Rockville native Gabriel Mandujano had almost come full circle when his Philadelphia-based Wash Cycle Laundry first came to D.C. in May. For the occasion, Mandujano and a few members of his crew rode down to the capital by bike.
Why? Because that’s how the company delivers clean laundry to its urbanite customers.
Mandujano, 31, is still based in Philadelphia. The city is not only “underappreciated as a biking city,” it’s also cheap, he said — making it a good place to start a business.
That’s where the University of Pennsylvania graduate envisioned growing a bootstrapped business, convinced that a green company that saved resources should also save cash. “It’s cheaper to save energy and water and gas than it is to waste it,” he said. Mandujano estimates that Wash Cycle Laundry’s delivery costs are about three times cheaper than those of his competitors.
Of course, it didn’t exactly pan out that way. He began, he said, with “rosy assumptions about how the world was going to work.” But, “one by one those assumptions proved to be untrue.” So he took out a small loan and then accepted an equity investment from a business partner. Finally, he opened up his company to outside investors like Robin Hood Ventures and Investors’ Circle Philadelphia.
Then, he decided to expand.
A short train ride away, Washington, D.C., fulfilled the No. 1 requirement: it was close enough.
“Just in case it went horribly wrong and one of us needed to get on a train and fold laundry,” said Mandujano. With four employees in D.C., the company is sill getting a lay of the land. It is building up a clientele of small businesses and takes in a lot of dry cleaning orders.
But Wash Cycle Laundry also hit some road blocks here. “The hills in D.C. were actually a challenge,” said Mandujano. After a few rides, the motors of the tricycles would give way to the steep D.C. slopes. “Our poor cyclist would be stuck at the bottom of the hill with a 500-pound trailer,” he said. They’ve now replaced the engines, though, and are rolling. The next stop is Austin, Texas.