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Waco's Minority Business Equity Fund awards first round of aid

Waco's Minority Business Equity Fund awards first round of aid

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Equity fund

Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce officials pose with business owners representing four of the first five beneficiaries of the Cen-Tex Minority Business Equity Fund. From left to right are Chamber President John Bible, The Relationship Clinic co-owner Brittney Wardlaw, Cozy’s owner LaTonja Taylor, Chamber Vice President Rachel Pate, 2Pickle’d owner Orva McCoy, and Anchor News owners Linda Crawford and J.L. Crawford. Fluff Wash & Fold also received a grant in the fund’s first round of awards.

Stephanie Tolbert and Lana Alexander own Fluff Wash & Fold, a two-woman venture that does the laundry for $2 a pound, delivery included.

The team turned 1-year-old this month and became one of five small businesses receiving $1,000 checks from the newly minted Cen-Tex Minority Business Equity Fund. Tolbert said the money comes in handy as Fluff Wash & Fold, like many small enterprises, strives to weather the coronavirus pandemic.

It will be spent on supplies, advertising and vehicle maintenance.

Others receiving checks during a ceremony Tuesday were The Anchor News, The Relationship Clinic, Cozy’s Lounge and 2Pickle’d. They are the first to receive checks from the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce under the equity program launched in the spring. TFNB Your Bank for Life provided $10,000 in matching funds to kick-start the effort.

Chamber President John Bible said the fund has grown to about $50,000. An advisory group of community leaders decides which applicants should receive assistance. Bible said four more businesses are on the verge of qualifying.

“We would like to distribute $15,000 a quarter from the equity fund and to consider requests from about 10 businesses per quarter,” Bible said.

Tolbert, who also teaches integrated reading and writing at McLennan Community College, said she and Alexander dream of having their own laundromat someday, maybe even franchising the Fluff Wash & Fold concept. Now they use equipment other facilities make available to them.

“Most loads average 20 pounds, though we’ve had as large as 250 pounds. The bed of my Dodge Ram pickup has been completely full of about 30 bags of laundry, and that was from a single family,” Tolbert said.

The customer count continues to grow, and the business offers as many perks as possible as it makes a name for itself, she said.

Their rate of $2 a pound for jeans, shirts, towels and the like covers practically everything, including detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets and special considerations for customers with sensitive skin or allergies.

Customers pay nothing for gas burned to pick up and deliver laundry.

“That’s because of COVID-19,” Tolbert said. “We want to help our existing customers and our potential new ones during this time.”

Fluff Wash & Fold furnishes the first 10 clothes hangers at no cost.

Tolbert said Fluff Wash & Fold has secured a handful of residential customers, but also has lined up occasional or regular business with commercial clients including the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Cintas, which rents work uniforms to business and industry. A local masseuse calls on Fluff Wash & Fold to give table linens its royal wash-and-dry treatment.

“We’re negotiating with a pest control business,” Tolbert said.

Tolbert, who lives in China Spring, said the need for a laundry delivery service hit home when her business partner saw her washer and dryer break down.

“The nearest laundromat to me was 15 or 20 minutes away, to her, 10 or 15 minutes,” Tolbert said. “We considered opening a facility in China Spring, but we needed first to build a clientele, so we partnered with others.”

They also attended a 16-week Workshop in Business Opportunities class offered by City Center Waco, to hone their entrepreneurship skills.

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