The Chatter

Maryland Natives Design On-Demand Car Wash Service

SpotWash received $100,000 grant from Emerging Technology Centers.

How much do you value an hour of your time? Two hours? Electric scooter companies like Lime and Bird offer an expedited way to get from Point A to B, where a walk that might take 20 minutes gets cut in half. Taking an Uber or Lyft can improve commute times. These apps offer steps for eliminating the minutiae of everyday life. Out of sight, out of mind isn’t just an expression—it’s the goal.

Maryland natives Freddie Ephraim and Mike Laroque have taken this idea and applied it to what usually occupies the top line of a weekend chores list: the car wash. With SpotWash, by simply downloading an app, you can schedule a car wash while you’re sleeping or while you’re at work. “We designed it where you basically have to do nothing,” Ephraim says. “That’s the whole goal.”

Ephraim and Laroque are quick to credit Accelerate Baltimore and the Emerging Technology Centers, which, according to its website, is committed to providing a “nurturing, innovative, and transformative experience for technology-focused entrepreneurs who are passionate about their businesses, motivated to succeed and committed to making a difference.” Accelerate is an incubator within ETC that allows entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas in exchange for consulting and counseling, and the chance to win $100,000 in funding. SpotWash received that funding, and its founders say that the program and its people are “everything you need them to be.”

Two friends who’ve known each other since they were 14, the duo got the idea for SpotWash when Ephraim returned from a trip in Dubai and noticed a similar concept. Neither has a background in the car wash business, but both have business experience of one kind or another. “It was nothing more than spending a lot of time together and formulating a process,” says Ephraim, who helped start Charm City Helicopters with his wife, who owns the business. The two recognized the annoyances of braving the lines and the assembly-line backdrop of a brick and mortar car wash and sought to eradicate it.

SpotWash is not dissimilar to ride-sharing or electric scooter apps. Ephraim and Laroque don’t shy away from the gig economy label either. Each of their employees are like an Uber driver, showing up to wash your car at a designated chosen time. With an apartment building, users simply leave their keys in a bin and let the process happen. The two prioritize background checks and don’t hire anyone with a criminal record, acknowledging the inherent value a car holds and the need to ensure safety.

The company has partnered with dozens of buildings in the Baltimore area and have received more than 1,000 downloads in 10 months. They have a proof of concept, but the issue, as it always is with services of this nature, is gaining an entry point and marketing the idea. “We’re selling you time,” Ephraim says. “We’re not just selling you a wash.” It’s a succinct summary that gets to the heart of why the two feel their service is worth the $39 dollars it will cost you for a full interior and exterior wash—$45 if you own an SUV.

Being eco-friendly is also a priority for the company: each wash uses about a pint of water per car. SpotWash instead uses an American-made product they buy that gets the job done. Ephraim and Laroque insist that this doesn’t affect the quality of the wash and estimate that they are saving over 100 gallons of water with each wash.

As for the future, there are plans to extend into Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.—word of mouth among developers and real estate companies travels fast. If all goes well, SpotWash hopes it can become the next great timesaver.

“[Baltimore] is a relatively smaller city, and not many people think to come to Baltimore to start a startup or a company in general,” Laroque says. “In the past, Baltimore has kind of gotten a bad rap. But I think it’s a great place to start and grind your teeth and figure out what you’re doing wrong and adjust. We’re new to the scene. I know [the community] is a pretty tight knit group of people that are always together and they help one another.”