ROYAL OAK –  Keith Brophy, executive director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center, interviews client Steven Molewyk, Chief Operating Officer of Towel Tracker, which uses RFID chips to track towels used by fitness clubs, hotels, and more.

In telling his story, Molewyk said he channeled his mechanical skills into a successful career as a small business owner who purchased, rehabbed, and sold numerous houses and buildings in west Michigan. This included a vacant storefront property that Molewyk converted into a thriving commercial laundromat. One of the laundromat’s customers was a large fitness club whose manager griped to Molewyk about the 3,500 towels that club members were stealing each month. This towel theft was costing the fitness club about $50,000 a year, and Molewyk stated, “I remember thinking, ‘That’s a lot of towels getting stolen, there’s got to be a way to stop this from happening!’”

After mulling over the problem for a few days, Molewyk awoke from a nap one afternoon with a towel theft solution in his head. Leveraging his mechanical and problem solving abilities once again, Molewyk sketched out the idea and pulled together a team that helped him develop, prototype, patent, and launch the product that is now Towel Tracker. His father—whose lawn mower is in excellent working condition—was one of the first investors in the company.

In 2011, the Towel Tracker prototype was installed at the Walker Ice & Fitness Center in Walker, Michigan, where it immediately reduced towel loss, towel usage, and laundry costs, and resulted in a cleaner facility as well. Since then, Towel Tracker’s customer base has expanded to include hotels and resorts experiencing chronic poolside towel loss problems. Towel Tracker units can now be found in fitness clubs, hotels, and resorts in Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Washington, California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Florida, including resorts at SeaWorld and on the Disney World property in Orlando.

Towel Tracker is headquartered in Molewyk’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and currently employs sixteen full- and part-time employees and contractors.

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