Kelley senior’s startup helps reduce busy students’ laundry chores
Feb. 22, 2017
Some say it’s laziness. Others call it a time kill. Either way, there’s an unmistakable truth that spans generations of college students -- one that IU senior Zachary Burr hopes to capitalize upon.
“We hate doing laundry," Burr said. "The physical task of washing, drying and folding clothes takes several hours out of your day. If you don’t have a car, it’s worse. There are students who take Uber just to get to the laundromat. But I can help people like that. I can do what they’re already doing, but do it more cheaply.”
Through his startup company, Tydee Laundry, the finance major at IU’s Kelley School of Business – offers semester-long subscriptions to wash, dry, fold and package 10-, 15- and 20-pound bundles of clothes each week. It costs a flat fee of $20 per week for 15 pounds, and customers can cancel their subscription at any time. All plans include free weekly pickup and delivery at times of the customer’s choice. Dry cleaning also is available on a piece-by-piece basis.
On average, a student who washes, dries and folds 15 pounds of clothes a week -- taking Uber to and from a laundromat -- spends about $391 based on a 17-week semester, Burr said.
A 20-pound bundle generally includes four pairs of jeans, two button-down shirts, two pairs of shorts, six T-shirts, nine pairs of underwear, two towels and eight pairs of socks, Burr said.
For now, Tydee is a website-only business, with Burr processing the orders and off-campus cleaners handling the rest.
"We partner with the cleaners, who weigh the bundles before and after washing to make sure nothing is misplaced," Burr said. “They use lightly scented detergent and dry clothes on low heat to avoid shrinking.”
Tydee earned top prize at the second annual Demo Day competition hosted by IU in January. Demo Day culminated a four-month mentorship program for student-run startups known as B-Start, which is offered through the Bloomington Economic Development Corp. Financial support comes from IU’s Innovate Indiana initiative, Cook Group and the Gayle and Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship at Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington.
Like a growing pile of clothes, the impetus behind Tydee gradually expanded since Burr’s freshman year before he decided to act. Yet Burr admits he “probably would have never” launched the company if not for B-Start’s existence, which he learned about from Kelley entrepreneurship professor Gerry Hays. B-Start is a four-month mentorship program for student-run startups offered through the Bloomington Economic Development Corp.
While the accountability aspect of B-Start -- which includes weekly progress reports -- played a significant role in Tydee’s progress, Burr gives much of the credit to his B-Start mentor Brad Wisler. An IU alumnus, Wisler is founder and CEO of Bloomington-based Periodic, which builds booking software for e-commerce companies.
“Brad has been a huge help in getting my website started and being able to manage subscriptions,” Burr said. “We would meet for two hours on some mornings and talk about how to set up the business, marketing strategies, how to set up subscriptions. I’ve really learned a lot from a person who has helped start several companies.”
As Tydee enters its fifth month in business, Burr has only made about $500 worth of investments into his venture so far -- mostly in packaging, stickers and web maintenance costs. Most of his earnings have come from winning Demo Day -- a $2,500 cash prize – plus an additional $500 awarded to all B-Start graduates to help their ventures further develop.
Yet all of that is bound change soon as a key decision for Burr lies ahead. Upon graduation from IU, a job as a stockbroker awaits him on the East Coast. At the same time, the Bloomington Economic Development Corp. would love for Tydee and other rising companies to make Bloomington its headquarters.
For now, Burr is exploring his options.
“Locally, I’ve talked with the manager of Renaissance Rentals about offering services to their tenants here,” Burr said. “But a bigger idea -- whether or not I stay in Bloomington -- is possibly franchising the business, as many Big Ten towns share similar demographics to Bloomington. In fact, I’m talking with a guy about expanding to Columbus, Ohio, and the student market that Ohio State University provides, perhaps as early as next semester.”