"We prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be."
Laura Fruitman '02 | The Right To Shower
“The more we can sell, the more we can give away.” Laura Fruitman ‘02 is the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Unilever and Founder and General Manager of The Right To Shower, a social enterprise brand founded on the belief that cleanliness is a fundamental human right. “When we think about people who are experiencing homelessness, we think of food and shelter as immediate needs—and they are—but, hygiene and health are important for a sense of dignity, a sense of self.”
The Right To Shower sells thoughtfully crafted body wash and bar soap nationwide through major retailers like Whole Foods and Amazon. Its business model is designed to provide a sustainable revenue stream to their non-profit partners; 30% of the profits are directed toward NGOs providing mobile shower services. Its main partnership is with Lava Mae a nonprofit that began by converting decommissioned buses into mobile shower units in San Francisco, CA where only 16 public restrooms exist to serve more than 7,000 people experiencing homelessness. Today Lava Mae advises others on how to set up mobile showers and how to create a culture of radical hospitality. “Everyone who comes to a mobile shower is called a guest. Each person is given a clean, safe place to take a shower, a fresh towel and The Right To Shower soap.” Through partnership with Lava Mae, The Right To Shower has supported the establishment of mobile showering units across 18 cities in the United States.
The Quaker testimony of Community pervades Laura’s work and leadership. “That’s what we do with The Right To Shower. We believe in community and everyone is a member.” This deep commitment to community inspired Laura’s participation in The World’s Big Sleepout in December 2019. In 56 cities across the globe, people joined together to sleep out in public spaces, raising awareness and funding for the homeless community. In New York, participants slept out in Times Square. “It was very intense. I spend a lot of time thinking about homelessness, but I’d never spent a night on the streets. You are so very vulnerable. It gave me a new perspective and an increased sense of empathy.”Laura traces the roots of her activism back to Friends. “All my service credits at Friends were working in shelters. The idea of invisibility, that people are not seen, was and is really upsetting to me.”
Laura is using her talent and experience as a professional to build a new kind of business model that honors the dignity in every person. “We all have an ability and responsibility to take care of our community; you have a choice and you can vote with your dollars.” Through her work with The Right To Shower, Laura is helping to bring about a world where the right to cleanliness and communities of care are accessible to everyone. “We have a responsibility to the people we live among: we are all people, we all share rights, we all have an inner Light.”