Dorm Doctors founder Lauren Hillard enjoyed using her master’s degree in sports management from Barry University in her previous career as a facility operations manager at the Miami Open and Hard Rock Stadium. Her face lit up when she discussed seeing Serena Williams walk by before a tennis match.
Today, she enjoys working for herself even more.
The 30-year-old entrepreneur launched Miami-based Dorm Doctors in 2017 as an extension of Laundry 305, her first company that focused on providing laundry services. Parents of college students kept asking Hillard about recommendations for other concierge services, and she saw an opportunity to broaden her business.
Students can tap the Dorm Doctors’ app on their phones to arrange laundry pickup and delivery or dorm cleaning.
Through franchising, Hillard is working on expanding her company’s reach to college communities in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
She talked to the Herald about what she’s learned in her career journey, her business goals and what aspiring entrepreneurs should know before going into business. The interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
▪ Question: What are some unique challenges you face as a Black female business owner?
▪ Answer: Youthfulness has its benefits, but it also has its disadvantages. Some people have maybe the immediate intimidation of you accomplished all of this, and you’re barely 30. You’re still wet behind the ears. I have received that connotation in some work settings even as an entrepreneur. I’ve been undermined in some conversations. It’s well known that people are aware of my age as a way of calculating how long I’ve been in business. I have been addressed as girl before and have had to certainly address these people after the fact that it’s not polite to address people that way. It’s the microaggressions of ageism.
I don’t have to be 45 to be successful or innovative in business. I think the best time to start a business early on is in your late 20s to perfect your blueprint by 30.
▪ Q: How has entrepreneurship allowed you more balance in your life?
▪ A: I can better prioritize my health. Previously working in a 9-to-5 job, lunch was often skipped. I have a nutrition background as well, so know how the body properly functions. The combination of those things led me to prioritize my physical body rather than the experience I could gain.
If I can’t take care of myself to go to the doctor when I need to, things like that get in the way. The true way to make money or have any livelihood is being alive. What I prioritized in my business from the very first day of entrepreneurship was work-life balance: three-and-a-half days of work, three-and-a-half days of healthcare. I don’t do deals with customers that would cause me stress. Not all money is good money.
I make time to go to the gym, going to my chiropractor and going to therapy. I can have more fluidity on how I live my life. If I’m not well in my personal life, I won’t be well in my business life.
▪ Q: How do you plan on adapting to working with franchisees in different states?
▪ A: Being a millennial, I have the upper hand in being technologically advantaged. There is always a tool on the market to improve how interactions are handled and methods used to train a person. The primary step in onboarding and working with new franchisees is to open doors of communication. Not in a superficial sense, but on a very granular level. What they don’t have, I have to be able to give them. Because I’m hands-on, I know how the ins and outs work. The candidates I’m receiving come from high-level roles in a variety of industries, so what they bring to the table helps us as a collective. I’m very team-oriented in that everybody plays a role. If you’re strong or are stronger, you can share those tools with a team.
I want the business to thrive as a whole, so my job doesn’t stop at, here’s your initial training, thank you for your check. That’s putting profit before people and that’s no way I’d want to run my franchise system.
▪ Q: What advice do you have for professionals considering an entrepreneurial pivot in their careers?
▪ A: The first thing about entrepreneurship is it’s not about profit. It’s not about being a copycat. One thing that I observed with entrepreneurs or people that have side hustles is that there are a lot of copycats. Everyone wants a T-shirt brand or to make candles or soaps or bracelets or necklaces. There’s a cap on how many consumable items a person will buy from you. I understand there’s a cost for your production, but have a real talk with yourself about the cheaper alternatives someone can get. This may be something related to Black entrepreneurship because this is what I see as someone in that space.
List the things you like to do that you’re truly passionate about and starting a business. Second, find something that produces a service. Unless you’re inventing something, you want something long lasting that adds value. How do your passions align with an area of opportunity in business? Then creating a network. Analyze all of the resources you have available to you. Who do you know who can get you what you want? When you hire people, don’t hire a yes man or woman. You want someone who will challenge your thoughts and promote your growth in a productive manner.
Not breaking your bank for the sake of trying matters. There’s a good, better and best way to go about entering the world of entrepreneurship or owning a business: not sacrificing personal finances for a startup business. The term bootstrapping has long been floating around, however to a millennial group of people who have more student loan debt than they do salary, it may not be the best decision to say I’m going to go all in.
For whatever business you decide to begin, you must have the proper licenses or insurances in place. Whatever title of business you’re going to operate, have your business registered with the state.
Mentorship is important so that you have people that can provide feedback. When you speak to friends or family they’re always going to be biased and have too many experiences with you personally. If you find a business mentor, they’ll help you flush out what is good, what is best and provide you feedback on how to accomplish your goal without discouraging you. It will provide you the opportunity to do more critical thinking and how to navigate doing business as a business.