By Julia Mericle – Technology Reporter, Pittsburgh Business Times
After an initial partnership with coin-operated laundry machine giant CSC ServiceWorks last year, Pittsburgh-based startup The Laundry Chute announced an agreement with Church & Dwight, the company that owns brands Arm & Hammer and OxiClean, Wednesday.
The Laundry Chute allows student customers to drop off laundry bags at designated lockers on a college campus. A student worker then washes, dries and folds the laundry and returns it to the locker within 24 hours. The system is managed through a mobile app and a student leadership team on campus.
“We kind of coin ourselves as the Uber of laundry on college campuses, where we’re are creating an ecosystem of students working for students,” The Laundry Chute CEO and co-founder James Janis said.
The Laundry Chute launched first at the University of Pittsburgh three years ago, and the startup is beginning to expand nationally. Janis declined to disclose how many universities the company is working in currently, but said they are “growing very fast.”
At Pitt, The Laundry Chute currently has about 200 students registered as laundry processors and about 1,600 registered as customers. The customers pay between $6 and $10 per bag, and the processors earn between $14 and $16 per hour of work.
“I think you are going to see a revolutionary opportunity that goes nationwide, and we are excited about that,” Janis said.
Melissa Martin, vice president of marketing at Church & Dwight Co., Inc. said in a press release that the company was impressed with The Laundry Chute’s business model at Pitt.
“The Laundry Chute has managed to create a unique and cutting-edge full-service laundry offering for universities, that has the potential to be revolutionary, and highly-effective in capturing the attention of college students across the nation,” Martin said in a prepared statement.
When the startup launched, the team tried out a traditional offsite model, similar to what Janis said Procter & Gamble Co. is doing with Tide.
However, Janis said the business model changed quickly.
“We realized that the model is just not profitable, and it never will be, even at scale,” Janis said. “So, we looked in the mirror, and found that there were laundry machines right in our backyard.”
Janis said the use of the already existing coin-operated laundry machines on college campuses also proves ripe for partnerships, because those companies are seeing an influx of use in their machines. The Laundry Chute caters to students living off campus as well, which means the once captive market of students in residence halls increased.
David Drake, executive vice president of CSC ServiceWorks, which works with over 1,200 universities in the U.S., said he was looking forward to The Laundry Chute’s expansion plans, in a press release.
The Laundry Chute, which operates on the North Side, did not disclose its revenue.