Find Your Purpose: This is so important. We were our first customers and developed the line because of needs that we had that were totally missing from the marketplace. From day one, education and sharing our knowledge and insight with our customers was always part of our communication strategy. We were never just selling product, we were also giving them the intel and confidence our customer base needed and wanted to care for their fabrics and homes better.
As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lindsey Boyd. Lindsey founded the Laundress after she identified a gap in the fabric care industry. With a degree in textile and fiber science from Cornell University and experience working in fashion at Chanel and Brooks Brothers, Lindsey knew there were alternatives to dry cleaning that were better for fabrics and did not involve toxins or exorbitant bills. After years of researching and developing detergents, fabric solutions, and home cleaners, Lindsey and her business partner launched The Laundress in 2004.
Lindsey’s role at The Laundress melds her textile expertise with her entrepreneurial mind and steadfast commitment to sustainability. She spearheads all sales, product development, marketing, brand partnerships, and ecommerce and sustainability initiatives. Notable achievements include taking The Laundress global in 2006 and securing permanent partnerships with renowned perfume house Le Labo and artist John Mayer.
Lindsey is also a popular speaker and panelist at private and public events across the country, leveraging her knowledge as a female entrepreneur, thought leader, and wellness expert. She has made appearances on national news outlets and has spoken on numerous podcasts. Lindsey was named a top female founder by INC as part of their 100 Female Founders list in 2019.
The Laundress was acquired by Unilever in 2019, where the brand fits seamlessly into Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan. Since then, Lindsey continues to oversee brand strategy and is the face of The Laundress, creating educational content for its social platforms, blog, and website and connecting with clients and retailers.
Tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was working at CHANEL and spending an exorbitant amount of money dry cleaning my wardrobe, only to have items returned ruined and just not clean. As a solution, I started handwashing my items in the bathroom sink of my 5th floor walkup apartment — I knew from my background in textile science at Cornell that up to 90% of fabrics could be washed at home, meaning there is very little you actually need to be dry cleaning. There were no detergents on the market that allowed you to care for delicate items without the dry cleaning process, so my business partner and I decided to use our expertise to develop a line of consumer-centric, plant-based fabric care that anyone could purchase. I also wanted to create an amazing, unique laundry experience for people that would transform a mundane, everyday task into a luxurious experience. We launched the company with 13 products in 2004.
At the time, eCommerce was just getting off the ground, so I had to put in the legwork to get our products into retailers. I secured our first key account, Bergdorf Goodman, during my lunch hour at CHANEL. My experience in marketing and sales really helped us get picked up by retail locations — US and international boutiques and speciality retailers — very early on.
My parents were both entrepreneurs, so it’s in my DNA to be forward thinking and business-minded.
I had a ton of ideas prior to The Laundress — clothing lines, makeup lines, but The Laundress made the most sense because it was fulfilling a big need for people. I’ve always been enamored with product experiences, from branding and packaging down to the scents. I traveled a lot and always returned with arsenals of product that inspired me, be it deodorants, soaps, creams, or baby colognes. It was really important that I translate that special feeling to The Laundress. I thought, there’s no reason why laundry shouldn’t feel luxurious.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
From the very beginning, sustainability has been a core value of The Laundress. We are really looking forward to taking it to the next level with formulas and packaging that contribute to even less waste.
We also just launched our first scent in over 6 years, №723 Laundry Detergent, a spicy rose that’s meant to pamper your senses and your laundry. Laundry doesn’t have to feel like a chore and there’s no reason it shouldn’t feel a little luxe!
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
Marketing is so important! It is a scalable way to get your brand out there. It would be fantastic if I could physically get to every market we are in, but that is impossible. Being able to share your story in a cohesive way — globally — can only be achieved by strong marketing and advertising efforts. When we first started The Laundress, our first 10,000 went to public relations efforts so we could be in key editorial spots like New York Times, Real Simple, Domino, Lucky magazine, Wall Street Journal, Oprah, InStyle, Vogue where they were able to tell our brand story. This was vital in driving brand awareness and, ultimately, sales.
Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.
-The Product Is Hero: Making the best possible fabric and home care products was always our mission. We never wavered from that and today our top sellers are the products that we launched 16 years ago. We tested every single one ourselves, reformulated to make them perfect and up to our standards, and if we were not satisfied, we did not launch it. You have to focus on making something exceptional that you can stand behind. Otherwise, why does the customer need it? It is a simple philosophy that a lot of brands miss from the beginning.
-Find Your Purpose: This is so important. We were our first customers and developed the line because of needs that we had that were totally missing from the marketplace. From day one, education and sharing our knowledge and insight with our customers was always part of our communication strategy. We were never just selling product, we were also giving them the intel and confidence our customer base needed and wanted to care for their fabrics and homes better.
-Give Back: I have always been very cause-minded, so this naturally extended to my professional life. Whether it’s giving to local charities or offering products and services to those in need or implementing a donation component to our business, like our The Laundress x John Mayer Out West collection — 50 percent of sales proceeds go to Montana Association of Land Trusts (MALT). We have always given back and that has always been part of our corporate responsibility.
-Value Your Customer: Listen to what your customers are saying and use their feedback to make your brand and product better. They are your best critics.
-Have an Honest Voice: Honesty and transparency are everything, and even more so today. Customers want to support brands that not only provide them with good products, but that are genuine and have strong values, too.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
Patagonia because they lead with purpose and thoughtfulness. I also love that over the last decade there are more and more smaller brands (like The Laundress!) that are doing a fantastic job. One of my favorite small brands is State Bags.
I think it comes down to having a clear mission statement and brand ethos. Also, you can’t be everything for everyone and that is ok, and really important to know.
In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?
Sales and growth are important quantitative metrics you obviously need for your bottom line — that will always be a mainstay. But we look at other qualitative metrics too, like our customer feedback. We love hearing how they learned about us and how we have made a difference in their day-to-day life. Those are the little “pats on the back” that keep you moving forward. We can also track brand building success through increased awareness holistically. New opportunities open up with brand partnerships, new wholesalers request to carry the brand, and more social media engagement.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
For us, social media really plays a pivotal role in connecting with our consumer; telling our brand story and communicating with our community. Social media lets you connect to customers a lot faster than we ever have before. You can’t be a brand today without having a social media strategy.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
You have to stay absolutely passionate about your business. There will be ups and downs. You have to really believe in your brand purpose, stay inspired, and never waver.
Always come back to being grateful every day for the opportunity to do what you do and do what you love.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
This is a tough question because I’m passionate about a lot of things! I rarely say no to helping others, especially if I believe it will make a difference. I am proud to be a part of and contribute to Glass Wing, Self Help Africa, No Kid Hungry, and Black Girl Ventures. These incredible organizations are working to empower communities, end child hunger, and address causes of poverty and violence.
Prior to COVID-19, I was chatting with my husband about creating a foundation where kids could be part of “after school” activities like PE, sports, art, and drama year round — mainly during major holidays and summertime when schools are out. So many children in America depend on school programs and when schools are out, this is hard for them. I know there are community centers and ways in which this is done but it’s not state-wide. I think this would create a more level playing field for the success, health, and happiness of children. After all, they are the foundation for our country — the next generation.
I would also eradicate homelessness, teach people how to love and have tolerance for others that are not exactly like them, stop world hunger, and get people to commit to at least one change in their daily lives that would help save our planet.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
You can resist or push forward. Pushing forward may seem harder at first glance, but the reward and journey is always worth it in the end.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I never have just one person or one item on a wish list.
Business-Jeff Bezos, Bernard Arnault, and Mickey Drexler.
Entertainment-Alycia Keys and Kate Hudson.
How can our readers follow you on social media? @lindseyjuliaboyd