Christian Sanya’s ideal afternoon is watching Lifetime while meticulously folding laundry. She could spend hours tucking in shirt sleeves, lining up pant steams and ensuring every fold is flat, unwrinkled.

By chance, she stumbled into a side hustle that allows her to do almost exactly that: She started washing other people’s clothes through on-demand laundry platform SudShare in 2019.

Last year, she made $46,000 on the platform, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.

The earnings helped Sanya, 44 — who also makes $76,000 per year as a full-time medical laboratory technologist — and her husband open a laundromat of their own in Lanham, Maryland.

Called the Laundry Room, it’s profitable, run by four employees and brings in up to $24,000 in revenue per month.

That doesn’t mean she’s shuttering her side hustle.

In fact, she refers it to as an addiction.

“It’s not an easy side hustle, but if you like it, it’s easy money,” Sanya says. “But the laundry has always been my thing … It doesn’t feel like work to me.”

Starting a laundry side hustle

Because laundry was her designated chore as a child, Sanya says she can fold a load in three minutes flat. It’s a love she’s carried for years: She told her husband when they got married her dream was to open a laundromat. The couple even tried to buy one from an acquaintance in 2015, but couldn’t afford it.

In 2019, Sanya’s daughter, then six years old, was diagnosed with autism. Then, Sanya lost her job. She didn’t have time to apply for full-time roles, so she started looking for gigs that would allow her to be at home for most of the day while she finalized her daughter’s care plan.

She started on Instacart, but spent too much of her time in the car and grocery stores. One of her Instacart customers noticed her attention to detail, and suggested SudShare. She quit Instacart and joined the laundry platform that night.

Despite more people pinching pennies and working from home, Sanya became busier than ever on SudShare, she says.

Even when she returned to work in a hospital in March 2020, expecting the demand for healthcare workers to skyrocket and laundry requests to plummet, she kept her SudShare profile active.

Today, she still fulfills 12 hours of laundry requests per day, with her husband and Laundry Room employees filling in the gaps while she’s at work.

“You have to sacrifice a lot to know that where you’re going, the endpoint, is going to pay off,” Sanya says. “I’ve given up family time, I’ve given up my date nights. I’ve given up a lot for SudShare at this point.”

Sanya opened the Laundry Room, which has 40 machines, in September 2022.Courtesy of Christian Sanya. Source: CNBC
Sanya opened the Laundry Room, which has 40 machines, in September 2022.Courtesy of Christian Sanya. Source: CNBC

Using the money to buy a laundromat

Last year, the laundromat Sanya and her husband tried to buy eight years prior was back on the market. They saved up enough money — partially from SudShare — to buy it outright, without a mortgage, for $200,000, she says.

The Laundry Room opened in September 2022 after Sanya and her husband spent an additional $10,000 redoing the floors and freshening its paint. Now, the 40-machine business is run day-to-day by four employees.

During a typical day, Sanya wakes up early to get her children ready for school and runs out by 8 a.m. to pick up her first loads of laundry.

She takes up to six SudShare orders — three to four laundry loads each — per day. She also occasionally takes orders from Laundry Care, a competing on-demand service.

Now that she has a lot of machines at her disposal, the process is more efficient: Sanya spends just two or three hours per day at the Laundry Room, she says.

Sometimes, she brings her four children along to show them the value of taking care of others.

“I refuse to accept that you can’t have good service in our community,” she says. “I’m ready to change that and that’s what I’m doing, one laundromat at a time.”

Balancing her ‘jigsaw puzzle’ daily routine

Owning a business, working a full-time job and maintaining a side hustle eat up all of Sanya’s free time. Her routine is like a “jigsaw puzzle” and she typically only sleeps four hours per night, she says.

She’d rather spend more time with her kids, she says. Her plan to achieve that goal: Open enough Laundry Rooms to turn the business into a full-fledged laundry brand, and earn enough passive income from the laundromats to leave her full-time job.

Sanya and her husband are already in the process of launching a second location, she says. After that, she’s not quite sure what her next step will be, she adds.

It won’t be easy. She’ll need to spend a lot of time working on that second location before even thinking about a third one. Turning her income passive will mean learning how to find and train more employees with managerial experience, so she can spend less time in the laundromats.

“I never thought this would happen,” Sanya says. “I never had it dreamed out on paper or anything, but I’m building on what I want it to be in the future.”

This article first appeared at CNBC’s Make It Series. Read more about it here.

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