Donna is one of 11 women I followed over one year. Here is a portion of her story.
Why did you start your business?
“I was a single mom with two boys at the time, they were 1 and 3. I used to work for a company in the city as a recruiter. As a single mom my kids didn’t have a parent that would be there at performances and such. One day there was something going on at my son’s preschool and I really wanted to go. My boss said I couldn’t leave. I remember thinking, I can find another job, but I can’t get those memories back. I’m a single mom and I didn’t have any savings, but I packed up my desk and I left. I never looked back.”
How often do you work from home?
“I separated from my husband and moved to a much smaller place, but I’m happy. So when I’m not in my car I work from home. I haven’t been to my office since December. I love it. I love my home.”
Why did you choose to start a cleaning business?
“My mom came here when I was 5 from Barbados and was a house cleaner, so I was used to it. On the weekends I started cleaning for a lady. Oh my god, I’m here for 3-4 hours and I’m making more money than I did sitting at a desk 8 hours a day. I was like wait, maybe if I could get a few of these during the week I could pick up my kids after school and they wouldn’t have to go to after-school. The lucky thing for me was that I had a client that told me about Park Slope Parents (an online parent community). I like to say I built my business on Park Slope Parents. It picked up shortly after and one day I was sitting down and a lightbulb went off in my head. If I’m making this much money on my own what if I had a helper? So, I hired my first helper and a month later I was able to hire my second. I love my job. I Love what I do. Some days I feel like I’m not grateful, but I am a lucky girl. I started Cleaning Brooklyn 12 years ago by myself. It’s been 12 good years and I have long term clients. I’ve seen their kids grow up and they’ve seen mine. So yeah, I don’t think I’m ever going to give up dirty toilets!”
You went in for the hysterectomy at 1pm, but your surgery was delayed for hours. How did you feel?
“My best friend Sheena came with me, she was a blessing that day. When they told me the surgery was delayed I wanted to cancel. I felt hungry and tired. My kids were home with their dad and my oldest was at home waiting for me. I finally went in at 6:30pm”
You were volunteering at your 13 year old’s school. Why is this important?
“It’s very important for me to be there to volunteer and help and I also get to hang out with my son. He’s having a hard time right now so the principal also thinks it’s a good idea for me to do more at the school so he sees my presence. We do this thing on Fridays, “Lunch with Alex’s mom”. He gets to invite 3 friends and we have lunch in the principals office.”
Your oldest has a hard time going to school. Why and what happened this week?
“We’re having a hard time at the moment with Corey. He’s 15.5 and in 10th grade. He’s been struggling with depression and anxiety for almost two years now. We tried homeschooling before and felt like it was too isolated and decided he should go back to Brooklyn Prospect Charter. It’s not working. This week he was admitted to Bellevue (Hospital) for a 72 hour stay. It was brutal for myself and him. He was shocked and had no idea what was happening. He had a major panic attack at home and started pulling his hair and banging his head. I felt like I had no choice but to take him in, so I wasn’t surprised when they said they wanted to keep him. He’s home now and seems to be in good spirits. They increased his medication, not sure it’s working. The only thing that calms him down are video games or anything to do with technology. He’s a super smart wiz kid. He just doesn’t know how to use his powers at the moment.”
While giving a job estimate at the Picnic House you mentioned wanting to do something completely different career wise. What is it?
“I would love to take a step back from the day to day of running my current business. It has consumed my life for 13 years and my kids have suffered through it. I would love to start another business doing retreats for people who suffer from mental health issues. Myself and my oldest son suffer from mental illness so I know how important it is to be able to have that mental break sometimes.”
You are in your new office space and thinking of hiring an assistant to help with your cleaning business. Why?
I have been growing like wildflowers and I am excited about that. I recently started offering services in LI, NJ, CT and Westchester. I will need an assistant to help with emails while I am in the field working with my team. Emails can get backed up fast because after working all day in the field, the last thing I want to see is my computer when I get home after 8pm.
Why did you have to go home to wake your oldest at 1pm on a school day?
“Corey suffers from depression and anxiety and he’s currently not in school. He doesn’t want to leave the house, so the hair stylist comes to him to do his dreads. I had to go home to wake him up. I think the depression is genetic and I worry that my other boys will have it too.”
You were getting ready for a party. What was this party for?
“HA! Yes, I was. I wanted to celebrate a year of freedom since leaving my husband. This was the happiest year that I have had in a long time. It took me a long time to get to this moment in my life so I felt like I had to celebrate. I travelled more and was more open to myself, it felt amazing!”