Simple Car Wash

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Taylor Mitcham’s car was dirty. It was the middle of winter, and she was living in an apartment that had no access to a hose and no detailing supplies on hand. She knew that her only option was to drive across town to a commercial car wash.

Taylor, a senior in Mining Engineering at Penn State, had lived for most of her life in Los Angeles where waterless car washes are commonplace. She started researching the biodegradable cleaning solutions used in these washes, and ordered over thirty samples – ostensibly to wash her car for free.  She quickly discovered that of the samples, only two did not freeze. Then, as she started cleaning her car, friends asked her what she was doing. One thing led to another, and she realized that no one was offering this service in the State College area.

Taylor has positioned Simple Car Wash as a convenient way to have a car cleaned since Taylor’s  "wash engineers" can show up anywhere from a driveway to a workplace to a parking garage. The car owner saves time because the service comes to them as long as it is not raining or snowing. As important as the convenience is the water that is saved: a typical car wash may use over one hundred gallons of water and may create harmful run-off of chemicals and solvents.

In March of 2014, Taylor reached out to the Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) by stopping in at their on-campus walk-in office hours at Kunkle Lounge. She discussed her business idea with a consultant from the SBDC and a representative of the Nittany Consulting Group.

The SBDC helped Taylor navigate the maze of legal and tax issues that she would need to address. She formed a Limited Liability Company, obtained an Employer’s Identification Number, and a Pennsylvania Sales and Use Tax License.      

Taylor officially launched Simple Car Wash in July 2014, offering her services to other Penn State students and residents in the State College area. Since there is no bricks-and mortar storefront, she needed to be creative in ways to market her business. The SBDC helped her organize a grand opening ribbon cutting event that was held outside the SBDC offices. At the ribbon cutting, Taylor and a few of her wash engineers cleaned a SBDC staff vehicle from front to back to demonstrate the results. When the local press asked her how safe the product was, Taylor demonstrated her confidence in her product by drinking some of the solution on camera. The polymers in the formula lift the dirt from the surface of the car which wipes to a clean and shiny finish with no scratches. It then protects a car’s exterior from building up dirt and gathering dust faster than traditional methods.

The ribbon cutting led to significant press exposure for Taylor’s business; calls began coming in from car owners all over Pennsylvania wondering if she offered her services in their areas. The SBDC is helping her explore the possibility of  licensing her concept.   

To further help the community, Taylor started Operation $1 for 100, where she donates $1 for every 100 gallons of water that she saves to the Clearwater Conservancy, a State College based resource conservation organization.