Women’s History Month: Interview with Laundré Owner Ariana Roviello
All month long we are applauding the women who, thanks to their ingenuity and fortitude, are making their entrepreneurial mark on the laundry industry. Exemplifying these inspiring characteristics is San Francisco’s Laundré founder Ariana Roviello, the one-time fashion student who took the “laundry meets eatery” concept and brought it to life in San Francisco.
Ariana’s interest in the laundry business first began in the most unlikely of places – at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in San Francisco. It was in a business class where she was challenged with creating a unique business model.
“Laundromats were at the top of my mind,” laughs Ariana. “When I moved to San Francisco for college, I had to use them. It was a pretty rude awakening to go from your parents’ in-house laundry room to doing your laundry in a dirty, unsafe environment. The class assignment allowed me to put my laundromat wants and wishes into a concrete, workable business plan. And that’s how I came up with my initial idea for Laundré.”
The winding road from creative concept to tangible reality
After graduating from FIDM, Ariana decided to follow her passion for clothing and design rather than embark on a laundry career, and soon landed a position in the buying department of a large fashion retailer.
However, about a year in, Ariana decided the fashion profession wasn’t for her after all. She chose to leave her job and take time to figure out her next move.
“During this stretch, I kept coming back to my Laundré concept and the fact that there were still no great laundromat options in the area,” shares Ariana. “That’s when I focused my efforts on learning more about the business – and got hooked.”
Research, research, research
As Ariana dove into her research, she discovered many beneficial resources – from reading industry publications to investigating other laundromats with creative offerings.
“Immersing myself this way was time well spent,” explains Ariana. “It’s incredibly valuable getting information from laundromat owners, as well as learning about trends in the industry and in commercial laundry equipment. Doing your research is a must for anyone interested in getting into this industry.”
Another indispensable source of expertise came from local distributor, Golden State Laundry. In business since 1954, Golden State’s wealth of knowledge and experience impressed Ariana.
“Golden State Laundry was a real find,” says Ariana. “The team at Golden State are very interactive and made sure that I always had what I needed. They guided me in the right direction on equipment mix, layout, and installation. Today, they continue to give me great service and I am very happy with the relationship we’ve built over the last couple of years.”
Choosing Electrolux Professional Equipment was key
During her initial research, Ariana scrutinized all of her equipment choices to figure out which brand of machine was right for her. “I wanted top-of-the-line, eco-friendly equipment that also had modern integrated technologies,” she shares. “I eventually zeroed in on Electrolux Professional.”
“After learning more and more about what Electrolux machines could offer, I was floored,” she exclaims. “Maximum water, energy, and time savings, increased productivity, easy operation and text messaging features – all while turning out the best laundry results, load after load. It was the only logical choice.”
Becoming part of the community
The clean and open 5,000-square foot space, housed in San Francisco’s hip Mission District, has an ultra-modern feel. In addition to wash-and-fold services and free eco-friendly soap with every wash, Laundré offers a delectable selection of coffee, lattes, and teas as well as delicious goods such as Brioche Toast, Grilled Cheese on thick sliced country bread and Chia Seed Pudding.
There are other laundries around the world and in the United States that have combined a cafe and laundry, or offer other activities, but not many. It’s still a very different concept. And Ariana is the first to admit, laundry and coffee are two very different types of businesses and it’s a daily challenge making sure they both remain cohesive.
“We’re doing better with that every day,” says Ariana. “And the community is responding in such a positive way.”
Another distinction that Laundré enjoys is that it has a diverse group of laundry customers.
“I’m very proud that we serve a wide spectrum of people,” says Ariana. “Young couples, large families, and everything in-between; all do their wash with us. After all, laundromats are the great equalizer – everyone has to wash their clothes.”
In keeping with her personal motto of “Encourage everyone to succeed,” here are Ariana’s rules for success.
Ariana Roviello’s rules for success
- Create a schedule. Every day I arrive at the store around 7:30am to prep for our 8am opening. I catch up on emails and place orders for the week. Then I process wash-and-fold orders. In the afternoons, I work in the café and then head back to the laundromat to make sure everything is work’n and wash’n.’
- Interact with customers. I try to have as much customer interaction as possible. I want to understand my customers’ wants and needs so that Laundré can keep evolving.
- Know what you want. The planning and research phases are critical. Have the courage to implement your ideas even if they aren’t mainstream. Especially if they aren’t!
- Ask for help. Which may be hard for some women since we often tend to take on other people’s responsibilities or may feel intimidated, but asking for help will save you time and headaches. I guarantee you, anyone – man or woman – venturing into this business needs expert advice and guidance.
- Persist. I never took my eye off of the end goal and I’m proud how the concept turned out. I think success can be an ever-moving target, so I focus on appreciating what I’ve done up until this point as much as possible.
Laundré, located at 2401 Mission Street, San Francisco, California, aims to make laundry less of a chore while providing a space that welcomes creativity, work, and people. It also boasts a 4.9-star restaurant review from Zagat.
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