Lave Wash Laundry Delivery is a small, eco-friendly, family-owned business operating out of Fairfield, California. While they have recently lost many business clients to coronavirus shutdowns, Lave continues to service a core of elderly and disabled clients that depend on Lave for clean clothes. For many of these clients, doing laundry is challenging or impossible, and Lave founder Nikila Gibson is proud to help.
Today, Nikila shares with us the story of her business and the vital service they provide to those in need.
What inspires your work?
My four daughters keep me inspired. My eldest daughter has severe asthma, which puts extreme limits on the products she can safely use.
Existing wash and folds in laundromats all used harsh, high-chemical detergents, and none of them could reach the people that would need it the most. I started Lave because I wanted to create a new kind of laundry service — one that was both human-focused and environmentally conscious.
I raise my daughters to be mindful of the impact we leave on the Earth. I want them to be aware and do their part to keep our ecosystem healthy. It's very important to me that they are conscious of what they put in, and on, their bodies, the systems of those in our communities, and the air we all share.
I'm also inspired by just helping others have time to enjoy life. From sorting to washing to folding, laundry can take hours to complete, especially for those without a washing machine in their homes who have to rely upon laundromats. Lave gives busy families a little extra time to enjoy life.
What makes LAVE unique?
Lave only uses detergents that are specially designed for sensitivities. We emphasize eco-friendliness by reducing plastic waste, using reusable laundry bags, and limiting the days we pick up and deliver to reduce our impact on the ozone.
We also implement technology into the laundry business. Pickups can be scheduled online, via email, or by phone. We auto-bill, and clients receive a text alert with a link that leads to a map they can use to track our vehicles. We are always looking for new ways to make laundry service easier.
Also, I don't know this for a fact, but I'm pretty sure Lave Wash is one of the few laundry pickup and delivery services owned by an African American woman.
What's something the average person might not know about the laundry business?
Laundry is heavy!
Also, most people assume that folding is the most difficult part of laundry because that's the most tedious part at home. In a business setting, running logistics is actually the most challenging. Working with laundry, you learn a lot about fabrics and their care. It really makes you look at materials differently.
Tell us a little about your background and how it prepares you for business ownership.
Lave Wash was established in 2017, but I've been a business owner for over nine years. I started my first official business at 24 as a single mother of two.
I was born into business. My father and my grandfather owned cleaning product businesses. My grandfather owned a door-to-door sales business. I was born on the go because my mother was a salesperson and my dad a manager in that business.
What is an underappreciated skill for a business owner?
You wear many hats as a business owner, but I think researcher is the most underappreciated one of them all. There is so much research that goes into owning a successful business. It will never be on autopilot. You have to continuously research to be able to best help your clients.
What's your average day look like?
We run a three-day-a-week schedule. That's pretty much unheard of, but we do a lot in those three days. It gives us time for our children, family, friends, and community. I homeschool my girls as well.
On a working day, I check the calendar and input the deliveries and pickups. The list is automatically sent to my husband's phone via an app. We do a count, doublecheck lists, load up the van, and he heads out to do routes.
I go home and homeschool the children while monitoring the routes and managing phone calls, emails, and texts. When my husband gets back, I meet him at the shop. We sort and weigh the laundry and begin the washing process. Then we check lists again and prepare everything for delivery as scheduled.
It sounds really simple, but our day is actually very busy with lots of troubleshooting and customer service. It can be very challenging, but we enjoy doing it. Did I mention that laundry is heavy?
If there's one thing you could go back and do differently when first starting LAVE, what would it be?
I actually wouldn't do anything different. Everything we have done and experienced has made Lave what it is. We are continuously evolving and getting better each day. We have met many amazing people who have helped us find what is needed and the best way we can help others.
What are the biggest obstacles and challenges your business has faced?
Finding new technology to make the business run smoothly. Traffic is another challenge for any delivery-focused business. We study traffic patterns at different times of the day in different cities and structure our business hours to reduce the amount of time our drivers are forced to waste in traffic.
What's been your biggest success?
Our clients are our greatest success. We serve some businesses and famous people that I would never have thought possible. Overall, just being able to help such a diverse range of people, whether it be work or home, is very exciting.
What part of running your business do you personally find most satisfying?
Seeing how far we have come and where we have come from. Lave Wash is my baby. It was my idea, and I grew and nurtured it. The most satisfying thing is when someone says they've heard of Lave Wash before. It's knowing I have created something worth talking about.
What is Lave doing to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis?
COVID-19 has caused most of our business clients to close and some of our residential clients to reduce their laundry service needs. We are an essential service, so we are still open and caring for the people that need us most — our elderly clients and businesses that service the first responders.
Fortunately, we didn't have to make too many major changes to our process to account for new health and safety standards. Because our methods are non-toxic and we serve clients with severe allergies, we have always held ourselves to the highest standards of health and safety.
I make sure we all have masks and seal all laundry in plastic bags. We continue to change gloves between every client and when going from wash to dry for the same client. A new policy is that drivers must wear gloves during routes and change them after each stop.
Tell us more about your customers. Who does your business help most?
We have the most amazing clients. We service people from all walks of life — all ages and all backgrounds. We serve large corporate clients, small mom and pop shops, seniors, families, and young adults. Laundry is pretty universal.
Because of COVID, our priority right now is to continue to service businesses that serve first responders and our elderly and disabled clients who absolutely can not do it themselves.
That's another one of the most satisfying parts — knowing that we are doing our part to help the community stay safe and healthy both during and outside of the pandemic.
What's next for LAVE?
I hope to see Lave with more vans and a larger center. I'd love to be able to service a larger area. There are still so many people we can help.
What advice would you give someone thinking about starting their own business?
This is no get-rich-quick scheme. It takes dedication and determination. Do not use drag-and-drop websites, and don't just advertise online. Learn how online presence works, keep it simple, and research all aspects of your business.
The best advice I ever received was given to me by my parents, and it's what I pass down to my girls — just be a good person. That advice has taught me to have purpose in everything I do and for those purposes to not be for selfish reasons.
That same advice applies equally to life and business — be a good person. Treat your clients, employees, and partners right.
We at Swyft Filings think that's pretty solid advice, and it's a belief that we always try to apply to our own business. This shared philosophy is one reason we are proud to award Lave Wash Laundry Delivery with a Swyft Gives Back grant, which Nikila tells us will be used to cover the laundry costs for the childcare facilities that service emergency first responders and essential workers.
If you want to know more about Lave or have some dirty socks in need of laundering in the Fairfield area, please visit Lave's website.
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