Dayton entrepreneurs clean up with mobile laundry, dry-cleaning service

An on-demand laundry and dry-cleaning start-up takes its inspiration from the challenge to keep up with laundry while living on a college campus.

The idea for Tumble LLC came to then-Miami University seniors Jeffrey Caldwell II and Charles Wheeler III one night in 2019 after Wheeler had a particularly busy night at work.

“He had a lot of stuff to do once he got home ... and one of the things he had to do was laundry, but Charles really didn’t want to do it,” Caldwell said. “I had a load in myself (while) watching an NBA game, and he said to me, ‘You know what Jeffrey? It would be amazing if there was a business out there that picked up your dirty laundry or dry cleaning, took it to the laundromat or dry cleaning, handled it, and then brought it back to your home freshly folded and ready to go or ready to be hung.’ ”

Caldwell said the idea sounded like a winning one, and the two men researched what the industry looked like nationally and locally, then created a business plan. With more time than ever on their hands during the start of the pandemic in 2020, the two created Tumble by December as a mobile, on-demand laundry concept and took their first order in February 2021.

Partnering with three Dayton businesses — The Laundromat, the Magic Hamper Laundromat and A+ Cleaners — they avoided overhead expenses for renting or owning a brick-and-mortar location and the cost of purchasing and maintaining equipment.

Caldwell, 25, a public health major, and Wheeler, 24, a kinesiology major, both work full-time day jobs and handle their Tumble responsibilities in the hours that follow.

Tumble customers can choose from a gamut of services and can opt for customization via different kinds of detergent, fabric softener or bleach. Clothes can be not only cleaned and folded, but also pressed or hang dried. Dry cleaning can be picked up on a one-time or a weekly basis.

The business recently launched a Drip & Dry Club, a subscription-based service to all of Tumble’s services, including reduced turnaround time, a 10% dry cleaning discount, free delivery for courier services and a per-pound discount for laundering clothing. The more laundry a customer sends in, the more they save, Wheeler said.

It also launched a “Tumble Go” mobile app on both the App Store and the Google Play Store and partnered with Clothes That Work, so that for every order the business receives, it donates one article of clothing to the Dayton-based nonprofit.

“We knew that Clothes That Work was an organization that not only gave back clothing to individuals, but it also put them in a position to succeed and receive professional help and also professional employment,” Caldwell said. “That was an initiative that we wanted to be a part of, so we’ve been donating clothes that we’ve received from individuals, and also we’ve went out and purchased some clothing and taken it to them.”

Tumble also donates clothing to Goodwill, he said.

Caldwell and Wheeler credit mentor Nate Sowder of the Entrepreneurs’ Center in Dayton with coaching and mentoring them and Jess Simons and Alison Corder of the center with providing design help. They’re also thankful for Wright State University’s Venture program and the guidance of professor Charles Gulas, which helped them secure the funding they needed to launch the business.

Tumble recently earned a Better Business Bureau Spark Award for Entrepreneurship, which “celebrates emerging entrepreneurial businesses whose leaders demonstrate a high level of character, generate a culture that is authentic about its mission and genuinely connects with their community,” according to the BBB.

Caldwell said it was “an amazing honor and a privilege” for he and Wheeler to win the award.

“It means a lot and it means that we’re heading down the right path,” he said. “It definitely gives us motivation to keep on doing what we’re doing and doing even more to help out the Dayton community in any way possible, whether that’s by donations or by providing jobs in the future.”

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