Student creates virtually waterless car wash
One student founded a company where car washes that use gallons of water are a thing of the past.
Rhett Barker, senior marketing major, launched a company last summer called Flipside Mobile Car Wash with his business partner Caleb Young.
The company is an on-demand, full-service and virtually waterless mobile car detailing company. Barker said his company is built to add convenience to people’s lives by allowing customers to order car washes through its website or app.
Barker said because the washes are done by hand, they are of higher quality while also only using 2 to 4 ounces of water compared to the average car wash that uses around 80 gallons of water. When he started his company, Barker said he didn’t realize the environmental impact his business could have.
“We’re kind of disrupting the carwash industry by almost acting as global ambassadors of the water crisis,” Barker said.
The company partners with hotels, country clubs, restaurants and apartment complexes. He said the company is currently beta-testing residential markets in northern Indianapolis, which will eventually be the most prominent area of focus for the company.
Barker said the company will have its own line of waterless carwash solution coming out in the spring to help procure that residential market, and despite the company still being young, it has experienced significant growth.
Barker decided to send a bid to the annual Texas Christian University Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, after he received an email from Krystal Geyer, the assistant director of Ball State Entrepreneurship Center.
Geyer said she heavily encourages students to participate in as many competitions as possible in order to put themselves out there, whether they’re accepted into the competition or not.
“It’s kind of low-hanging fruit for student entrepreneurs,” Geyer said. “It’s a chance to gain early investments and validations for their concept.”
Barker said when he filed the bid, he did not realize the true scope of the competition. Top winners could earn cash prizes up to tens-of-thousands of dollars to go toward a group’s company or project. Barker said more than 900 schools applied to the competition and only 55 groups were selected.
“We didn’t realize we’re going to be competing against literally, like, the top undergrad entrepreneurs from around the world,” Barker said. “It’s really cool to see Ball State up in the ranks with these insanely prestigious schools.”
At the competition, he said it was great to be around students from schools all over the world who have come together for the same goal: to create and pitch ideas that can benefit society in one way or another.
“Every single one of us shared the same values. All of us were just driven to benefit society in some way,” Barker said. “I’m really excited about what’s to come in the future.”
Barker said his presentation went well, with many judges and venture capitalists interested in Flipside. However Barker said his chances of reaching the final round were small because his company was already making money.
Still, Barker said being able to network and meet people interested in the company was a worthwhile experience.
“By the time we took off from Indy’s airport to the time we came home, we were constantly networking with people,” Barker said “People have already started reaching out to us wanting to bring our service to a new area. It was a great, awesome weekend for Flipside and both myself and my partner in general.”
Theodore Baker, executive director of Innovation Connector and instructor of entrepreneurship, said he first took notice of Barker in class. From there, Barker and Baker shared ideas on Flipside and Baker said he noticed Barker “gets it” when it comes to this area of business.
“Not every college student is building a business of their own while they’re in school,” Baker said. “It can go big really quick if he really wants it to. He’s not been afraid to try things, but he’s also not been afraid to get people to listen to him.”
Baker said through Innovation Connector, Barker has been able to connect with the entrepreneurial community as well as pitch competitions at the university. Barker also was the first presenter at the university chapter of 1 Million Cups, a nationwide organization for entrepreneurial pitches and activities.
“I’ve had a great interest in seeing how resources at the Innovation Connector or what I do at Ball State could help him out and help him grow what he’s doing,” Baker said.