When reviewing the list of the high tech businesses that are changing American industry these days, dry cleaning is rarely at the forefront. But two GS graduates are working to change that perception. Kyle Riggle ‘12 and Miguel Morel ‘12 say dry cleaners need to change the current customer attitude about the business, which is: "don’t forget to pick up the dry cleaning on the way back from the grocery store."
Instead, Orth Cleaners wants to be “in the customer’s pocket.” That is, they want to be on their customers’ cell phones so that customers can place orders via text message or email and track them at the touch of a button.
“We aim to be the dry cleaner in your pocket by allowing customers to easily manage their dry cleaning from a mobile phone,” Morel said. “Our aim is to begin serving customers in Philadelphia in September.”
The college friends and a silent partner bought Orth Cleaners, which was founded in 1927, in October and took over operations in February. According to Riggle, they have made an impressive number of achievements since then, including increasing the customer count by 400 percent, digitizing over 61,000 garments, sending over 48,000 text messages, and going completely green. Customers send text messages or emails to Orth to schedule a pickup, and receive a response letting them know when their clothes will be returned; they also have the ability to track the progress of their order. In addition, regular customers are alerted when a delivery van will be in their area.
At the heart of these technology upgrades is a barcode that’s attached to the clothing, which gives everyone involved in the process the ability to locate a specific garment and, eventually, to pair it with other garments in a customer’s order. Computers display each customer’s individual order preferences: starch or no starch, crease or no crease, the color, textile, and pattern of each garment, when the order was brought in, and when the customer expects it back. The system also tracks which employee is involved in handling the garment at each stage. With all of these enhancements, what used to be an eight-hour job of pairing up each customer’s order can now be done in three 25-minute increments each day.
In addition to streamlining operations, the pair has also made changes in the compnay that reflect their dedication to giving back. They’ve increased the salaries of workers in the plant, made it a practice to hire prisoners after their release from jail, donated clothing to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and are currently collecting business suits to donate to people who may need them for job interviews.
“It’s the whole idea of helping somebody get a fair second chance,” Morel said. “Miguel and I went to college later (than traditionally-aged students) so it’s a second chance for us, too,” Riggle said.
Originally from the Bay Area of California, Riggle describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur” who, in addition to acting as CEO of Orth Cleaners, is a partner in an enterprise called Joynture, a co-working space for high tech startups in New York City, as well as a board member and partner in EDMx, an EDM festival-focused app. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Morel served five years as sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps with a tour in Iraq before matriculating at GS. He now lives with his family in Westchester, NY.
On-demand dry cleaning service expands to Philly; Philadelphia Business Journal; Sept. 11, 2015
Orth Cleaners pressing for expansion by going mobile; Daily Local News; Aug. 6, 2015