Money in Laundering


Student-owned company turns hard work and dirty clothes into profits

By Anthony F. Cristian
Photography by Rob Kievit '09

Lazy Mule
Bryan Solar '08, above, collects dirty laundry in Dana Hall.

Instead of grabbing a jug of Tide, a growing number of Colby students—and at least one professor—have been calling on Lazy Mule Laundry to keep them looking presentable.

Lazy Mule has been around since September 2006, when then-sophomores and first-time entrepreneurs Alex Russell, Michael King, and Bryan Solar launched the venture after observing that they and many other students on Mayflower Hill are plenty busy, have at least a few bucks to spare, and are not interested—even slightly—in doing the whole dormitory laundry thing. “None of us ever liked doing laundry,” said King, a government major from Elmhurst, Ill.

Added Solar, “So we built the company and solved that problem.” The formula for Lazy Mule’s success—$25,000 in gross revenue since its founding, a healthy profit after expenses, a customer count that has doubled each semester, topping out at 160 last spring—is simple enough. Any member of the Colby community can sign up for the service at any time. Customers register at the Lazy Mule Web site and pay $10 for a voluminous, faded-denim-colored, numbered laundry bag emblazoned with the Lazy Mule Laundry logo (designed by art and biology major Natalie Clay ’08).

Once registered, customers schedule a Tuesday- or Wednesday-evening laundry pickup. Lazy Mule’s owners—its only employees—then print out lists of each day’s pickups. At about 6 p.m., they jump into a couple of vehicles, including a green Chevy Tahoe, and zip through campus to customers’ residence halls (and on one recent run, to a professor’s Waterville home), hustling to pick up laundry bags left outside rooms. The bags are delivered to Highlander Laundry in Waterville, where the clothes are weighed and then washed and folded by the Highlander staff.

The Lazy Mule guys never actually see or touch the laundry, which they say encourages would-be customers to try the company’s services. The clean clothing is returned to its owners by 6 p.m. the next day. Customers’ accounts are billed 89 cents a pound, up from 75 cents when Lazy Mule was established, an increase proportional to a hike in the Highlander’s prices, fuel prices, and the owners’ time commitment. The profit comes from the substantial volume discount Lazy Mule gets from the laundry.

Watch Lazy Mule Laundry at Work

According to the Lazy Mule team, which was expanded in January 2007 to include Jeffrey Mullins ’08, of Bethesda, Md., a typical customer’s laundry bag contains about 20 pounds of clothing. This spring the business was handling as much as a half-ton of laundry a week. “At midterms and finals, things get crazy,” said Solar, an international studies major from Houston.

Although Russell, King, Solar, and Mullins graduated in May—with academic credit for their laundry venture—and left Waterville for corporate jobs or other off-campus business pursuits, Lazy Mule Laundry will continue under their watch, with rising juniors Foster Huntington and Dan Opalacz overseeing daily operations on campus.

“We are retaining an interest in Lazy Mule,” said Russell, an economics major from Belmont, Mass. “We can’t sell it for the price we feel it’s worth to college kids who don’t have money.”
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  • On July 12, 2008, andrew katz wrote:
    lazy mule rocks!
  • On July 13, 2008, Emily Fairbanks wrote:
    Great idea, a parent's and student's dream come true!
  • On July 18, 2008, J. Michael Solar (Bryan's Father) wrote:
    Students; I told my son, Bryan Solar, it was a bad idea: distracting, liability, etc. Bryan: Your were right. Parents; I was wrong.
  • On August 26, 2008, Chloe Warren wrote:
    Lazy Mule was a life saver!!! Can't imagine finals without it. Thanks Guys!