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Women in Laundry Spotlight (Part 1)

Meet Vicky Cayetano, president/founder of United Laundry Services, PureStar-Hawaii

CHICAGO — In the September issue, American Laundry News highlighted four women who have achieved success in the laundry and linen services industry.

In the conclusion of the two-part series, the spotlight shines on three more outstanding women in the industry.

Part 1 of the online version highlights Vicky Cayetano, president and founder of United Laundry Services, a division of PureStar in Hawaii.

VICKY CAYETANO, UNITED LAUNDRY SERVICES-PURESTAR

Cayetano has been striving for business success since her youth.

“I was that little girl with a lemonade stand,” she says. “I have always been an entrepreneur, and I’ve worked hard to carry that into every aspect of my career. To start a business, you need the passion and commitment to do it. To be successful you must remain objective and be prepared to pivot when circumstances dictate.”

For example, after two years of college, Cayetano left to start a successful corporate travel service. “When deregulation of the airline industry was inevitable, I sold the business, realizing the future of the travel agency industry was in jeopardy,” she shares. “Understanding where to commit and where to pivot has helped me get to where I am today.”

Cayetano got her start in laundry when she was approached by the president of a local hospital facility who wanted to start a co-op laundry for Hawaii’s healthcare industry.

“Although he knew I did not have a laundry background, he felt my entrepreneurial spirit and drive would be a good fit to lead his new venture,” she says. “The idea of a co-op laundry was very appealing to me as well.

“I knew laundry was an essential service not only to healthcare but to the many hotels and resorts in Waikiki, most of whom were doing their laundry in-house. In my view, I did not see why they would want to process laundry on prime Waikiki real estate if an alternative option was available.

“So we set about to offer a high-quality, dependable laundry service, and over the years, we’ve been able to convince many of them to close their laundries and send their linen to us.” 

When Cayetano started in the laundry industry in 1988, she says there were very few women in management and even less at the executive level.

“I remember attending an industry reception for laundry executives in Tokyo with some of my Japanese colleagues. When I entered the room it suddenly became silent, I was the outlier,” she points out. “Early on, participating in serious discussions and earning credibility was a challenge.

“Fast-forward 30 years and you see this is what is unique about United and our parent company PureStar. In both the hospitality and laundry industry overall, women remain underrepresented at the management level, but in our organization, women make up 50% of the workforce with equal representation at the management level.”

Cayetano’s advice to women striving to achieve success in laundry is two-fold: Focus on what you want to do and what you do well, and find a way to differentiate yourself and what you do.

“What makes you stand out and what makes your product and service better is the message you want to resonate with others,” she says.

Check back Thursday for Part 2, featuring Susan Smith-Franks, environmental and linen services director for Aramark at Middlesex Health in Middletown, Connecticut.

RELATED STORIES

Spotlight on Women in Laundry (Part 1), Sept. 8, 2020

Spotlight on Women in Laundry (Part 2), Sept. 10, 2020

Spotlight on Women in Laundry (Conclusion), Sept. 15, 2020