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Women in Laundry Spotlight (Part 2)

Susan Smith-Franks is environmental/linen services director for Aramark at Middlesex Health

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 2 of the online installment features Susan Smith-Franks, environmental and linen services director for Aramark at Middlesex Health in Middletown, Connecticut.


Smith-Franks says it was a “fluke” that she got started in the laundry/linen services industry.

Her initial educational efforts focused on veterinary medicine, but after Smith-Franks realized that the money she was spending didn’t match her goals, she took some time off. She ended up working for family businesses in tropical fish, exotic birds and various other less-common pets; buying and selling antiques; and a telephone answering service.

Then, she heard about an opening to manage on-premises hospital laundry.

“Since my entire career has been centered around managing people in service industries, I said to myself, 'I can do that!’” she shares.

Once she began working in the laundry, Smith-Franks says she benefited from the generosity of her team in teaching her all she needed to know about day-to-day laundry operations.

“I believe my experience with my family’s businesses is one of the most important factors in my success,” she says. “I recognize the importance of taking ownership in your work and facing every situation and decision like you are fully responsible for the success or failure of your operation.”

Smith-Franks has served as the director of environmental and linen services for Aramark at Middlesex Health for more than 20 years. Most of her day is spent on administrative tasks, which allow her team to succeed.

“However, my favorite parts of the day are when I’m interacting with team members, learning about their lives outside of work and tasting all the fantastic foods that arrive when we gather for potluck meals,” she shares.

Twice in her time at Middlesex Health, Smith-Franks has had to justify the continued existence of the on-premises laundry.

“Each time, I have been able to document the high productivity of our laundry team, prove that outsourcing does not make financial sense and also highlight the many benefits of producing our own clean linen when emergencies strike,” she points out.

Smith-Franks says she hasn’t found her managerial roles to be more challenging as a woman, possibly due, in part, to being based in healthcare, a field where it is more common for women to rise to the top.

“It may also be due, in large part, to the great role models I grew up with,” she shares. “My grandmother, as a divorced woman, started her own telephone answering service in the 1920s, and my sister continues to run that very successful business to this day. My mother and father were fully equal partners in their business of selling tropical fish, exotic birds and other unusual pets for more than 40 years.

“My advice to other women would be to support one another. Seek out those you can learn from, as well as those with whom you can share your experience.”

Miss Part 1 about Vicky Cayetano, president and founder of United Laundry Services, a division of PureStar in Hawaii? Click HERE to read it. And check back Tuesday for the conclusion with Kristin Dempsey, vice president of Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply in Jessup, Pennsylvania.


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