When talking about the potential for new franchise partners, Bill Zinke, vice president of marketing for Harris Research Inc., parent company of Chem-Dry, throws out an amazing figure: there are 14 billion square feet of new carpeting installed every year in the United States.
To realize the potential of being a Chem-Dry investor, consider that all of that new Berber and plush carpeting, plus existing carpeting, has to be cleaned at some time. That’s where Chem-Dry comes in as the market leader in the category, rated No. 1 annually in the carpet cleaning industry by Entrepreneur magazine for a quarter century.
It also ranks within the top 100 of Entrepreneur’s list of top 500 franchises, as well as ranking high among low-cost, home-based franchises. The company has also been selected as one of the top 100 global franchises by Franchise Direct.
And while there are more than 2,000 Chem-Dry franchisees in the United States, and more than 3,500 worldwide, most carpet cleaning is performed by small, independent companies using outdated technology, which makes further expansion for Chem-Dry a very strong proposition, Zinke said.
“Seventy-five percent of the market is mom and pop cleaners,” he said. “Chem-Dry’s big claim is being the innovator in both solutions and the technology in cleaning that is leaps and bounds above steam cleaning.”
Building on Strength of Brand
Chem-Dry differentiates itself by offering environmentally friendly cleaning solutions, using 80 percent less water than steam cleaners, and by using a proprietary method it calls “hot carbonated cleaning extraction” that lifts dirt to the surface of the carpet before it is vacuumed away.
Because most small, independent carpet and upholstery cleaners are still using a steam method for cleaning, Chem-Dry’s dirt-extraction technology stands out as something different that offers deeper cleaning and a faster drying time. That’s a differentiation the company can use to its advantage in attracting customers, Zinke said.
A graduate of Amherst College with an MBA from Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Zinke joined Chem-Dry in 2012 after spending more than 20 years marketing consumer packaged goods and the last 10 in franchising. He spent several years managing and growing packaged goods brands at Unilever, where he served as brand manager on businesses including Imperial margarine, and rose to the position of senior brand manager for new products.
Later, Zinke went on to Ready Pac Produce, one of the pioneers in the fresh-cut packaged produce industry, where he helped the company become the leader in the premium bagged salad segment. His franchise experience includes marketing such brands as Dippin’ Dots — with more than 200 franchised locations — and Baskin Robbins, with 2,500 locations in the U.S., where he helped lead a revival of the brand and a return to system-wide growth. Before joining Chem-Dry, he was chief marketing officer for Tasti D-Lite, a 60-unit chain of frozen treats, where he contributed to the company’s growth and international expansion.
New Owner’s Growth Strategy
Zinke’s presence at Chem-Dry to build brand awareness is part of Baird Capital Partners’ effort to grow the brand after purchasing it in 2011 from Home Depot. Chem-Dry is actively recruiting franchisees with a number of selling points: the strength and longevity of a market-leading brand, the relatively low initial investment, the potential for growth, and the company’s financing plan.
“All those things lined up together create a really compelling business opportunity,” Zinke said. “I would never call it recession-proof, but it’s fairly recession-resistant. People are always going to keep their home healthy and clean.”
Zinke said the initial investment for a Chem-Dry franchise partner ranges between $34,000 and $55,000 and in-house financing is available with $9,995 down for those who qualify.