Everyday chores are a challenge for working parents who have to balance their lives between jobs and families. They spend time away from home for work — whether they are in the office or thousands of miles away on a business trip — only to come back home to have their household responsibilities waiting for them. It’s a challenge that Laurel Hess, founder and CEO of on-demand laundry platform hampr, knows firsthand.
Before she started hampr, she had been on a business trip and arrived back home to be surrounded by laundry in her kitchen. “We had t-ball opening day for the kids and a bunch of birthday parties,” Hess told PYMNTS in an interview. And she realized she wouldn’t be able to get the laundry done without missing out on her family’s activities. Hess thought if she could have her groceries and takeout delivered to her, she should be able to outsource her laundry.
Hess researched laundry services and wasn’t satisfied with the options already on the market. She found that, for one, many companies charge by the pound. And she also didn’t want her laundry to go to a commercial laundromat because her clothes would get washed together with the laundry of other consumers. And Hess began to think that it would be ideal if a stay-at-home mom, retiree, or stay-at-home worker could wash her laundry. That arrangement would benefit the washer and her at the same time.
Consumers can use the platform today by purchasing a membership for a yearly fee, which comes with the first four hampers. Hess says those hampers alone would cost consumers, say, $20 apiece if they bought a similar one on Amazon, remarking they are “very good quality.” Consumers can then place an order by scanning a QR code on the bag and telling the company their preferences. They can ask request that their laundry to be washed in hot water, for instance. The idea is their laundry can be washed the same way it would be at their homes.
The hamper also comes with a pocket, where consumers can put in their own detergent or dryer sheets. If consumers don’t provide those supplies, the company has a partnership with Dropps detergent. That’s the default option, and it is scent-free and dye-free; Laurel says it’s perfect for anyone with skin allergies. Consumers can also select a pickup window. The company offers three of them throughout the day — morning, noon, and evening — where they can put the hamper out wherever they want.
Consumers specify the location of the hamper, and the washer (the service referrers to them as “washrs”) will claim the order, come to the consumer’s house and pick it up. The washer then takes the laundry back to her home, wash, dries, and folds it before returning it to the consumer. Consumers pay for the laundry service through the app by the load instead of the pound, and the company uses Stripe for its credit card processing.
hampr’s main target audience is busy working parents, but Hess says a surprise demographic for the company has been people in assisted living. Consumers care for their older parents and, a lot of times, they have to pick up their laundry, wash, dry and fold it, before bringing it back to them. The company’s platform, for its part, is built for scale versus competitors who have to, say, maintain a relationship with a laundromat or cleaner. “We can go wherever the washers are,” Hess says.
Washers benefit from the service because it offers them flexibility and the ability to create their own schedules. Hess says one of the company’s extremely active washers is a single mom who is also in school. The app allows her to work around her class schedule and earn extra income. Another one of the company’s washers is a stay-at-home mom whose spouse is an active military serviceperson. Her family moves around so often, it is hard for her to get a consistent job. But the app allows her to provide additional income for her family.
The service comes as Hess points out that Airbnb got consumers comfortable staying in a stranger’s home, and Lyft, as well as Uber, got consumers comfortable with going into strangers’ cars. At the same time, with the state of apps and technology, Hess notes that “people have already figured out some of these insurmountable things” in terms of the on-demand economy. As a result, the company doesn’t have to create technology from scratch; instead, it can connect several apps together to create a lean and scalable structure.
The company is starting its service in Lafayette, Louisiana for now, but Hess says it has large plans for expansion. It wants to be in several markets by the close of the year as it aims to make life easier for working parents, among other consumers, with a mobile app for laundry.