One thing almost everyone can agree on is that doing laundry is the absolute worst. Especially as a college student, machines in the dorms are either never working properly, broken, taken or all of the above. However, there is hope with the help of Chute Laundry!
The student-run startup, founded by 21-year-old Penn State senior Reid Moncada, aims to make the worst chore easy and convenient by doing it for you! Chute Laundry service does it all, including pick up, washing, drying, folding and the drop-off. Within just two years, the company has turned into a booming business, now offering its service both here in State College and in Philadelphia.
Moncada decided it was the right time to further enhance the company by opening up pop-up shop downtown. The shop is located in a niche spot next to the Phyrst, right where Downtown Nails used to be on 113 Beaver Avenue. The shop opened on Dec. 4 and will be open for the next few months. To get an inside scoop of how Chute came to be, VALLEY had a Q&A with Moncada, the man behind it all. Read on to learn more about how his side hustle has now turned into his full-time gig.
VALLEY: When and how did you come up with this idea?
Reid Moncada: Initially it started because I hated doing laundry, and I hear other people all the time saying how much they hate it too, so I thought I could make a business out of it. I lived in the only dorm on campus my sophomore year that had free laundry, and my friend had a car, so we just started going. Over time it turned into a full-time gig, so it stopped from me washing and drying all the clothes to outsourcing the laundry to partner laundromats and dry cleaners.
V: What helped you get to where you are today?
RM: I went to this amazing program in San Francisco called Draper University, a business accelerator in the heart of Silicon Valley. I was surrounded by 80 other entrepreneurs from 27 different countries and every single day they, founders and technology CEOs would tell us this where technology is, where it’s heading and how to position your company to become a billion-dollar business. Immediately they were telling me that when it comes to laundry delivery, I’d have to think a lot bigger, and I always knew deep down that at the end of the day its clothes that people make a conscious effort to go buy, put in their closet and wear.
V: What have you learned most from creating this business?
RM: When I initially started doing laundry, the funniest thing was I was folding my friends Breaking Bad underwear, and I had no idea he even liked the show. I started piecing together that with laundry, you now know someone’s favorite brands, colors, styles, spending habits, where they go to school, their favorite sports team, etc… On the other end for retailers, consumers are demanding more and more personalized experiences, but retailers only know what people are buying; they have no idea what we’re actually wearing, and the only way to figure this out is handling the clothes people wear on a regular basis. At the program in California, I was talking to the executives at Levis, the Chief Algorithms at Stitch Fix, a data scientist at Macy’s and they would tell me this a trillion-dollar opportunity and that’s when I knew this is what I had to dedicate all of my time to.
V: What’s Chute’s service like? How can students become members?
RM: You can either go onto our website or you can download the app and you put in your address, and within eight hours someone comes to your door and picks up your laundry. Once the laundry is picked up from your house, we then bring it to a laundromat or a dry cleaner and they do the washing, drying, folding, separating, hand drying and then we bring it back to you within 48 hours and 36 hours in Philly. At Penn State the nearest laundromat is an hour and a half away, so we have about 12 stay-at-home moms that are pumping through all the student’s laundry. It’s on-demand, so you can pay as you go at $1.50 per pound, or pay upfront through a semester plan at the beginning of the year. We even take LionCash!
V: Tell us more about the pop-up and what it’s all about.
RM: I was thinking that we need to have a pop-up shop because it’s been so hard to describe what our brand is to students. I was thinking about what are people going to obsess about and bring them into the store, and recently I’ve seen all this vintage stuff selling in seconds online. The idea was to bring people into the store, have them buy clothes that they can’t get anywhere else, and cross-sell them Chute. So, whenever they buy something, they’ll get a free $30 coupon for Chute, get our swag and then walk them back there and show them the mural! No other laundry service is doing this, so it’s finally a way for me to manifest what our brand is, so I can talk to people coming in about the company.
With the help of Geordan Hay’s business, Thanks! It’s Thrifted!, Moncada’s idea to bring vintage pieces into the store came to life. He found Hay through a mutual friend and knew that people loved her clothes and all that they sold out so fast.
“I was super excited when Chute reached out to me!” says Hay. “I really liked the idea, especially because I’ve previously only done two other pop-ups, and I know sometimes people who wanted to come couldn’t because of class and other plans. This gives people a chance to be able to stop in whenever it works for them.”
“This gives my page another opportunity to expand and reach more people, and I’m looking forward to the way this pop up will help each of our brands grow.”
Four out of the six clothing racks in the pop-up shop are filled with Hay’s eclectic finds and are all for sale. Thrifted pieces available range from one-of-a-kind vintage Penn State items to denim jeans, and even Champion crewnecks and are constantly being updated on the daily. To learn more about Hay and to get more updates on the pieces being sold, make sure to check out her Instagram account @thanksitsthrifted_.
V: Since you’re a PSU student, how do you balance your time between Chute and your schoolwork?
RM: Before I started Chute, I was doing a double major and a triple minor and after I started the company, I had absolutely no time for anything. I had to drop all of the majors and minors and only focus on entrepreneurship. I had to talk to President Barron, the dean of the Business School, the director of advising, the dean of my major, and I got about 12 credit hours of me just working on the business which definitely saves a lot of time. But because I had all these majors and minors, I have credits now that pretty much amount to nothing. Effectively I have to stay an extra semester and a half to complete Gen Eds, so I’m taking a leave of absence from school next semester to be working on this full time.
V: What’s your long-term goal for Chute in the future?
RM: There’s $900 billion worth of clothes sitting in American’s wardrobes that are never going to be worn again. The apparel industry is the second most polluting industry in the world right before oil and gas, so what I’m trying to do is connect everybody’s closet together via this platform. We’re focused on building this platform that essentially allows us to digitize all our clothes for our customers as we’re washing them and build them a virtual closet, just like in the movie Clueless. For me, this is building a brand to finally bridge that gap between laundry and fashion. My vision is you send out your laundry and if you want to sell off three items you can do that and you’ll never see those items again. And in your returning laundry bag, you can select any item that we have in store, and you now have a dynamic closet anywhere you go. For an extra $5, what we’ll be offering very soon to our customers is access to all of these clothes; in a sense the Netflix of clothes that are all hand-delivered to you in your laundry bag. More people are beginning to outsource their dog walking and their grocery delivery, and I know laundry is going to be that next big thing. As lame as it sounds, I want the laundry to be for all of the fashion like what books are for Jeff Bezos.
Before the pop-up shop closes, make sure you head downtown to see what Chute Laundry is all about and to get first dibs on the vintage pieces that are being sold! To stay in the loop make sure to follow @chutelaundry and @thanksitsthrifted_ for more announcements and any new updates along the way!