Business isn’t Always Business.
It isn’t always about numbers.
It isn’t always about numbers, quotas, or acquisitions. When you work in business, breathe business, live (in) business, you tend to forget that.
Here’s how I was reminded of it.
It started in 2017. Juliette had just moved into its current location and a few doors down was a traditional New York-Chinese laundromat.
It wasn’t modern or minimalist or chic. Its machines were old, floors were aged, and everything was still done by tickets and cash.
It was nostalgic to see, but it was almost as if I could see that laundromat’s lifeline. It hasn’t adjusted to today’s times, but that’s no one’s fault — not even the owners’.
The owners are around 60-year-old Chinese immigrants who have maintained their laundromat as means to pay bills – nothing more, nothing less. And, most likely, not to become a category leader.
This is when I truly saw the gap between the old and the new. Those offline versus those online. But I wanted to help them. I didn’t want to see another laundromat go down the gutter.
The market is big enough for more than one winner, you know?
So, I went and introduced myself. I, of course, was kind and courteous, but I could feel that the owners felt threatened or felt suspicious. They probably thought I wanted to take their business.
But, it was the complete opposite. I didn’t want their business, I wanted to help them elevate their business. So, I helped them out for a bit, but it didn’t last long. They told me it felt like “too much.”
What does that mean?
Anyways, we stopped working together. But it hurt – I could see the lifeline of their laundromat still running low.
Years pass and now we’re in 2020. Enters the pandemic.
Their business is basically ruined because they depend on foot traffic. There’s no communication strategy, no digital presence… None of that. They’re completely offline, which became a big problem because in 2020 that’s when businesses especially went online.
But the part that hurt the most was that there were a number of ways for businesses to get financial help during the height of the pandemic, but they didn’t know that. How could they? There was no one there to tell them about it.
Aside from being much older, only one of them knows English. They took on a big debt from the landlord. It was really at this point I couldn’t stand by much longer.
I approached them again, with even more determination than before, “Let’s talk, maybe I can help you.”
And when I say “help,” I’m not saying it in a salesperson’s tone – like I want you to think I care, but I really, kind of don’t vibe – or some marketer trying to sell you sh*t, I’m saying it like a friend trying to make sure you don’t do something you’ll definitely regret later.
I had to stop being a businesswoman.
Between October and November of 2021, we started talking again. It took between three to four months of back-and-forth talks and weekly visits to show my face and earn their trust and respect, but what I was able to boil it down to was that they didn’t want to stop working.
And when I was able to go through the wall they had built, it became easier to work with them and create a plan for how they can continue working and keep their laundromat going so others can continue working within it.
It wasn’t about the numbers anymore. It was about understanding their story.
And while Juliette acquired their laundromat as a new acquisition, it was anything but hostile. Acquisitions have a rep for being hostile, but when it’s done right, it becomes a beautiful partnership.
Remember – the market is big enough for more than one winner.