now in Hou

Laundry startup unfolds new service in Houston

Hampr Lite will give Houstonians a taste of what it's laundry service is like. Image courtesy of Hampr

As Laurel Hess sat on a video call with a board member for her startup laundry service, a pile of laundry was peeking behind her.

“How can you have clothes piling up while owning a laundry business?” they asked.

Hess coolly replied, “Because laundry just doesn’t stop. It’s literally always there.”

Hampr is a hyper-local laundry and pick-up service that is connected and operated through an online app. The Lafayette-based company, which identified Houston as an early test market, links people who are in need of pick-up and wash laundry services with people in the local communities who are seeking work without leaving home.

A majority of the “washrs” who Hampr employs are stay-at-home parents and retirees who are looking for fast and steady work.

“People tend to think that we are this big national brand, but we are actually working with people in your market and you’re helping them by outsourcing your laundry,” says Hess, Hampr's foudner and CEO. “By using our service, you’re making a difference in the lives of the people who live in your community. It’s neighbors helping neighbors.”

The biggest challenge for the startup was finding the right network and getting investor interest. Hampr was part of the TechStars Austin Accelerator program and that helped expand their network and spring boarded the company on to a more national platform.

“Probably breaking out of the ecosystem was our biggest challenge that we faced,” Hess says. “Because there’s not a lot of peer-to-peer marketplace companies in Lafayette, Louisiana.”

Laurel Hess is the founder and CEO of Hampr. Photo courtesy of Hampr

Hess started the company in January 2020 and began pushing into new markets at the height of the pandemic. Hampr launched into its second market, Baton Rouge, the day that the shutdown happened.

“At first, we were a little nervous. The capital that we were raising had kind of gone away,” Hess says. “Investors were getting a little bit weary of what was going to happen.”

Two things then were true – Hampr didn’t have a lot of capital, but it also had demand in Houston – specifically The Woodlands/Kingwood area, as well as demand in DFW and New Orleans. Hess and her team then made the decision to launch in those markets, relying only on the people they knew in those areas and without any capital expenses.

“We had to do a lot with little – we didn’t have a whole lot of runway left,” she says.

Hess and her team began securing investors through their current networks in places like Houston. Then, a few months into the pandemic, they partnered with a health system to borrow the Hampr technology for PrestoHealth, a platform that delivers prescriptions. By harnessing the technology for another use, it became a way to earn more income for Hampr and they were able to launch into more new markets very quickly.

“The model itself is pretty solid and is deceptively simple,” Hess says. “Our COO in Houston grew the area without any capital investment. That’s how we were able to grow and survive the pandemic. And then once kids started back at school in August, things got crazy again and the laundry side started to pick up.”

The platform, which starts at $39 a year, is available Houston, Tomball, Conroe, The Woodlands, Kingwood as well as San Antonio, Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Jackson, Miss., Mobile, Alab., Jacksonville, Fla., Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina, Phoenix, Ariz., and Denver, Colo.

This week, the company rolled out a new service called Hampr Lite, where customers can pay a little more per load but can use it as an entry point into the platform without a full-year commitment. The service is available in some of its markets, including Houston.

“It’s kind of amazing because once you realize how much mental gymnastics that laundry takes from your weekend. You start to see what you can accomplish when you’re not worried about moving clothes from the washer to the dryer,” she says. “Then you realize there’s so much more room in your life for activities.”

Hampr gives stay-at-home parents or retirees an income option. Photo courtesy of Hampr

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Building Houston

 
 

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Zimri Hinshaw of BUCHA BIO, Kelly Klein of Easter Seals of Greater Houston, ad John Mooz of Hines. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from esports to biomaterials — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Zimri Hinshaw, CEO of BUCHA BIO

Zimri T. Hinshaw, CEO of BUCHA BIO, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss how he's planning to scale his biomaterials startup to reduce plastic waste. Photo courtesy of BUCHA BIO

After raising a seed round of funding, BUCHA BIO is gearing up to move into its new facility. The biomaterials company was founded in New York City in 2020, but CEO Zimri T. Hinshaw shares how he started looking for a new headquarters for the company — one that was more affordable, had a solid talent pool, and offered a better quality of life for employees. He narrowed it down from over 20 cities to two — San Diego and Houston — before ultimately deciding on the Bayou City.

Since officially relocating, Hinshaw says he's fully committed to the city's innovation ecosystem. BUCHA BIO has a presence at the University of Houston, Greentown Labs, and the East End Maker Hub — where the startup is building out a new space to fit the growing team.

"By the end of this month, our laboratories will be up and running, we'll have office space adjacent, as well as chemical storage," Hinshaw says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. Listen to the episode and read more.

Kelly Klein, development director of Easter Seals Greater Houston

A nonprofit organization has rolled out an esports platform and event to raise awareness and funding for those with disabilities. Photo via Easter Seals

For many video games is getaway from reality, but for those with disabilities — thanks to a nonprofit organization —gaming can mean a lot more. On Saturday Dec. 3 — International Day of Persons with Disabilities — from 1 to 9 pm, Easter Seals Greater Houston will be joining forces with ES Gaming for the inaugural Game4Access Streamathon.

Gaming helps enhance cognitive skills, motor skills, improve mental well-being, and can help reduce feelings of social isolation due to the interactive nature of playing with others.

“This is really a unique way for (people) to form a community without having to leave their house, and being part of an inclusive environment,” says Kelly Klein, development director of Easter Seals Greater Houston. ”The adaptive equipment and specialized technology just does so many miraculous things for people with disabilities on so many levels — not just gaming. With gaming, it is an entrance into a whole new world.” Read more.

John Mooz, senior managing director at Hines

Levit Green has announced its latest to-be tenant. Photo courtesy

Levit Green, a 53-acre mixed-use life science district next to the Texas Medical Center and expected to deliver this year, has leased approximately 10,000 square feet of commercial lab and office space to Sino Biological Inc. The Bejing-based company is an international reagent supplier and service provider. Houston-based real estate investor, development, and property manager Hines announced the new lease in partnership with 2ML Real Estate Interests and Harrison Street.

“Levit Green was meticulously designed to provide best-in-class life science space that can accommodate a multitude of uses. Welcoming Sino Biological is a testament to the market need for sophisticated, flexible space that allows diversified firms to perform a variety of research,” says John Mooz, senior managing director at Hines, in a press release. “Sino is an excellent addition to the district’s growing life science ecosystem, and we look forward to supporting their continued growth and success.” Read more.Read more.

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