No one knows how many of the 24 million small businesses in the United States have closed. The number, when tallied, is likely to surpass one million and could be much higher. But some tiny companies have turned a corner and head into 2021 shaken and changed, but alive. Times of E reached out to incubators across the United States, who connected us to entrepreneurs whose companies survived. Ten entrepreneurs shared their stories with us. You can find others in the series at Rest of the US. Thanks to gener8tor, Arlee Community Development Corp., E For All, On Deck and Arrowhead Innovation Network.
Daniel Cruz quit his day job in February to build washbnb, a company that provides linens for Airbnb hosts, vacation rental managers and hotels. Cruz was an avid Airbnb host and grew frustrated at the amount of laundry he had to do and the lack of solutions that existed.
He and co-founders Brain Madelin, Cat Simpson and Nick Haggmark were accepted into Milwaukee accelerator gener8tor’s gBeta program shortly after creating the company. Cruz’s plan was to make ends meet through his Airbnb rentals and his gig as a bartender, he said by email.
Little did he know, a global pandemic was about to hit. When it did, it felt like AirbNb travel might never return, Cruz wrote.
“The second half of March was the wildest roller coaster ride I’ve ever experienced,” Cruz wrote. “It was like everything I had done in my life up until February had created the perfect opportunity to build a fantastic company and I was motivated, prepared, and already tasting the champagne. It took about seven days during the middle of March for that to all go away.”
But the group met the moment. They began doing laundry for people stuck at home without laundry access through a new company called washhero.org. They offered customers the option to apply to have their services covered by donations.
Things are working out for washbnb. Washhero.org caught the eye of Dubbel Dutch Hotel, which opened in Milwaukee in July. Cruz and the team pitched washbnb and got the job, relaunching the original rental linen service, which became fully operational in late July.
“While we’re certainly looking forward to a world with less virus related pain and suffering, we’re also excited to build washbnb in this new climate because our service was built to weather the storm,” Cruz said by email.
This story and others on Times of E are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.