Amy Martinez-Monfort’s career path has taken a few turns along the way to becoming an entrepreneur. Growing up, she aspired to be a television anchorwoman. However, after graduating Florida State University with a degree in Media Performance – Communication, she decided to find a career that was perhaps more stable and required less relocation, so she enrolled in law school at the University of Florida. She went on to become a successful lawyer for one of Florida’s largest and oldest law firms in Tampa but, discovered that practicing law was not necessarily what she wanted to do for a lifetime. She then switched gears and entered the pharmaceutical industry in the sales division. However, even after achieving success in the sales and marketing world, something was missing. So, she decided to take a chance and become an entrepreneur.
Martinez-Monfort started Tampa Laundry Company in 2015. As it turns out, all of her career decisions have proven useful in running her own business.
“People often ask me, ‘why did you waste your law degree,’” she said. “However, I did not waste my law degree. I use it every day, it is just in different ways. It’s proven to be very useful in business. The sales background has also been a great help because you learn very quickly how to not only receive the response of no but how to handle that rejection and move on. It’s taught me that a ‘no’ today does not mean ‘no’ tomorrow.”
After exploring various business opportunities, Martinez-Monfort kept coming back to the laundry business.
“Laundry is one of those things that no one wants to do and yet you can really brighten people’s day by just taking care of some of their dirty work – so to speak,” she said.
When she founded Tampa Laundry Company, Martinez-Monfort sought to redefine people’s previous thoughts concerning laundromats. The focus is on providing a clean, safe environment for everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status. “We want to treat our customers with the same level of respect in our store, whether they walk in with $5 in their pocket to do one load of laundry for the week, or they want us to press their sheets and scent them with lavender,” she said.
Two years after launching the business, Tampa Laundry was awarded a contract with MacDill Air Force Base to process all of their laundry and linens. As Martinez-Monfort stepped back to take a look at
the growth of the enterprise, she found herself wanting to find other ways to grow her business. That’s when she reached out to the Florida Procurement Technical Assistance Center at University of South Florida. The Florida PTAC at USF is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the Defense Logistics Agency.
“I thought honestly it is free and I have nothing to lose,” she said of reaching out to schedule an appointment. It turned out to be the start of a fruitful business partnership, as she connected with Karen Krymski, a procurement specialist at the center. “She is a wonderful wealth of information; such a positive force,” Martinez-Monfort said. “She has opened my eyes to so many great opportunities that I did not know about.”
One such opportunity was to take advantage of becoming certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). “That has allowed us to get various city and county contracts in the laundry area which we may not otherwise have been a frontrunner. Due to our minority status and being certified, it’s something that is a benefit to our city, county, and our small business,” she added.
Recently, Krymski advised Martinez-Monfort through disaster funding opportunities available to the company due to the negative impact of COVID-19. “It was a huge help to have Karen’s guidance in the whole PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] and COVID process. I really benefited from having a trusted advisor like her. To have that established relationship with Karen – someone who knew my business – was very comforting in a time when things had been turned upside down for us small business owners.”
With Krymski’s assistance, the company was able to get a PPP loan allowing the business to remain open and keep most of its employees paid throughout the pandemic. Like many others in small business, Tampa Laundry Company has experienced some setbacks in 2020, but Martinez-Monfort remains hopeful for the coming year.
“When you look at the setbacks that so many small business owners have shouldered and the stresses of 2020, I think it’s easy to take a defeatist attitude,” she said. “But I think to look at that only as a drawback is shortsighted for business owners. The way I look at it, if we can make it through 2020, if we can make it through COVID, if we can keep our teams intact and motivated, then we can get through anything.”
Regardless of what 2021 has to offer, she is sure to continue her partnership with Krymski as the business grows. “One of the things I’ve found about being a small business owner is putting yourself in the right place at the right time to be open to opportunities,” she said. “Working with Florida PTAC has allowed me the ability and the knowledge to know what I may not have known before about contracting and about opportunities that exist. So I would just really encourage anyone who is looking to grow their business or is working to figure out what direction they want to go to reach out to the amazing people at Florida PTAC and the SBDC.”