Milwaukee-based washbnb changes model amid coronavirus pandemic

Cat Simpson, Brian Manedlin and Daniel Cruz.
Cat Simpson, Brian Manedlin and Daniel Cruz. Credit: Andrew Feller

Milwaukee-based washbnb is one of several local businesses upended by the coronavirus pandemic. But, rather than give up, the startup is trying to meet its challenges with ingenuity.

Washbnb provides linen and laundry services for short-term rental owners, property managers and Airbnb hosts. Faced with the uncertainty of the travel and hospitality industry, the startup changed course, launching a wash-and-fold laundry service for the elderly and immunocompromised.

“I think that our pivot is a really good example of our ability to be nimble and to find business where there still is,” said Daniel Cruz, co-founder and chief executive officer.

Cruz admits this new service is not the most scalable, but the startup believes its original business model is still viable. Washbnb’s linen rentals give hosts access to quality products from hotel suppliers and textile manufacturers while also saving them time from laundry duty.

“It’s all about efficiency and allowing hosts to have the time to focus on their business and not be in the laundry room all day,” Cruz said.

Many businesses anticipated economic tailwinds from the Democratic National Convention and washbnb is no exception. But even with the looming uncertainty of the pandemic, Cruz still sees a lot of upside to washbnb’s business model long-term.

Short-term rentals have revolutionized the travel and hospitality industry over the past decade, giving way to a whole new “use case” or vacation style, Cruz said.

“You’re seeing people take trips that perhaps they wouldn’t have before,” Cruz said. “Because maybe they didn’t have a place to put their family for four or five nights that had access to a kitchen.”

As companies like Airbnb have created a whole new category of business in the travel and hospitality industry, new businesses have cropped up to support them.

“The industry that supports those Airbnb hosts was really just starting to get its feet underneath it,” Cruz said. “All the tools that you would need to scale a business are starting to gain some footing in the marketplace and we just hope to be one of those service providers for this industry.”

Location: Milwaukee
Founders: Daniel Cruz, chief executive officer; Cat Simpson, chief design officer; Brian Manedlin, chief operating officer
Founded: 2020
Product: Bed and bath linen rental services
Employees: 5
Goal: To provide short-term rental hosts quality bed and bath linen products and efficient linen rental services.

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