This piece is part of our 21 Local Innovators To Watch roundup in the August 2022 print issue of District Fray. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Owner and operator of Sole Wash “Sneaker Laundry”
District Fray: Why you do what you do
Nichole Verdejo: In 2021, I established Sole Wash, a sneaker laundry in D.C. It’s the first sneaker laundry in D.C. and the only women-owned brick-and-mortar in the nation. I have been surprised and honored by how many people have been inspired by that fact alone. Growing up I was influenced by ’90s hip-hop, the evolution of Afro-Latin break-dancing, but most importantly, the rise of the sneaker culture. Through my love for sneakers, I created my own vessel for giving. Approximately, 20 billion pairs of shoes are produced annually, and unfortunately, roughly 300 million pairs are thrown away each year. I didn’t start a business, I ignited a movement, a culture.
How you are helping
I have developed a creative space that exercises alternative ways to dispose of unwanted sneakers to include major donation efforts, repurposing them, donating them to those in need and trading within multiple D.C. communities. I’ve hosted multiple workshops to educate different communities on proper sneaker and foot care. Sole wash is a vehicle for me to exercise giving especially to the Black and brown communities I live and work in. As the biggest sneaker consumers, proper sneaker and foot care elevates the value of their purchases and their health. I have activated mentorship and internship programs and partnered with athletic organizations for a broader reach.
Who else is helping
Sole Wash became my vessel cultivating a culture of givers, creators, and philanthropist. From the pro Sole Wash team, to our clients, to the individuals in our communities, all are a part of this movement.
Where you escape in D.C.
I do have some favorite escapes in D.C. I enjoy riding my vintage cruiser bike around the National Mall at night. I also love sitting on my rooftop facing the Potomac River with a beautiful relaxing view.
Where you go to escape D.C.
My first home, Puerto Rico, is where I can truly escape. Something about the air, food, childhood memories, family and its beaches allows me to exhale and be present with myself and reset.
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