Philly Startup Hires Marginalized Staff and Delivers 300 Pounds of Laundry on Bikes–Successfully

Last year, eight employees of the Philadelphia-based startup, Wash Cycle biked 160 miles on their bright, orange-colored trikes, hauling laundry from Philadelphia to Washington, DC. It was a sign of victory — their first foray into a new market, four years after launching the company.

Wash Cycle does just as its name says: it washes your laundry and delivers it to your door by bike. Not only do they worry about their environmental footprint, but also their ability to create jobs in disadvantaged communities. Half of Wash Cycle’s staff comes from vulnerable backgrounds — that is, they have been formerly incarcerated, on welfare, or homeless.

In 2010, Gabriel Mandujano, 32, a Rockville native, started the company with two friends, one bike, and one trailer, after a career in the social sector. He openly declares that he’s not a laundry aficionado — nor had any ambitions to be in the $20 billion laundry industry. But he did want to build a business model that incorporated social and environmental impact.