About 100 miles southeast of Atlanta is the charming town of Milledgeville.
“It’s a very tight-knit, traditional southern community that’s been hit really hard [economically] over the last 10 years. There was a lot of industry here,” says small-business owner Shane Bridges. “But because of that sense of community a lot of people here have pulled together and stepped up to help one another and try to get through these difficult times.”
A little more than three years ago, Bridges personally experienced the impact of the economic downturn. “I had been let go of my job after almost five years working for one of the country’s best luxury real estate developers. I worked in commercial real estate. I really had no idea what I was going to do,” he says.
“But I met a really great girl, and her family was in the dry-cleaning and laundry industry since 1969. My options were to stay local or move to a big city to find a job. I really didn’t want to [move]. So, reluctantly, I agreed to start a medical linen service with my father-in-law. He had the building and the equipment. I had the background in starting businesses, and it seemed like it could be viable.”
In 2009, Shane and his wife, Casie, launched a medical linen service called MedLaundry. With the expert guidance of Shane’s father-in-law, Steve Chambers, and the invaluable assistance of longtime family friend Charles Preston, the four-person operation set out to challenge the giant national companies that largely controlled the local markets.
“Almost three years later,” Bridges says, “we’re dominating two of the local markets here. It’s been a really interesting ride. In fact, we win businesses over almost strictly on the fact that we are a small, family-owned and -operated business. That’s allowed us to compete with the national guys. Now it looks like we’ve got a really bright future ahead of us.”
However, although MedLaundry’s client base has grown substantially over the past three years, it’s running out of production capacity, Bridges says. He explains that MedLaundry’s expansion into new markets will be virtually impossible without a key equipment upgrade.
“One of the very important elements is having appropriately hot water in order to sanitize the linens,” he says. “That’s kind of where we’re at right now. It would greatly help to get a new water heater.”
To that end, Bridges recently entered Intuit’s Small Business Growing Strong campaign.
“We bought a used one [a water heater] to get started, and it’s on its last leg,” Bridges noted in his wish entry. “Getting water to the proper temp is critical, because we are sanitizing linens that might be used by our parents, grandparents, children, and friends. Please help us in our battle of local vs. the big guys.”
Thanks to Intuit, MedLaundry’s future sales may get just as hot as its linens being sanitized. “I don’t even know what to say right now. Thank you so much! This is a total, complete shock,” Bridges said upon learning that his wish is being granted.
“Our goal is to become the most dominant provider in our niche market,” he says. “We would really like to see ourselves expand into the Atlanta area. We’ve had to turn that down for the last few years because of limitations in equipment. This is going to help us get to that goal a lot faster. Now we can shift some of our funds around and buy a delivery vehicle in addition to a hot water heater.”
Intuit’s Small Business Growing Strong campaign is announcing one winner a day through May 24, 2013. Check out the list of current winners and find out whether we’ve granted your wish!