An early patent awarded to Thomas Jennings was the forerunner to quality dry cleaning and laundry services
Royalty Cleaners: 19862 Kedzie Ave
What inspired you to start your business?
I was inspired to start my business with two things, my mother and the community. Growing up, I saw my mother, being a black entrepreneur, build her CPA firm and help run my father's medical practice while raising her family. She was an inspiration to my siblings and me, and since I was little, I knew I wanted to follow in her footsteps and own my own business. I also wanted to open a business where I grew up. This community helped raised me, and I wanted to give back the best way I knew how, by providing outstanding customer service and an amazing product.
Why did you choose Flossmoor to open your business?
I chose Flossmoor because of the community. With a diverse group of customers, a lot of them professionals, I felt like they could use a premium dry cleaning service that would be easy on their pockets.
As a business owner, what is your proudest civil rights moment or memory?
My proudest civil rights moment would have to be Rosa Parks sitting in the front of the bus. With such a simple action, which should have been a simple human right, she changed the course of history for black people not only in America but all over the world.
What has history taught you that could help someone else who is interested in starting a business?
If history has taught me anything it would be if you want to start a business, go for it. It won't be easy. There will be a lot of ups and downs, but if you want to do it, put your head down, grind, focus and be patient. You can make it happen.
As it relates to your business, what is your favorite quote or saying?
My favorite quote is "You only truly fail if you learn nothing from your failures." It's a good one because in business you might think you've done everything correctly, and yet, you still fail or something doesn't go your way. When that happens, you need to learn from it, move on, and make sure you don't repeat that mistake again.
As it relates to Black History Month, what is your favorite quote, moment or memory?
My favorite memory as it relates to Black History Month would be having a whole month in school to learn about people who looked like me. Learning about figures who were larger than life, who put it all on the line for the betterment of their families and their people. They were and are amazing people.
Thomas Jennings, a free black man born in 1791, developed a process called “dry scouring” and filed with the U.S. Patent Office in 1821. Jennings, a clothier and a tailor in New York, became the first African American to be granted a patent in the United States. Earlier black inventors were denied patents. Black Americans born into slavery were not considered American citizens, and laws at the time prevented them from applying for or holding property, including patents.
Jennings was familiar with customer complaints that they could not clean their more delicate clothes because the fabric would not withstand traditional washing and scrubbing. He began experimenting with different cleaning solutions and processes before discovering the process he named “dry scouring.” His method made him extremely wealthy, allowing him to buy freedom for his wife and children, as well as fund numerous abolitionist efforts. His original patent documentation was destroyed in a fire.