Small Business Profile: Ariana Roviello, Owner of Laundré - San Francisco
Hi Ariana! Tell me a bit about yourself and your background.
I grew up in Sonoma, CA. I’ve been in the city now for eight years. I moved when I got into FIDM where I studied merchandise marketing.
Laundré is an interesting concept. Where did you get the idea?
I took a class that revolved around promotions and we had a project to create a business idea, a proposal, and a presentation around a concept.
I think my mom was actually the one that gave me the idea -- she was like… laundromats are cool. It’s safe to say that I was the only one that did a laundry themed concept. My teacher was always so encouraging. When I presented my project, the first thing she said to me was, “Let me know when you open this, I’ll be there.”
When did you open the space?
We opened in October 2017.
Why did you decide that this was the right time to manifest this idea when you did?
Before this I was working in the buying department for Charlotte Russe. It was my first job out of college. I quickly learned that it’s hard to be inspired by what you’re doing when the product you’re doing it for isn’t your cup of tea.
A year in, I just decided to quit. It was June 2014, and I took the summer off and just drove for Lyft during that time. I didn’t have a lot of responsibilities and I traveled a bit, so it was great.
Again, Laundré was a school project, and I didn’t think much of it after the fact. One night, I was having dinner with my boyfriend and he randomly asked me to tell him about the project. The whole evening turned into me talking about it. He said I was really enthusiastic and passionate, and it’s true that it was a concept that wasn’t really being done. He thought I should consider really doing it.
After about a month, I was still thinking about it. It was an interesting mental shift, because I had decided that I wanted to do it and that was it. I didn’t doubt it. I was like -- this is gonna be fine.
I drove for Lyft full-time for two years and spent a year doing research on business planning and funding before taking the leap.
Tell me a bit about the inspiration and process of actually creating the space.
It took a year to do the buildout. We’re the first new laundromat infrastructure in San Francisco in like… 15 years. That was a challenge because I don’t think the city had the right tools.
The thing about laundromats is that you need a lot of utilities -- water, gas, and electricity. Those were really big hurdles because the building didn’t have enough of any of it. My dad was my general contractor on this project so that was immensely helpful. I don’t know what I would have done without him.
For me, there was no other option but to succeed and open the store, so we had to make it happen. I felt so strongly about it. With that being said, there were so many people throughout the process that wanted to help me and gave me advice along the way. That was a nice surprise -- just how many people are willing to help you succeed.
The buildout was a challenge, but now that you have the physical space, what are some of the day-to-day challenges you face?
I think owning two very different concepts in one space -- because they’re run very differently and require very different teams to make it work. So, just making sure there’s consistency.
The cafe has been harder for me than I thought because I don’t have a food or hospitality background. It’s kind of unfortunate that I’ve had to pivot my focus from the laundromat to the cafe component. That’s something I’ve had to sacrifice that I hope will balance itself out soon.
What have you learned from this experience that you think could be useful to anyone starting a business or pursuing something creatively?
This might sound super cliche, but I think that it’s really easy to take other people’s input and allow it to steer you away from your original mission. Take suggestions and constructive criticism but at your core, stay true to what you set out to design and do.
Even if something has been done before, no one is processing it the way that you’re processing it, and that’s what makes it special.
How do you connect with your customers and your community?
I try to work the floor as much as I can so I can have face to face time with the people coming in. That gets gradually harder as the business progresses because there’s more to do.
Besides it being a functional space, I want it to be a space for people to foster creativity. There’s a knitting circle that comes in about once a week. I love that. It’s just cool to see what people use the space for.
We’ve tried to be very vocal that we’re here to support our community, whether that’s using the space for events or providing discounted wash and fold services for non-profits in the area. I always want to do more but it’s about finding the right resources and the time to do so.
Why do you think it’s important for women to support one another?
I think that shared knowledge is power. I think that if we’re all doing well, it just makes it so much easier to succeed and feel comfortable sharing information. There shouldn’t be as many barriers. Most of the people that have helped me along the way have been women -- even if they’re just supporting, it feels good.
I want to work on getting a group of creatives together once a month or once a quarter to talk about challenges and strengths and what we’re trying to accomplish next -- just to share resources and knowledge and help one another.
Who are some women that inspire you?
I would generally say that in my day-to-day life it has been my close girlfriends. I think that they all do really cool stuff in their line of work and it’s interesting to learn from them.
I also love the Glossier founder, Emily Weiss. I think her approach is really cool and refreshing and they’ve obviously done really well as a company. I’m obsessed with listening to the podcast, How I Built This, and hearing the female founders on there share their stories of how they started.
What’s your favorite place in San Francisco?
I just really love Golden Gate Park. I’ve been here for eight years but every time I go back I find a new part of the park, so I love doing that. There’s a lot of really special spots in San Francisco.
What’s your go-to way to drink coffee?
I don’t drink coffee!