Women in Laundry: Interview with Lauren Schultz, Vice President of Midwest Laundries
With solid experience and growing success under her belt, Lauren Schultz, vice president of Midwest Laundries, the family-owned distribution company based in Chicago, credits her grandfather and great uncle for her entrepreneurial ambitions and her flourishing laundry career.
“My family has been in the laundry industry for generations,” shared Lauren. “My Grandpa and his brother co-owned multiple stores throughout the Chicago area starting in the late 1950s. While they never ventured into the distribution side of the business, entrepreneurship was modeled in our family.”
Midwest Laundries is the brainchild of Lauren’s brother Jim. That a-ha moment came while Jim was manager of a Laundromat and found he needed to replace some old washers.
“It was then and there he saw the value in rebuilding and reselling them,” recalled Lauren. “After rebuilding those two used 50-pound washers in a garage in Chicago in the middle of winter, there was nothing holding us back. Things really blossomed from there.”
Midwest Laundries past and present
Just like her brother, Lauren also was a Laundromat manager; for two Laundromats on Chicago’s North side while she attended college. Upon graduation, Lauren thought partnering with her brother was a smart move.
“At that time, the economy was collapsing and the idea of working for someone else wasn’t very appealing to me,” mused Lauren. “I was certainly familiar with the industry and always had confidence in my brother’s vision, and our ability to build something together.”
However, the year prior to starting a full-time career with Midwest Laundries, Lauren landed a position in the music industry for a digital distribution and marketing company.
“I love music and have always played multiple instruments,” she said. “My dream job was to be a music supervisor, which is the person that adds music to films and television. I thought it offered the perfect blend of using my creativity and business skills.”
That experience was more impactful than its brief time suggests, according to Lauren. “I got to be part of an industry as it grappled with the emergence of new technologies that threatened to eliminate its longstanding revenue streams,” she said. “Observing how companies responded to that shift was a great education. It drove home the importance of openness and how complacency is the enemy of longevity.”
Lauren took that education and joined Jim in her current role of vice president, focusing on growing the team and the business.
“My day-to-day focus is on marketing and branding,” explained Lauren. “From idea to design to execution, I’ve handled nearly everything related to our marketing in-house. As we grow, I lean more on a talented group of freelancers, which enables me to work on longer term growth strategies.”
When the siblings first joined forces in 2007, Midwest Laundries was solely a used laundry-equipment company before branching out in new directions. In 2017, Lauren and Jim’s brother Chris joined the growing company as the director of operations after spending almost 10 years as an electrician foreman.
“I couldn’t be more proud of how much we accomplished in such a short while,” Lauren shared.
Lauren also takes pride in the Midwest Laundries team and the culture of the organization. “I believe that our employees and our common goal of providing superior customer care and quality work is the basis for every success we’ve had to date,” said Lauren.
The Electrolux brand adds value to Midwest Laundries’ client relationships
Midwest Laundries is always looking for ways to add value to the relationships with their clients beyond the sale of equipment.
“Our partnership with Laundrylux, the exclusive North American supplier of Electrolux professional equipment, and the Electrolux brand itself, allows us to bring value to our customers on a larger scale,” remarked Lauren.
For instance, with customer offerings like Laundrylux Creative Services, Midwest Laundries can provide clients with even more resources to help them build and market modern, successful, and professionally operated businesses.
“Additionally, Electrolux professional equipment offers exciting technology specifically for the laundry owner and technology that is marketable to laundromat customers,” Lauren said.
Technology that enables extremely low water and energy consumption, for instance, as well as the LaundryPulse and LaundryPay programs that make both owning and going to the laundromat a simple process.
“Laundrylux Creative Services and the Electrolux brand help our clients differentiate their stores from their competitors.”
Success tips and thoughts from Lauren Schultz
Take care of your employees. If you want your employees to deliver a quality product and take care of your customers, you must first take care of your employees. It sounds extremely obvious, but I put a lot of effort into figuring out what that looks like in the everyday practice of running a business.
Be confident and knowledgeable. Not only has being a woman affected my position but being a young woman has even more so. I was in my early 20s when we started. It’s still often assumed that I’m an assistant or receptionist or in some other type of support role. I used to get frustrated, but I’ve learned to accept that I can’t control another person’s bias. Being confident and knowledgeable goes a long way in challenging someone’s assumptions.
Words of advice. Well, my 12-year-old self would be pretty surprised to find out what she ends up being when she grows up. But on a serious note, I’d tell her and others to follow every curiosity and don’t be intimidated. There’s no reason to assume everyone else knows more than you. So far, every mistake I’ve made was survivable.
What’s next? My focus is on improving and expanding Midwest Laundries, especially in new store development. I think we are just scratching the surface of what we envision for the company. I’m excited to build on our wins and to be a part of this industry for a long time.
Midwest Laundries is a leading distributor of Electrolux vended and commercial laundry equipment in the Chicago area. Their goal is simple: to make researching and buying or leasing commercial laundry equipment a simple, straightforward, and enjoyable process. For more information call 773-538-7892 or email sales@MidWestLaundries.com today.