If you can believe it, I started managing businesses when I was 18 years old as the manager of the Wacky Bear Factory inside Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud, MN. After 2 years, 2008’s recession took its toll and Wacky Bears were deemed a luxury and not a necessity. The business closed. Then I managed at Savers Thrift Department Store for another year before I decided to attend technical college, like my peers, because I quickly saw that retail management was a heart attack waiting to happen, with a ceiling of success and salary. Academically, I loved college but ran out of cash to pay for it and I didn’t see the value in it that Americans once did, especially being raised by an entrepreneur and being taught not to spend money I didn’t have (or even money I did have, for that matter).
I re-entered the workforce, not in management, on purpose, to see my options from a new angle. In every company I worked for, I was quickly “found out”. My employers always saw my work ethic; that I wasn’t shy taking responsibility and took the best care of every customer I met, even the grumps. I was a leader. I couldn’t help it. And they wanted to promote me to management, but they couldn’t pay me enough. If I could have coasted as a regular employee, I might have. But with management wanting me to commit more of myself, responsibility and pressure fell on my shoulders, regardless if I signed up for it or not. I felt a sense of urgency to get out of this situation.
What kind of business could I start? I had ideas in the past and I’d pursued them just a few days before my passion and confidence in myself would fizzle. Cleaning and organizing; That’s straightforward! I could do that!
I had to break my goal down into smaller pieces. I knew if I did only one thing at a time, I’d be more likely to reach the finish line like I hadn’t been able to before. Kevin Smith once said in an interview that people want to help you accomplish small goals and that always stuck with me. What I did then has become my favorite piece of advice for new entrepreneurs. I went to the dollar store and purchased a white poster board. I outlined on paper all the baby steps I’d need to take, in order and with a deadline, and then transferred them to the poster. I thought accomplishing about 3 per week was adequate time to steadily chip away at my escape from Radio Shack. My business would be up and running in 3 months.
First, I conceptualized. I defined my mission, named my business, and researched the pricing and packages I’d offer. I looked up and prepared to execute legal processes such as how I’d file my taxes, what liability I’d be taking on, and how I’d collect or claim non-payments. I registered my business accounts online with Paypal, Gmail, and all the social media and advertising outlets I’d use. I was so determined that my best friend and I rented grinding and sanding equipment to take the rust off my van, Bondo my corroded wheel well, and touch up the paint where it was needed so that I looked as presentable and professional as possible. My goal of being open for business in 3 months was accomplished in only 1. May 2012.
I ordered a large car magnet with my business name and phone number on it, and I’d keep it on the car at all times, except when going to or coming from a shift at Radio Shack. I made sure my schedule was the same every week and I scheduled houses to be cleaned on my days off until business picked up more. I whittled down my days at Radio Shack until I no longer needed both financially.
I kept my secret all the way to the day I quit and let them figure it out afterward. I supported myself for 3 years housekeeping until I transitioned again to my next adventure- moving to Las Vegas, where I, comically, returned to the security of retail management.
My 3 years housekeeping afforded me the time and financial freedom to live alone and get to know myself. The gift of executing the start of my first business was a long-lasting confidence boost for future endeavors, anything I could dream up. I’m so glad, not only that I was able to complete the baby steps of my poster board, but that I overcame my first big blow to my self-esteem in business. I was let go from my very first client’s home, for “cutting corners” (blasphemy). I kindly disagreed and told her I would not accept final payment if she didn’t believe it was a job well done. And then I cried and laid in bed for about 3 days, wondering if I was cut out for cleaning, or business at all. I almost closed my business over it. I’m sharing this dark moment because I persevered and I was never let go from another home or even complained to again for the remainder of the three years.
Clean House Clear Mind LLC has been closed now 5 ½ years and I recently learned that the woman who acquired its phone number gets 2-3 calls per day requesting housekeeping. Whenever I’m feeling down about my professional outlook, my dad reminds me how he accidentally called her and she desperately begged him to have me remove my remaining online presence. I will always fondly remember Clean House Clear Mind and what it’s done for me.
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