How Rumby is disrupting the laundromat and dry cleaning industry
At this point, we’re all used to having meals, online orders and groceries delivered without ever leaving our homes. So why does it seem like on-demand laundry services haven’t become part of our daily lives? At the rapidly growing Cincinnati startup Rumby, they believe they’re ready to change the way we take care of our laundry by bringing the process into the 21st century and boosting brick-and-mortar cleaners.
“Our parents’ generation may have known their local dry cleaner, who they talked to when they went there and had a relationship with,” said founder Ben Cantey. “Our generation doesn’t do that. We don’t want to drive 15 or 20 minutes, call someone on the phone or track something by calling and asking where it is. We expect to do this from our phone, and that’s just the nature of how our culture is evolving.”
Rumby isn’t just a platform for on-demand laundry. The startup is changing how actual brick-and-mortar laundromats and dry cleaners operate, expanding and modernizing their operations. They’re adding value to the existing industry by treating laundry in the same way that other industries have been revolutionized.
“I like to say we’re the Shopify for dry cleaners and laundromats,” Cantey said. “Our core product is an e-commerce solution that allows dry cleaners and laundromats to offer online ordering and fulfillment to their customers. We bring them on, create an e-commerce page for them, update their Google business listing to drive traffic to their site, help them with some marketing campaigns and then step away and it starts generating income organically.”
With more than 1,200 cleaners on board, the company’s next major expansion is the growth of the Rumby Exchange, which Cantey believes is “how we grow to a billion-dollar company.” The idea of the Exchange is to connect hotels, commercial buildings, apartments, and condominiums with independent dry cleaners, benefitting all parties. To bolster that platform, they expect rapid growth and major Series A fundraising in 2022.
“The biggest thing for us in 2022 is the mobile API that we’re building,” he said. “As an example, a company like Marriott has never been able to build a guest laundry experience into their mobile app before, but with Rumby there’s a nationwide network of connected cleaners. You can build a guest laundry experience that’s reliable, offers updates and is consistent. That’s how our app could be used.”
After launching originally in California, Cantey’s hometown of Cincinnati became the new headquarters for his startup during the pandemic. He moved the company to the Queen City partially so that he could spend time with his family — especially his nine nieces and nephews — and has enjoyed re-introducing himself to the city and learning its startup scene, where he believes he can be an agent of growth. That work is already starting, with the company expanding its workforce in early 2022 through plans to hire more than a dozen new employees.
“Cincinnati has definitely evolved and matured into a great place, and it’s fun to be here,” he said. “I’ve liked my time here and I’ve enjoyed being close to my family again. I’ve lived in Austin, San Francisco and West Hollywood, so one of the attractions for me is helping to build up Cincinnati. I’m looking forward to getting integrated into this startup system and helping it grow and mature.”
Just how much can Rumby grow? Cantey’s expectations are high. A veteran of the startup world, he said he wanted to build “one more startup,” something consumer-oriented that could be a huge success. With Rumby, he thinks he has the potential for a billion-dollar company, and expects the next year to showcase that potential even more.
“I knew that if you can disrupt traditional brick-and-mortar methods that haven’t been taken online, you can build a unicorn,” he said. “We landed on laundry and dry cleaning after a ton of research and looking at the graveyard of startups who have tried and failed in that space. So we rapidly changed our platform over in April of 2020 and went live in June. By September, we were generating our first organic revenue. I think 2022 is going to be a year of milestones for us, which is really exciting.”