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This fall marks the fifth anniversary of the founding of Lazy Mule Laundry. True to its namesake, the service allows Colby students to be lazy--about laundry, if nothing else. For many, the service has been an answer to their prayers, because with the busy schedules of students at the College, who really has the time to do laundry?
This is the idea from which Lazy Mule Laundry was born. Launched in 2005 by a trio of sophomore boys: Alex Russell, Bryan Solar and Michael King, the three were themselves tired of doing their own laundry at school. Assuming other students were feeling similarly overwhelmed by the task of doing laundry, the group recognized an opportunity. They developed a plan and applied for an entrepreneurial grant for their business idea, which helped them cover the start-up costs.
With the business plan in place, Lazy Mule Laundry needed just one thing: a laundromat that they could use for washing all of the clothes. After searching, they decided on Highlander Laundromat in downtown Waterville due to both its large facility and its history of being the laundromat of choice for summer camps in the area. The boys decided to utilize a Laundromat for their service so that the clothes of their fellow students would be washed by professionals.
The way that Lazy Mule Laundry works is simple. For a one-time fee of $15, students purchase a special laundry bag. When students want their laundry washed, they simply need to set their bag outside of their rooms on the scheduled day for pick-up, which varies based on the dorm in which one resides. The student then fills out a simple online form on the Lazy Mule website requesting that the bag be picked up. Within 24 hours, the laundry will be returned: clean and folded. Not bad for only 99 cents per pound of laundry. The business even handles special needs, such as dry cleaning.
Lazy Mule Laundry took off in popularity on campus for the three years that Russell, Solar and King ran the company. Upon graduation in the spring of 2008, they decided that the business should continue to be run by Colby students, and they turned it over to a group of three juniors.
After a period of shuffling, the business was taken over again last year by two members of the class of 2010: Peter Stone and Hamdi Sheriff.
Their interest in the business was based on their experiences interacting with Lazy Mule Laundry themselves.
"One of the first things that I heard about when I got to Colby was Lazy Mule Laundry; it had a great reputation, and I was used to seeing the laundry bags in my dorm," Stone says.
Stone and Sheriff's plan for the business is quite simple: they want to make it even more popular, and are constantly searching for ways to make the service easier for students and to make things run more smoothly.
One of the ways in which they are implementing their goals is by collecting the laundry bags themselves so that their customers know exactly who to get in touch with if there is ever a problem.
"We try to gain a sense of trust with our customers," Sheriff says. "We're handling their personal belongings, after all."
The customer base of Lazy Mule Laundry is currently at around 125 students. Sheriff and Stone are seeking ways to reach out to more students, and recently did some advertising on Facebook in order to attract new customers.
Their ambition for the business isn't just limited to students on the Hill.
"We'd really like to try to expand the business, and try to take the idea to another NESCAC school," Sheriff explains.
For now, though, the pair is excited about the changes they are making to the program at the College. Their new website launches in the near future, and promises to make the process even simpler. One new aspect is that customers won't even need to access the internet to let the pair know to pick up their laundry; they will be able to simply use their mobile phones.
After five years, the business has become a staple on the Colby campus. Once Sheriff and Stone graduate this year, they intend to follow in the founders' footsteps and keep the business on campus. They will be looking for a group of students who will be as passionate about the business as they are to take over Lazy Mule Laundry next year.
When asked what the best part of running the business was, Stone discussed the valuable business lessons he has learned, which will help him in the future. "And the free laundry's not bad either," Sheriff adds.