Discover how the South Louisiana laundry-delivery startup found its way into the healthcare sector in the middle of a pandemic
“There’s no point looking back,” said Laurel Hess, founder and CEO of hampr. “Sure, we could’ve grown a lot faster and it wouldn’t have been as hard without COVID, but on the flip side, Presto wouldn’t exist without it.”
Most businesses and entrepreneurs have been impacted by COVID-19, and the marketer-turned-entrepreneur is no exception. From laundry delivery service to a healthcare vertical spinoff, Hess has had her fair share of pandemic pivots, but even through the ups and downs, she credits the South Louisiana community and its continuous support for their resilience. Over the past year, Hess and her team have been finding ways to keep her laundry-delivery dream alive while still catering to the community that she calls home.
Breaking The Cycle In South Louisiana
hampr, the app-based laundry delivery service, was created after the mom of two and former president of Rally Marketing returned from a business trip to a house filled with dirty laundry. That’s when it hit her—while there are apps for food and grocery delivery and home maintenance services, there are no similar offerings for laundry. Cue: hampr.
Officially founded in 2019, hampr is a membership-based system that allows users to place orders for their laundry to be picked up, washed, dried, folded and delivered back the next day. Lucky for her, Hess says she didn’t need to go far to find the perfect place for her startup.
“We have a burgeoning startup community in South Louisiana, and there’s a lot of support and incentives afforded to the companies that do business here,” says Hess. “From tax credits for engineering and development to rent and utility-free office space at Opportunity Machine, we’re lucky to have a network of support while we grow, and with the Computer Science department at UL Lafayette, we have a pipeline of really good talent available to us locally—we really didn’t need to go anywhere.”
hampr launched its first market in Lafayette, La., in January 2020 and traction out of the gate was huge. Then in March 2020, Louisiana issued a statewide stay-at-home order and hampr’s numbers took a major hit. Busy moms, the company’s target audience, were now stuck at home and no longer needed to outsource their laundry. The dream they worked so hard to make a reality came to a complete stop.
Sorting Out Life In a Global Pandemic
Knowing they needed to maintain momentum if they wanted to survive the pandemic, the hampr team went back to the drawing board.
Right before the shelter-in-place order, Ochsner Lafayette General had approached hampr looking for a partner to deliver prescriptions. In the midst of their very successful launch, Hess and her team felt a healthcare spinoff would prove too distracting for the laundry-focused company, but after the shutdown, the team took a closer look at their platform. That’s when they realized that what they really built was an ultra-scalable last-mile delivery platform designed to move things from A to B. Their flexible laundry solution was actually perfectly suited for a variety of use cases and would not take much refactoring for the healthcare sector.
In August 2020, hampr announced its partnership with Ochsner Lafayette General and launched Presto Health, an initiative which would start with prescription delivery services. With direction and support from the Ochsner Lafayette General team, the new division solves a problem that has previously plagued the healthcare industry and makes Presto’s delivery service unique by marrying technology and logistics. Previously, healthcare entities would license software companies that would then contract a third-party courier to pick up the item, but with Presto, entities only have to pay a delivery fee because they already employ drivers.
With the shift to value-based pricing and reimbursement models, healthcare systems like Ochsner Lafayette General have a vested interest in medication adherence to help prevent patient readmission. Hospital officials note that one of the biggest reasons patients don’t take their medications is lack of access to them in the first place—a barrier Ochsner Lafayette General and hampr hope to overcome with the Presto Health pilot program.
Presto Health prescription delivery service offers Ochsner Lafayette General patients discharged from its urgent cares, emergency rooms, clinics, and telemedicine visits the option to have their medications delivered from its outpatient pharmacy to their homes for free. The three-month pilot for Presto started in December 2020, but Hess hopes to roll out the service to the entire Ochsner system statewide in 2021.
As the healthcare sector continues to evolve at a rapid pace because of COVID-19, technology adoption rates are at an all-time high with record levels of early-stages startups, software, and tech emerging in this market.
“We’re really lucky that Ochsner Lafayette General is so focused on innovation because they invest in companies that are working to disrupt the healthcare space,” said Hess. “When you have a system that’s focused on finding those companies and helping them grow—not just by giving them capital but sweat equity, too—that’s huge. There’s not a lot of places like that. Healthcare is usually so slow to innovate but it’s that forward-thinking approach that makes such a big difference here in South Louisiana.”
No Throwing In The Towel
“I want hampr to become the national name in laundry—ubiquitous, like Uber or Shipt,” Hess said.
As of January 2021, hampr is in 10 markets across five states with plans to expand into 21 markets by the end of the year, and while prescription delivery may not have been her original goal, Hess says they also have plans to expand Presto into other health systems and services.
And they’re not slowing down anytime soon. Hess and her team are taking every opportunity to maximize the benefits of state and local resources designed to help startups like theirs grow and succeed. South Louisiana’s custom-tailored program packages highlight areas for growth with access to a network of mentors and resources while still taking into account their unique business needs. One of those programs is Louisiana Economic Development’s System for Integrated Growth® (SIG) which offered the hampr team access to business consultants they would not have been able to afford otherwise.
“We actually didn’t get in at first because we didn’t meet the revenue threshold, but LED believed in us and understood what we were trying to gain from the program so they let us in. The overwhelming support of the South Louisiana community has been such a major asset in opening doors and helping us get to where we are now,” said Hess.
Loads Of Opportunity In South Louisiana
This time last year feels like another lifetime ago. From the successful launch of her laundry-free dream to her pandemic-induced pivot into the healthcare sector, Hess says there’s no point in looking back.
We learned a lot. COVID forced all of us to slow down. Over the past year we were challenged more than ever before to have a deep understanding of why we were doing the things we were doing and it taught us to be smart about our choices.”
The land of red-hot opportunity, hampr is just one of our many success stories. South Louisiana is home to a legacy of makers, doers, creators and innovators. From small startups to global enterprises, the region’s business incentives and programs coupled with its passion for innovation offer a fertile foundation to grow, nurture, and sustain businesses. So whether your company is looking to expand, relocate, or grow, follow hampr’s lead and look no further than South Louisiana for the perfect place to thrive.