Doin' Time

D. J. Waldow, B-School Cleaners

Because both D.J. Waldow and his partner, Matt Campbell, are undergraduates at one of the nation's leading universities, resolving the issue of part time or full time was a breeze. Waldow, 21, runs a dry-cleaning service from the student lounge at the University of Michigan Business School in Ann Arbor. "My classes definitely come first, so it's strictly a part-time business for now," he says.

One of the most appealing aspects of Waldow and Campbell's business is that it doesn't require a significant time commitment. Because they don't do any of the actual dry cleaning themselves, they have ample free time to tend to their studies. They've subcontracted with a local dry cleaner who picks up, cleans and returns all the clothing to them at their on-campus business space. So the process of operating their dry-cleaning service is quite efficient: University students, faculty and staff drop off clothing during specified hours, and pick it up during the same hours a few days later; Waldow and Campbell primarily fill out invoices, collect money and promote their service around campus.

As a business-school student, Waldow's primary goal when starting this business was to acquire hands-on professional experience to complement his classroom learning. Another goal was to ensure that this work did not interfere with either his or Campbell's education. "There was never a question about whether we would run this business full time or part time, because full time was not a realistic possibility," Waldow says. "Matt and I both have classes most of the day, so we decided to operate the business during the free time we have in common, which is the time slot in the middle of the day."

To get started, Waldow and Campbell chose to restrict their business hours to a few hours per day on a few days per week. By year's end, they hope to increase those hours and the number of days each week their doors are open for business. "We wanted to limit our hours, initially, to see how the business would go over," Waldow says. "Since things have been going so well, we're looking at expanding our hours soon, based on the needs of the customer. I'm very optimistic about the future."

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This article was originally published in the October 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Doin' Time.

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