News / Economy

    Philadelphia Laundry Succeeds by Being Green

    Philadelphia Laundry Succeeds by Being Greeni
    X
    Faiza Elmasry
    August 01, 2014 12:06 AM
    When Gabriel Mandujano opened Wash Cycle Laundry in Philadelphia four years ago, the 26-year-old social innovator had three goals in mind: making a profit, developing community and staying green. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, four years later, he has not only succeeded in achieving these goals, but he is expanding the business as well.
    Faiza Elmasry

    When Gabriel Mandujano opened Wash Cycle Laundry in Philadelphia four years ago, the 26-year-old social innovator had three goals in mind: making a profit, developing community and staying green.  Four years later, he has not only succeeded in achieving these goals, but he is expanding the business as well.  

    It is hard not to notice them on the streets.  Wearing bright orange T-shirts, Wash Cycle Laundry cyclists pick up and deliver laundry around Washington, pulling big orange trailers behind their bikes.  That separates Wash Cycle Laundry from other cleaning services.  But this is not the only difference.  The clothing and linens are cleaned with locally produced and environmentally friendly detergents and delivered in reusable packages.

    Founder Gabriel Mandujano wanted to go green, but be competitive too.

    “I think a lot of time when people hear 'environmentally friendly', they automatically think 'more expensive', but laundry is really a neat industry where it is cheaper to save water and energy than it is to waste it," said Mandujano.

    It is also cheaper to use other companies' equipment.

    “We've done millions of pounds of laundry, but we actually do not own a single washing machine ourselves," he said. "We are not bringing anything new to the market.  What we've done differently is rather than building one gigantic plant, often in industrial parks, somewhere that is 40 or 50 miles away from the city, we've established ourselves in a lot of sort of micro plants, where we are four or five blocks away from our clients.  We always find laundries that are under-utilized and then we make a sort of an agreement with the ownership of that laundry to use it during their downtimes."

    Mandujano says the nation’s capital seemed like a lucrative market for his laundry business.

    “There are a lot of people who do not have the time, but do have a little bit of income that they can use to afford our service," he said.

    Inspired by his background with community development non-profits, Mandujano adopted a purposeful hiring policy to find employees to provide that service.

    “About half of our employees are from what you call a vulnerable adult population.  That means they could have been chronically unemployed," he said. "They could have been coming off a public benefits program, a number are in recovery from substance abuse.  Some have a history of incarceration."

    Shawnice Foxx is one of his new hires.

    “I thought I wasn't going to be able to continue working here because of my personal problems, but they helped me out," she said. "I'm still here and everything is going great now. I am trying to just sustain one job and be able to be there for years and advance in a company instead of keep hopping from job to job."

    Jim Starn, who owns a massage therapy business, says Wash Cycle's social commitment is one reason he is a client.  Being green is another.

    “It's easy. I do not have to worry about a [delivery] truck coming by and blocking traffic and people being irritated," he said. "And I love the fact that they aren't just using all that gasoline. Because we're a massage studio, people come to us for natural wellness and alternatives. So the fact that we do not have to worry about the chemicals and the bleach and all these things that can be in the laundry and the laundry comes back spotless is just terrific."

    As he cycles through the city, picking up and delivering laundry, Chris Walke explains why his job is terrific.

    “I get to move around, be active. Be out in the sun," he said. "My body is engaged, but my mind is free, which I really appreciate."
     
    That is what Wash Cycle Laundry founder Mandujano imagined, when he established his enterprise.

    “My family was probably a little bit concerned when I told them I was quitting my job to start a laundry business.  This is not the most glamorous profession, it's not like going to a dinner or a cocktail party and saying, ‘I'm a doctor’, ‘I'm a lawyer’, ‘I'm a banker,’" he said. "I think as business has grown, people started to see the vision and what we have been able to accomplish and where we might go."

    Mandujano plans to expand Wash Cycle Laundry - and his approach to social innovation - to other U.S. cities and, he hopes, around the world.   

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8998
    JPY
    USD
    103.32
    GBP
    USD
    0.7594
    CAD
    USD
    1.3176
    INR
    USD
    66.954

    Rates may not be current.