Explore stories from immigrant/BIPOC*/women business owners who have adapted during the pandemic. The purpose is to learn and connect through shared experience. In this interview, Teresa Luengo Cid (Project Specialist in Diversity Services at KCLS), spoke with Jessica, the owner of a cleaning business.
*BIPOC means "Black, Indigenous, and People of Color."
Meet Jessica, owner of a cleaning business
Jessica is a native of the state of Chiapas, Mexico and has lived in the United States for more than 20 years. In 2015, she had the idea of having her own business. At that time she worked in a restaurant. She also helped her brother at night with a cleaning service, which at first was a part time 4-hour job
When working at the restaurant became difficult, Jessica spoke with her fellow worker, Dunia, about an idea she had of opening her own cleaning business, and that was how they became associates. Her other brother, the owner of a computer business, encouraged her to obtain the appropriate license and to open her own business. Jessica and Dunia began their nightly cleaning route with only two restaurants, then there were three and even five.
In November of 2019, the five restaurants went bankrupt and Jessica and Dunia were forced to reinvent themselves, and they made the decision to offer residential cleaning services by day in private homes. January and February were especially difficult for them; they only had two firm clients and some sporadic ones.
Then COVID-19 hit
We were just trying to go forward when the pandemic began. Because of the fear it spread, Jessica and Dunia were left without work. To try to find new clients, they began to fall back on their friendships, those they knew and their families, calling by phone, putting notices in Facebook, sending emails, but unfortunately this strategy did not work.
It was then that in order to survive, Dunia, a native of Honduras, began to make meals for her Latina friends, which Jessica took to their homes. Besides surviving in this way, Jessica began to help people who could not drive to a store. In exchange for a donation, she would make purchases or run errands for them.
El Centro de la Raza and the Business Opportunity Center have helped them greatly, before COVID with getting their business licenses and with classes for small businesses, and during the pandemic, with an application for financial assistance through an NGO, Mery Corp. Thanks to the help they received, they could pay their rent for two months.
A turning point
Until April when their fixed clients did not call them again, and they fell back on cleaning as a means of subsisting. They began their business again thanks in large part to recommendations and referrals from person to person. Now the residential business, which is still new, focuses on clients who have been happy with their cleaning service. They have been recommending Jessica's company and new clients are emerging. “The business marches on, giving us joy and the hope that we will go forward and that economic concerns will be lifted a little with each new client.”
The road ahead
Jessica thinks like a natural-born business woman: “The plan is to continue expanding the business, and perhaps to hire another person to help us. Our dream is to continue expanding, including to reach the point of having a team and giving work to more women.”
“Every business requires a sacrifice; there comes a moment when you want to throw in the towel and the dream you had vanishes. That moment comes when all that is left is to continue or it is all over. That is a hard decision in one’s life. If you have to throw in the towel, may it be on the beach and may it be to enjoy your successes.”
Jessica’s Business Tip:
For people who wish to have a business: Don’t give up, don’t let a problem or a difficult situation end your dream. It is very important not to lose faith, to make good things or something from nothing. That will keep you on your feet.”
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