Philadelphia University sustainable design faculty member Gabriel Mandujano will represent PhilaU’s Blackstone LaunchPad as one of just 20 finalists nationwide selected to pitch their businesses at the first Blackstone LaunchPad Demo Day on Oct. 28 in New York.
Mandujano, founder and CEO of the eco-friendly firm Wash Cycle Laundry, will have 10 minutes to convince a panel of Blackstone leaders that his venture is deserving of some of the $50,000 in prize money from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.
Judges at the event will include Stephen A. Schwarzman, Blackstone’s chairman, CEO and co-founder, and other Blackstone executives, who will assess the ventures’ products, business models and scalability potential. The top three presenters will get a share of the business development funding.
“Entrepreneurship is central to Blackstone’s culture, and is the single most effective way to spur economic growth and job creation,” Schwarzman said. “The new and innovative companies participating in the Blackstone LaunchPad Demo Day have the potential to impact their local economies, and we look forward to seeing them do so.”
To prepare for his pitch, Mandujano has been utilizing PhilaU’s LaunchPad coaching resources to hone his presentation skills and messages. Through the University City Science Center, the Blackstone LaunchPad Regional Partner, Mandujano had a private coaching session with “pitch doctor” Steve Bowman, a start-up consultant, and was able to rehearse his pitch in front of an audience of investors and others in the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Zoe McKinley, PhilaU LaunchPad director, has been working with Mandujano to refine his pitch and clarify his fundraising strategy. “He already has a functioning company, but he is at a stage where he needs to raise additional outside capital,” she said.
Wash Cycle Laundry, based in Philadelphia, is an environmentally and socially conscious service that uses bicycle pick-up and delivery as a carbon-free means of transportation and high-efficiency washers and dryers to reduce water and energy use by about 30 percent. The firm also gives back to the community by hiring employees through Philadelphia Works and Gearing Up, two local nonprofits that help the unemployed find work.
Since its start in 2010, the company has expanded to Washington D.C. and Austin, Texas, and now employs some 45 people at its three locations. “We’ve shown with our first two expansions that we can quickly and cheaply launch into new markets,” said Mandujano, the only LaunchPad finalist from the Northeast. “Now we’re eager to start expanding as quickly as we can.”
At PhilaU, Mandujano teaches a course on sustainable organizations in the master’s program in sustainable design. He said many of his students are eager to transform their ideas into sustainable companies.
“Before, if you wanted to make money you went to a business, and if you wanted to do good you went to a nonprofit, and those were your only choices,” Mandujano said. “Now, there are ways that organizations of all types can get involved in sustainable work. We take a look at those organizations and how they’ve done that.”
PhilaU’s Blackstone LaunchPad is funded by a grant by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and offers support for pursuing business start-ups. The $3 million grant established a partnership between Philadelphia University, Temple University and the University City Science Center to provide students with the skills, knowledge and guidance to transform new ideas into successful business ventures.
Blackstone LaunchPad is a co-curricular, experiential, campus program designed to introduce entrepreneurship as a viable career path and develop entrepreneurial skills and mindsets through individualized coaching, idea and venture creation support. Modeled after a program at University of Miami and further developed and expanded by Blackstone Charitable Foundation, the program is currently available to more than 350,000 students at 15 colleges and universities nationwide. Since its establishment at Philadelphia University in February 2014, some 35 ventures have been advised, including Wash Cycle.