Chem-Dry Cleaning Franchise Review: Q&A With Ed Ramia of Los Angeles, CA

Ed Ramia started his Chem-Dry carpet cleaning franchise with little more than a spare bedroom and a pickup truck. Now he has a small empire.

Ed and Veronica Ramia of Chem-Dry Carpet Tech.

Ed and Veronica Ramia of Chem-Dry Carpet Tech.

Ed Ramia started his Chem-Dry business two decades ago and he and his wife Veronica now run 12-15 vans at a time from their Chem-Dry Carpet Tech business, which covers parts of Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley, Simi Valley and Santa Monica. He?s now part of the Voice of Chem-Dry franchise advisory council that helps guide the franchise?s continual improvement. Ed?s own story is proof of what a motivated business person can accomplish using Chem-Dry?s systems.

What were you doing before Chem-Dry?
I was doing corporate accounting before. I had been laid off and was tired of corporate life.

How did you find out about Chem-Dry?
My younger brother worked for Chem-Dry briefly as a technician, and he said, ?Ed, this is a great business, you should buy one.? He set me up with an owner to go out in a van, and we did a couple of jobs and were impressed and said, ?Okay, let?s do it.?

A fleet of Chem-Dry vans line up outside Chem-Dry Carpet Tech.

A fleet of Chem-Dry vans line up outside Chem-Dry Carpet Tech.

What appealed to you?
The barriers to get in were so low. There weren?t huge upfront costs, and the learning curve was low. It was a great opportunity, especially for someone with limited resources. You don?t have to be a wealthy guy to start a Chem-Dry. If you can put together enough money to buy a van, your first franchise license and a cellphone, you can work your way up ? which is basically what we did.

I started out with one territory, working out of a spare bedroom with a pickup truck. Now we have a 5,000-square-foot office building, run 12-15 vans and have between 30 and 35 people working for us.

What sets Chem-Dry apart?
Honestly, I haven’t looked too much into other franchises. I looked into Stanley Steamer, which was very structured and they practically told you when you can take your lunch break. That?s not really running your own company ? that?s working for someone else and being paid differently. That’s not what I was looking for. I wanted to find something that let me do what I want, make decisions, reap rewards and make choices. I wanted the security of being part of franchise, but the freedom of running my own business.

How has owning a Chem-Dry affected you?
In my previous life, I traveled a lot. I make a lot more money than I would have, and the rewards are there ? the satisfaction of getting out what you put in and achieving goals and growth.

It has made a big difference in how we’re able to live. We’re a lot wealthier. We have the freedom to come and go as we please. I?m not tied to 9-to-5. I have days where I work 13 hours and days where I take off. Coming from corporate accounting, where you work 50 hours a week and get a 3% raise, a two-week vacation and have to deal with office politics…

We worked really hard when we started, probably 60-plus hours a week, but it?s gradually whittled down, and I hire people to do a lot of things now, so we?re able to relax some and take long vacations now that our business is so successful.

What kind of person makes a good Chem-Dry franchisee?
Somebody who is driven, motivated, self-confident and who has a strong desire to win. You also have to be a risk-taker. When you start a new business, there’s no comfort zone. If you’re a guy who needs to have a guaranteed check coming in every two weeks, this isn?t right. You’ve got to be willing to go out there and roll the dice, because it’s not always going to come up sixes. A can-do attitude and perseverance are essential. You can’t give up the first time you fail. Keep at it. Look at it as a learning experience. Constantly reassess everything you do to get better results.

How large is the opportunity?
Huge, absolutely huge. We have about 7% of the market and we have brand recognition, and we’ve only just gotten started. (Chem-Dry?s 7.5% share of the carpet-cleaning market makes it nearly twice as large as its nearest competitor.)

Who are your main customers?
When we pull up to a house, you’re not going to see a Toyota too often. You’ll see a BMW or a Mercedes. You have to justify your process and show them how it?s better and why it?s worth spending a little more money.

Would you recommend Chem-Dry to someone looking to start a business?
If they had what it took, yes. It’s very important because you?re not going to just jump in and start shoveling money into your bank account. There?s a lot of work, but it?s a great opportunity.

Ed Ramia serves as target practice for his wife Veronica during a contest at a Voice of Chem-Dry get-together in 2012.


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