Sophisticated Technology and Inspired Employees Power a Laundry Revolution
Gabriel Mandujano will be teaching an Urban Studies Social Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice course for the Spring 2013 term.
ON A BRISK FRIDAY AFTERNOON, Gabriel Mandujano parks his bicycle and enters a large, clean laundromat at 48th and Pine. Three women in neon green Wash Cycle Laundry t-shirts greet him enthusiastically, though their hands never stop sorting socks and folding sheets. He checks in with each employee, taking a moment to help fold while he talks, then walks into a back room, where a computer system is tracking bags of clothing and linens from pickup to delivery. He stops briefly to answer a phone call then hops back on his bike to continue his rounds to two other facilities. After that, it’s back to the office at 17th and Arch to handle paperwork, bookkeeping and the other facets of a blossoming small business.
This is a typical day for 29-year-old Mandujano, who launched Wash Cycle Laundry just over two years ago in Philadelphia. The business, which uses bicycle trailers, sophisticated route planning software and a self-designed automated washing system, is revolutionizing the way Philadelphians receive clean laundry. With roughly 100 corporate clients and several hundred residential customers, Wash Cycle is proving that the laundry industry can be greener, cheaper and more efficient than the current model.
Birth of an entrepreneur
Mandujano grew up in Maryland, and moved to Philadelphia to attend the University of Pennsylvania where he majored in urban studies and real estate. From there, he went on to earn a master of science in comparative politics from the London School of Economics and a master of philosophy in land economy from the University of Cambridge. Mandujano first worked in the nonprofit sector, directing the Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation in West Philadelphia then, moved to Mexico City to work for the Center for Sustainable Transport. But, says Mandujano, he wasn’t satisfied with the results of his work.
“If you want to find ways to inject jobs with meaning, and turn a low-wage service job into a launching pad for an upwardly mobile career path… you need to be the employer,” he says. “You actually need to control what somebody does at work every day.”