Laundromats, also known as washhouses, are cornerstones of communities, whether realized or not. For many families, the luxury of washing their clothes at home doesn’t exist, so they rely on loading up the laundry in the car and going to a facility. Once looked at as time wasted while washing clothes is now seen as an opportunity to supply essential hygienic resources, empower local entrepreneurs, and enable intergenerational learning and development, thanks to the Pierre family.
Lily Faye Butler Pierre, the co-founder, was an engineer, entrepreneur, educator, and philanthropist. She was born in Edwards, Mississippi, and co-founded an IT professional services firm with her husband, Edward Pierre. They worked together to serve clients all over the world. They returned to Mississippi after 30 years of successful business and education and relaunched the innovative Edwards Wash House as the first Lillie’s Hands Wash House project. The mission of Lillie’s Hands Foundation was inspired by Lily’s desire to serve the community at the intersection of STEM, professional development, and empowerment in memory of her late grandmother, Lillie Parker Butler.
The Wash House, now two locations, one in Edwards and the other in Jackson, Mississippi, is a social enterprise that begins with a cycle of laundry to break the cycle of systemic failures across the South. The Wash House helps break the cycle of intergenerational poverty by creating life-altering opportunities and providing quality-of-life services through a mixed-use and culturally relevant commercial development model.
Rundown or abandoned laundromats are renovated and reopened to serve many purposes. Of course, the laundry gets done with state-of-the-art equipment, but there is also free wifi, professional development, career coaching, and more. Now, families do not have to drive miles away to do fundamental chores, like laundry, and the community and students can safely connect to the internet to finish homework or apply for a job.
The innovative approach to community outreach is catching the attention of national donors and grants. The Beba Foundation assisted and collaborated with Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies (SPS) to invite students and alums to present creative business ideas addressing contemporary global and unmet societal problems. In what has been dubbed ‘The Greater Good Global Challenge 2022,’ inspired SPS students submitted their best venture proposals in five major categories: sustainability, technology, healthcare and wellness, supply chain, logistics and coordination, and social enterprise.
On December 2, 2022, in front of a global LIVE virtual audience, Team The Wash House pitched its reimagined launderette, co-working space for beauty & well-being entrepreneurs, and community STEM center for learning. The Wash House Team won the Audience Pick, a $1,000 award, and the judge’s grand prize of $10,000.
“We’re in the business of cleaning clothes, cultivating minds, and catalyzing entrepreneurs, and we’re going to impact cities across the American South. As we expand our footprint and services to Jackson, MS, we envision a future where every laundrette experience in distressed communities is transforming and liberating,” said Lacie Pierre.
This award will help the Lillie’s Hands Foundation assist the residents of Edwards and Jackson, Mississippi, who can rest assured that The Wash House will continue to be their resource oasis in an opportunity desert.
Learn more about The Wash House and Lillie’s Hands Foundation.
Photos provided by Lillie’s Hands Foundation