By Katie Aldridge
Self-proclaimed “Kobe and Shaq” of the business world, former college roommates Jeffrey Caldwell and Charles Wheeler are the co-owners of Tumble, an on-demand dry cleaning and laundry service that serves the Dayton Region.
Jeffrey and Charles won the Launch Dayton Startup Week Pitch Competition and are members of the current Early Risers Academy tech cohort, a 10-week business-building bootcamp powered by Launch Dayton partner Parallax Advanced Research.
We recently caught up with Jeffrey to learn more about Tumble and his Academy experience.
Launch Dayton: How did your company start?
Jeffrey: Our company started our senior year at Miami University. Charles had just gotten home from a busy night working for Oxford to You, which is almost like UberEATS local to the Oxford area. He got home and he still had laundry to do; I was in the living room, working on laundry myself, and watching an NBA basketball game. Charles had the bright idea, what if there was a company or business that took care of our laundry — picked it up, did it all, and dropped it back off to us? I thought, that’s a great idea, & that could be us! We took off from there and got our LLC together February of this year.
Why this industry?
One of the funny things we learned out of doing the Wright State University pitch competition was that one of the judges, their grandparents were in the laundry business. They said that they went through world wars and the Great Depression, and their laundry business was able to remain stable. It got them and their family through the Depression. I think back to that as it’s one of those businesses that is depression-proof. People are always going to need clothes, and clean clothes at that. It makes the industry that much more important and essential.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
Yes, I’ve always wanted to have my own business. I always think about if the little kid version of me could see me now, I know he’d be smiling from ear to ear. I remember as a kid going out and cleaning people’s attics and garages, selling stuff on eBay, or trading Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and Pokémon cards to find the most collectable ones and selling those. I’ve always been a hustler, and the entrepreneur spirit is definitely in me.
What identities do you bring to entrepreneurship that helped prepare you for this lifestyle?
I would say my resiliency, grit, and hard work. Without those, where do you get in life? There are going to be times where your back is against the wall, or something doesn’t work out the way you want it to, and you’re going to have to use all three of those in order to figure a way out or to put a positive spin on it.
Why do you love what you do?
I love the ability to be my own boss, which is what everyone always says, and it’s cliché, but it’s a really great feeling. The other part I love is teaching other kids that look like me that you can go out and own your own business — you can get in front of other people that might not look like you or talk the same way you do, but you should still feel comfortable enough to pitch your business idea. If it’s something that is really good, it’ll connect to everybody no matter race, ethnicity, greed, all that stuff.
How can the Launch Dayton community support you?
The best way they can support us is by getting the word out there. Let everybody in Dayton know that we have our own on-demand laundry and dry-cleaning service. If we can let people know that we’re here, we’re trying to stay around for as long as we can. In addition to that, go ahead and join Tumble Prime! We have a subscription service that I use myself and I would recommend anyone else to go ahead and use. If you really don’t like doing laundry and you want to spend time doing stuff that you enjoy, I would highly recommend doing that!
Curious if Early Risers Academy might be a fit for you? Learn more here, and sign up for one of Launch Dayton’s 2022 cohorts!
Our entrepreneur and small business coverage is powered by Launch Dayton, an organization that seeks to connect entrepreneurs to peers, resources and supporters while telling the story of the region's thriving entrepreneurial community.