Doniece Sandoval is the founder of Lava Mae, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that began by converting public transportation buses into bathrooms on wheels for the homeless. Driven by a fierce belief that everyone deserves the right to be clean, she was inspired to build Lava Mae after learning about the appalling lack of showers and toilets available to people experiencing homelessness across this country.
Her mobile hygiene odyssey began with an inherent understanding that collaboration across the sectors was key to making Lava Mae a success. With the help of the Mayor’s Office of Housing, Opportunity, Engagement and Partnership, partnerships were seeded with some of the city’s most respected nonprofit homeless providers, city agencies from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and companies such as Google.
In the three-and-a-half years since launching its service, Lava Mae has transformed the lives of more than 10,000 Californians and is scaling by sharing an open source toolkit to respond to the 1,600+ requests for help from communities as far away as Zimbabwe and Mongolia and as close as Los Angeles and San Jose. Doniece’s goal is to enable 1M new showers around the globe over the next two years.
Doniece credits the international visibility Lava Mae has achieved both to the cord it’s striking and to her extensive marketing/branding/PR experience. Before tackling hygiene for the homeless, Doniece spent the previous decade working in the arts as head of marketing at the San Jose Museum of Art – growing the coveted young adult audience by over 200% in two years, and then as Chief External Relations Officer for ZERO1 — an organization dedicated to showcasing the work of some of the most fertile minds from the worlds of art, science, design, architecture, and technology - where she helped secure major funding, shaped programming, and developed and stewarded the brand.
Her private sector experience includes work with major companies such as Coca Cola, Informix, DoubleClick, ToysRUs.com and a host of small San Francisco-based design companies she helped brand. She began her career as a Legislative Research Analyst in Texas.
Accolades include: 2017: CNN Hero, Irvine Leadership Award, YBCA 100, Woman of the Year, CA Legislature, Bright Idea by the Innovations in American Government Awards; 2016: KIND Award; AIASF Community Alliance Award/Social Impact; Harmony in Hope Award; 2016 Hispanicize Positive Impact Award. 2015: Women in the World’s Mother of Invention Award; Department on the Status of Women, Woman of the Year; Senator Mark Leno honoree Woman of the Year, 2014: Red Cross Community Hero; Janice Mirikitani Legacy Award; Project Homeless Connect’s Innovator of the Year honoree. But Doniece is most proud of the honor bestowed upon her by her 10-year old daughter who calls her a Homeless Super Hero.