Think back to the 1960s classic The Graduate. Remember Mr. McGuire’s sage advice to Dustin Hoffman’s young, rudderless Benjamin? “I just want to say one word to you,” he said. “Just one word.” Instead of “plastics,” in 2009, an army of matured Benjamins are responding to a new mantra “green.” And in turn, a legion of bright young men and women are poised to clean up the mess caused by plastic (and its byproducts). One of these grads, Jorge Lee, who recently returned to Marin with a degree from Cornell University, started a “green” housecleaning service. For Lee, green housecleaning was an easy choice: not too much start-up capital, and he could work from home. “Having grown up in Mill Valley,” he explains, “I have been socialized to be green. It was always second nature to me and is a large reason I decided to start a sustainable business.” Lee spent hours in the local libraries researching both nontoxic housecleaning products and the essentials of starting a business. With help from Microsoft Word’s basic 26-page “how to start a business” template, he was forced to think about every aspect of the business, and turned “a vague idea into a vivid map for the business.” Nearly a year later, he is up and running with an already impressive list of clients, plans to sell his own line of all-natural cleaners, and his company, Marin House Cleaning, is a green certified business.
Why do you think Marin is appropriate for your business? As the county fair this past year would suggest, we may be the greenest county on earth. Marin residents care about their health. Surprisingly, I have found that many people are still not on board when it comes to green cleaning. Once informed of the dangers of toxic products and presented with green alternatives that work, people I have spoken with want to make the switch. My goal is to help them by providing a professional yet personal experience.
Any surprises? Something that wasn’t on the business plan? I hadn’t planned on the community education requests. I’ve been asked (and am happy) to do PowerPoint lectures on how to go nontoxic while cleaning the home. I’ve also been able to partner with other like-minded companies in the community such as Teens Turning Green to help them with their Teens for Healthy Schools program.
But the biggest surprise has been my clients asking to buy the products I make. Soon I will sell them under the name Bay Area Health Company.
Have you always been a clean kid? By leading as example, my mother has shown me how to keep things in order. She grew up in a traditional Peruvian village where she did the majority of the housework for her five brothers.
When I was growing up, she was too proud to have my sister and I do cleaning, and even now that I run a cleaning business, my mom still won’t let me clean her house. But she is the reason I know how to clean a house.
Do your peers think you’re crazy? Fellow Tamalpais High School grads have occupations ranging from an associate at AIG to the owner of a late-night cookie delivery service (mrsmunchies.com). At first they were skeptical but now that my company has become Bay Area Green Business Program Certified and my client base has grown during these bleak economic times, I think they are taking me more seriously.