How We Got Here: Sam Tan

Current Position: Sam Tan, 56, has been working in the dry cleaning industry for 26 years. For the last eleven years, Tan and his wife Mali have owned and operated Star Bright Cleaners in Lancaster, California.

The Company: Starbright Cleaners prides itself on outstanding customer service and impeccable quality. They perform the standard basics of usual garment care on a daily basis but also have no problem tackling specialty services such as leather, suede, handbags, household linens and alterations.

Staying Alive: Tan was born and raised in the Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia where he survived the infamous genocide also known as “Killing Fields” in the1970s. He took refuge in a Thailand refugee camp for four years.

Comin’ to America: Relatives who lived in the Los Angeles area of California sponsored Tan’s immigration efforts to the United States. In August of 1984, he left Thailand and became a resident of the City of Angels.

Pre-Dry Cleaning: “My first job was working for a custom furniture manufacturer located in Culver City,” said Tan. “My position was purchasing agent at the time, and later on, I became foreman of the factory.”

Career Change: In 1990, the Tans got into the dry cleaning business. Their first shop, Sunset Boulevard Laundry, was located on Hollywood’s west side. “It started out as an agency before turning into a full plant,” remembered Tan.

Leaving L.A.: Tan said, “We wanted to move to a quiet, less populated area.” The Tan Family left the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and headed north to the Antelope Valley and settled in the city of Lancaster.

Moonlighting: While his primary focus is owning and operating Star Bright Cleaners on a full-time basis, Tan has a secondary career as a real estate broker. He has had his license since 2006.

Education: He finished high school in Cambodia and took college courses at Los Angeles Trade Tech. Tan is two classes shy of completing his associate degree.

Challenges: One of the toughest obstacles Tan faces as an owner of a dry cleaning establishment is competing with other dry cleaners that offer similar services at a lower price. He firmly believes that his technical expertise, quality, and service warrant the cost factor passed on to his customers, but Tan makes no apology for the value one gets in return.

Fulfilled: “The greatest reward is receiving a thank you from the customer,” said Tan.

Off the Shelf: Tan is a voracious reader of books. He especially enjoys anything that has to do with self-development or self-improvement. He is currently reading MONEY: Master the Game by Tony Robbins. “Tony Robbins is well known all over the country if not all over the world and this book is very enlightening,” said Tan. “He talks about how rich people manipulate money and the stock market.”

All in the Family: Tan has been married to his wife Mali for 34 years. They have two adult sons, Kim and Daryle. Every family member works at Star Bright Cleaners in some capacity.

Just For Fun: When he is not working, Tan likes to go out to eat at restaurants with Mali and watch movies. At home, he prefers working with his hands. Tinkering with machinery brings him the most satisfaction.

About John Leano

John Leano can be reached by e-mail: Leano@BryansCleaners.com or Twitter: @JohnLeano or www.facebook.com/johngleano