Last winter, Taylor Mitcham armed herself with waterless car wash products and microfiber towels to clean road salt and soot from her car.
A Penn State senior from Los Angeles, Mitcham knew what worked in sunny California, but she couldn’t predict what would do the job on her 2009 Toyota Corolla in blustery State College.
“I ordered a bunch of samples, because I didn’t know what would be best here because it’s so cold,” Mitcham said. “All of the samples froze except one, so that was exciting for me.”
Out of the moment, a business was born.
“I thought the only thing that would better is if someone had come to my apartment and did this for me,” she said. “The business sort of happened by accident.”
On Thursday, the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Mitcham’s new company, Simple Car Wash, took place at the Technology Center Building at Innovation Park.
“This is a dream come true for me, really, to have students like Taylor bringing their creativity and wonderful energy into the community,” State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham said at the ceremony. “She’s started something exciting, and that’s what I hope for, for all of our students to bring their ideas and skills into the community.”
Mitcham said her model for Simple Car Wash has remained the same since she came up with the idea. People can schedule appointments to have their car washed at home, work or anywhere else on simplewaterless.com.
“She’s come to my home, and it’s been very pleasant,” Sherry Dershimer, of State College, said. “I’m a full-time interior designer, so having her come to my home meant I could keep working without stopping.”
Mitcham said the car wash is as simple as her business plan.
“You spray it on, and it works on the interior and exterior,” Mitcham said. “It’s a liquid, 100 percent biodegradable, and you let it sit for a few seconds before you wipe it down with a microfiber towel. After that you buff and shine it with another microfiber towel.”
Mitcham went to Penn State’s Small Business Development Center in March to learn how to start the business. The center’s consultants knew her idea had potential.
“The SBDC does consulting for students during the academic year for them to stop and ask questions, and I thought Taylor’s idea was just too cool,” said Linda Feltman, the SBDC’s senior business consultant. “She saw a need and figured out how to solve a problem, and that is the mark of an entrepreneur.”
Feltman said Mitcham’s will to succeed was just as important as her unique idea.
“Taylor has a tenacious drive and is very bright,” Feltman said. “It seemed like no matter what I said and asked her to do she worked hard and came back with results.
“Taylor has been open to suggestions and did all of the research. She did everything right to ensure the business is on track to succeed. In her case, she hit upon something that is a need and that works for a hands-on tangible business, and it’s great.”
Feltman’s suggestions included networking with local businesses and groups that would be interested in the new venture — which is how Mitcham came into contact with ClearWater Conservancy.
“Taylor came to me and told me about her idea, and she is planning on a give-back program,” said Jennifer Shuey, executive director of ClearWater Conservancy. “For so many gallons that they save by doing waterless car washes, she’ll donate to a community cause, and we talked about ClearWater Conservancy being one of the recipients. It’s sort of a mutually beneficial promotion of work and ideas, and we like to support win-win types of opportunities.”
Mitcham said watching her parents rise in their careers partly provided the inspiration to start the car wash business.
“My dad is the CEO of a paper manufacturer, and I saw him climb up the corporate ladder,” Mitcham said. “Seeing that and seeing my mom go from a captain to a lieutenant colonel (in the Army) shows that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from. It’s all about working hard, doing things the right way and being a good person to get where you want to be.”