“Focus on the team first, then the customer, then the investor and expect from your team what you expect from yourself. You can achieve a lot, but you are only human” – Dr. Kyle Grant
Each year the £70bn garment care industry emits 265,000 tonnes of CO2 in the UK releases 14,000 tons of microfibres into the sea, and uses 42% of drinking water while adding toxic chemicals to the water system. Two Oxford graduates, Dr Kyle Grant, a former NASA scientist, and Engineer Tom de Wilton intend to change all of that having founded Oxwash as an environmentally friendly commercial laundry service. The start-up uses next generation ozone technology to clean fabrics at low temperatures and biodegradable chemistry formulations to disinfect clothes while it is also investing in acoustic drying, which uses sound waves rather than heat to dry clothing.
When founded in Oxford in 2018, the initial version of Oxwash involved Kyle riding around the town on his bicycle collecting, in his backpack, washing from fellow students who test marketed the service. The results were positive. Interest grew and as Kyle says, “Soon people started calling, emailing and jumping out in front of our bikes asking for our service”. So, they joined the prestigious Oxford Founders Factory accelerator programme and set up their first outlet, Oxford Lagoon, with £350,000 pre-seed funding. Now they have three outlets in Oxford, Cambridge and London having raised £1.74 million seed investment in 2020, and a further £2.08 million in June 2021. They recycle the water between washes, prevent 95% of plastic microfibres entering the sea and use a fleet of electric cargo bikes and vans to collect and return the laundry. Despite the pandemic, in 2021 they saved 27,823 kg of CO2, and 744,000 litres of drinking water while preventing 22 billion micro plastics from entering the sea.
Having raised a funding total of £15.7 million they intend to use this to expand their software capability and to grow the business, expanding its 80 existing staff members by some 50%. Although to date they have focussed on the U.K. market where they have several hundred business users and 20,000+ private customers, they do have plans to expand into Europe and the USA. First, though, they intend to build a giant centralised washing facility in the UK to service clients from anywhere in the country
In 2021, they partnered with Reckitt the producers of Vanish, a global stain remover. This has given them access to Reckitt’s Research and Development, consumer insights and marketing expertise and already they are “dreaming up more big ideas with Vanish that could change the whole game”. According to the Global Category Director at Vanish, Paola Abelaez, “Through this partnership we hope to enhance the Oxwash model and continue sharing our deep expertise in cleaning science, consumer understanding and sustainability to further impact the laundry and circular fashion space”.
Though only 2 years old, in 2020 Oxwash won the CINET Best Practice Award and at the 2020 U.K. Sustainability Awards, the Best Carbon Footprint Award. In July 2022 it achieved B-Corp status with a score of 94.8 (minimum 80). As Kyle says “B-Corp accreditation cements our commitment to responsible business and is another assurance to our customers that we are doing business the right way!”
In August 2022 it was announced that Oxwash had quadrupled its revenue in the past 12 months and had achieved operational profitability. Thus, when coupled with the fact that it is a Living Wage employer, paying its staff above the Government minimum, it is very much a harmonious enterprise in which profit, people and planet are in Harmony. In terms of the UN’s SDGs it addresses 13 (Climate Action), 14 (Life Below Water), 15 (Life on Land), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 3 (Good Health and Well-being) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
As the Chief People and Person Officer on Virgin’s V Team, Holly Branson, has observed “The growth of Oxwash shows just how much appetite there is from consumers and investors alike to support sustainable and purpose-driven businesses“.
The Successful Founder (2022): Meet the Successful Founder: Dr. Kyle Grant Founder and CEO of Oxwash. The Successful Founder.com. April
Vanish UK (2021) Oxwash partners with Vanish Uk. https://www.vanish.co.uk
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Impressive credentials for a new business venture. A Founder with a vision