspiring to see other people start their own business and succeed,” said Jessica Pawelczyk, an international business senior. “It makes me think that if I believe in myself and work hard, I can be successful and achieve my own dream.”

Casey Lemmons