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Profile: Incoming DLI President Kathy Benzinger (Conclusion)

Longtime drycleaner believes that change is crucial for progress

LAUREL, Md. — Kathy Benzinger, a long-time dry cleaner and the owner of Benzinger’s Clothing Care, headquartered in Hamburg, New York, says she is ready to step into her new role as the president of the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI), having learned valuable lessons from those who mentored her over her career.

In Part 1 of this profile, American Drycleaner asked Benzinger about her past ties to DLI, why she wanted to take on a leadership position with the organization, and the biggest challenges on the national stage she sees that DLI can help drycleaners navigate. Today, we’ll conclude by focusing on changing market conditions and how the organization plans to support its members through potentially difficult situations.

ADC: What is a challenge that dry cleaners are facing on a more day-to-day level?

KB: One of the biggest challenges is getting our members to realize that automation is here to stay. I think a lot of our members are thinking they can’t afford automation, but they can’t afford not to automate. It’s going to be critical to the future of those in the industry. So, we’re trying to educate them on the benefits of using your labor costs to pay for this automation. I think will be the helpful for them.

Automation is something I’ve struggled with. We’re ready to put in an automated system, and they’re extremely expensive. If I didn’t have great mentors in my life, showing me how I can afford it by using my labor costs, I probably wouldn’t have. It could conceivably stunt your growth or prevent advancements in your company. 

ADC: Has DLI’s role changed in recent years for dry cleaners? If so, how has it evolved? 

KB: Change is a strange word. Some people fear it, some people embrace it, and some people crave it. Personally, I think change is a sign of progress. I think it’s constant in most organizations, and that it’s essential for growth. 

For many organizations and companies, COVID fueled that need for change. It accelerated the changes that needed to be made. One of the changes that DLI has made since the pandemic is the weekly peer-to-peer Zoom calls, which allow us to connect with our members in a much better, greater way. I think that was one of the things we were lacking. We had our membership, and we put up a website, but that’s not enough. It’s allowed us to connect face to face with our members. 

DLI has also added marketing labs, they’ve done virtual education, social media, and again, the webinars, so I think a lot of good things came out of COVID, as far as what we can do virtually. It’s been great to see our members face to face — to see their smiles and see their challenges, because they’re written all over their faces. It’s made a huge difference.

ADC: When you step down at the end of your term, what do you want to see as you look back? 

KB: I want to look back and see that no dry cleaner, regardless of size, is left behind. I was that $500,000-a-year dry cleaner, and at that size, you have to do it all. Then you have the $2 million-plus cleaners who have people who can do it all. I feel that sometimes there’s a gap, and I really don’t want anyone to get left behind. 

I want to create opportunities for our members to continue to learn and grow, and to understand production utilization numbers. I want our members to know we believe in them, and we’re here to help them. I want to empower them to be great, to be strong and to believe they can achieve more. 

When I took on the role of DCM, and even as district board member, treasurer and vice president, I was only able to achieve those steps because there were people greater than me who believed in me. And so, I realized that, with the power of others believing in you, you can achieve so much more. So, that is what I want people to take away from my presidency — that I believed in all of our members, and that they can always achieve more.             

For Part 1, click HERE.

Incoming DLI President Kathy Benzinger

(Gavel Photo: © AndreyPopov/Depositphotos)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].