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Student entrepreneur starts sustainable business

Senior student using waterless car wash
Taylor Mitcham demonstrates her waterless car wash system with a buff and shine. Image: MomentImagery.com
November 11, 2014

Inspiration can strike any time or place.

Taylor Mitcham, a senior in mining engineering, was not looking to start a business last winter. Her car needed a wash but as a busy college student, Mitcham didn’t want to waste time sitting in a tunnel car wash. However, she didn’t have a hose at her apartment to clean it herself. She became determined to find a more cost and time efficient way to clean her car.

Mitcham knew about waterless carwashes from living in Los Angeles and decided to test the concept out for herself in State College. She ordered samples of different waterless carwash solutions and when she found one that didn’t freeze in the cold State College winter, she tried it on her car.

“I was about halfway done and seeing some really good results when I paused and thought ‘Man, I wish someone could just come here and do this for me,’” said Mitcham.

The idea was simple. By using only the biodegradable carwash solution and some microfiber cloths, Mitcham could provide clients with an affordable, scratch-free wash and wax for their vehicles wherever they were parked. The business would save her customers time and save the environment from the chemical runoff and wasted water of a traditional carwash.

In March, Mitcham took her idea for the Simple Car Wash to the free consulting hours offered by Penn State’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Nittany Consulting Group in Kunkle Lounge to get opinions on the feasibility of her business idea.

“I thought Taylor’s idea was great,” said Linda Feltman, SBDC senior business consultant for student entrepreneurship. “She saw a need and figured out how to solve a problem in a way that works for a tangible, hands-on business.”Ribbon cutting with mayor and student

Encouraged, Mitcham began working with the SBDC toward launching her business. She credits the SBDC with helping her figure out problems about additional licenses, tax information and whether to hire people as independent contractors or actual employees. The SBDC also connected Mitcham with local businesses and organizations such as ClearWater Conservancy to benefit from Simple Car Wash’s Operation 1 for 100 initiative, where for every 100 gallons of water saved by her waterless car washes, Mitcham will donate a dollar to a partnered cause.

“I created Operation 1 for 100 because I wanted to become more a part of the Centre County community, not just as a business but also as a citizen. It’s good to give back,” said Mitcham.

Students washing carMitcham is working with Happy Valley Communications and a marketing class in the Smeal College of Business to promote her services to students and she’ll partner with more members of the community for fundraising events. She might even license out her brand, as she has already been contacted by businesses and individuals along the East Coast who are interested in using the Simple Car Wash name and logo for their own waterless carwashes.

During Global Entrepreneurship Week at Penn State (Nov. 16-20), Mitcham will share her story of innovation and motivation at the Student Entrepreneurship Panel Discussion at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17, in Carnegie Building Auditorium. Seating is limited.

To get started on your own business idea, contact the SBDC at 814-863-4293 or request assistance online.

This is the final story in a four-part series about topics every aspiring student entrepreneur should know. The monthly series was written by Penn State Outreach News Bureau intern Dane Vanover and is a service of Penn State’s Small Business Development Center.

 

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