They haul thousands of pounds of laundry on bikes
Center City biz says it can respond more timely to the needs of its clients because its laundry facilities are near customers.
GABRIEL MANDUJANO, 30, of West Philadelphia, is founder and CEO of Wash Cycle Laundry. The company operates four laundromats and a fleet of bike-trailers, offering laundry pickup, cleaning and delivery to residents, businesses and health-care institutions in Philly. Mandujano, a California native whose father hailed from Peru, is a 2005 Wharton grad with a master's degree from the London School of Economics. He started the business in 2010.
Q: How'd you come up with the idea for the biz?
A: I wanted to run a business that was greener and cheaper, and I researched laundry. Using green detergents doesn't cost much more, and bike delivery is cheaper than truck.
Q: Start-up money?
A: I needed a bike, a trailer, some promotional fliers, and found a laundromat in West Philly willing to let me work. Our first outside money was a $20,000 SBA loan in 2011, and later we got some private investment. We also got a $50,000 loan from Untours Foundation in 2012.
Q: And the biz model?
A: We started doing laundry for consumers and had two bikes on the street. We covered most of Center City and a little of University City. By the end of 2011 the commercial accounts had grown bigger, and now they represent 75 percent of revenues.
Q: What's the value proposition?
A: A lot of laundry in hospitals and hotels is washed out-of-state. We have four locations here, never more than two miles from customers. We're green and hire from Philadelphia Works and Gearing Up, two nonprofits that help people find work.
Q: How are you able to haul all this stuff on bicycles?
A: We hauled 100,000 pounds of cargo in January. We can handle 300 pounds of laundry on one bike-trailer. We're getting some pedicabs with a box on the back, which will increase our cargo capacity to 600 pounds.
Q: Your customers?
A: We do work for the federal government at facilities like the VA Hospital in West Philly. We service some private skilled-nursing homes. The University of Pennsylvania was one of our first big clients. We also do work for Temple, Drexel and Thomas Jefferson University.
Q: Cost of services?
A: For consumers, it's $1.35 per pound for washing, folding and free delivery. For commercial, it's cheaper but depends on volume and what's washed. A hotel that wants us to clean sheets and towels could be a third to half as much as the consumer rate.
Q: How big a biz is this?
A: Thirty employees, 16 or 17 full-time. We're on track to double 2013 revenue to $1 million.
Q: What's next?
A: We have about 1 percent of the 4,000 hospital beds, 3,000 nursing-home beds and 10,000 hotel rooms in Center City and University City. We'd like to have 2 or 3 percent.