Kyle Riggle, Partner at EWS, CEO of Orth Cleaners
Kyle Riggle wants your dirty laundry.
Seven months ago, the New York City-based entrepreneur bought Orth Cleaners, a dry cleaning business with locations in Coatesville and West Chester, Pennsylvania. As he delved into the industry, he found that traditional dry cleaners struggle with making the connection between customer and service.
“I want to disrupt the laundry model,” he says. “I should come to your house, pick up your laundry, clean it, and drop it back off. And the process should be enjoyable.”
He didn’t start out with the intention of cleaning up the laundry business, though.
“I’ve always been able to find passion in whatever I’m doing.”
Kyle’s entrepreneurial spirit first unfolded at Safeway, where he ended up after high school. “I’ve always been able to find passion in whatever I’m doing, even if it was chucking bananas out on the floor. I worked hard and was gung ho about it.” His enthusiasm quickly moved him up the ranks, managing stores and moving out to Seattle along the way. “I learned how to manage within a big corporation. I learned to delegate and to follow up.”
Safeway wasn’t enough, and after 3 years Kyle went back to school, completing a degree at Columbia University and then getting a job on Wall Street. “I hated it immediately,” he laughs.
“Joynture has allowed us to see a lot of cool ideas coming through the door.”
Kyle didn’t give up on New York City, getting a job with EWS, which had been an early investor in his very first startup venture, Advisoray. EWS focuses on helping clients become more effective by strategically using technology-based tools and processes.
His EWS team started seeking out some startups in which to invest. “We wanted to find a few that we thought had a good idea with a product we could get behind.”
Kyle and his team founded Joynture, a coworking space on Wall Street. “So far, the companies in the space have raised about 15 million dollars. With 30 private offices and extensive conference space, Joynture has allowed us to see a lot of cool ideas coming through the door.”
“One thing I found is that everyone has had at least one bad experience with dry cleaning.”
Kyle’s latest endeavor is reinvigorating Orth Cleaners through technology. Feeling that the traditional dry cleaning model was not very focused on customer service, he started asking around. “One thing I found is that everyone has had at least one bad experience with dry cleaning. I realized that being successful at it means you make as few mistakes as possible.”
One of his buddies from out of town told him about the text messages he receives from his dry cleaner when his clothes are ready. “I can schedule a delivery and they bring them to my work. It’s not memorable; it’s just easy. The dry cleaner is making a killing on me because I use it a lot more now.”
The lightbulb went off, and Kyle sought out a mentor, which he found in fish-purveyor-turned-dry-cleaning-entrepreneur Bill Albert. Bill had built an elaborate tech solution for his fish business, whose customers included big retailers like Costco. After he sold the fishing business, he applied the technology to his dry cleaning enterprise.
Bill flew his development crew out from San Francisco to help Kyle build Orth’s system. “Bill’s developers stayed on my couch in Brooklyn and drove to Pennsylvania with me,” Kyle recalls.
How it Works
Orth’s Android-based platform relies on heat-sealed barcodes applied to every garment to provide tracking information throughout the cleaning, packaging, and delivery process. Once a dry cleaning order is flagged as complete, the customer receives a text message with the option for delivery. Everything is handled through the system, including payment.
“New customers sign up with a few steps, but existing customers could, in theory, just leave a bag of their clothes outside my door and we’ll take care of it. That’s how easy it is.” Of course, they can also schedule their service through Orth’s web site.
For the future, Kyle plans keep building Orth, recently hiring a former Marine who is a fellow Columbia grad. Down the road, though? “I might tackle the parking problem in New York City.”