It was a leap of faith for Clinton single mom Vivian Faulkner when she left a steady job to start her own cleaning business. Her first month out on her own, she made less than $200 a week from the few clients she had lined up before she quit.
Faulkner had worked for four years as a social worker for Jackson area nursing homes, but she couldn’t financially support herself and her young daughter, Joy, on her salary.
The decision to venture out on her own nearly three years ago wasn’t easy, but she went with a gut feeling that she could make more money and work around her daughter’s schedule if she had her own business.
“I was very fearful,” she said. “It was a huge step of faith, but I wanted to raise a productive child. As a single parent, you need to be more available for your child, and I couldn’t do that working for someone else.”
Starting with just three clients, Faulkner worked hard under a consistent motto of “Everything in Excellence,” and her clients took notice. By her second month, she had almost filled up her work week with residential clients, all by word of mouth.
Her business really took off six months later when real estate developer Mike Peters heard tenants in his Fondren Corner building singing her praises. Peters hired her for a few residential jobs, then for small commercial jobs, and before long she was doing all of his major commercial work, including cleaning all 12 floors of the 85,000-square-foot Plaza Building in downtown Jackson and Fondren Corner, a mixed-use development in the Fondren neighborhood.
“She’s fabulous, and my tenants adore her,” said Peters. “As a landlord, that’s all you care about. If I’m not getting calls from my tenants with complaints, I’m happy as a lark.”
After Peters came along, Faulkner found herself with more business than she could handle. She hired other single moms she knew from church who needed the extra work to make ends meet. She pays them more than minimum wage, understanding full well what they are facing as breadwinners for their families.
Faulkner now has 15 employees, most of them single mothers. Some work full time, others part time cleaning homes and businesses. They clean most offices at night when employees have gone home, and this works well for some on Faulkner’s crew like her nighttime supervisor, an interior designer. She puts her kids to bed, then leaves them with a babysitter and comes to work. The schedule fits her family because her children don’t miss her absence.
She named her cleaning business Oh My Goodness Inc. because her clients would always say “Oh my goodness” when they walked into their homes after one of her cleanings. Faulkner says she goes the extra mile when she cleans a house or business, and she admits she’s done jobs that actually cost her money because she doesn’t leave until it’s perfect. Besides basic cleaning, she and her employees do extra jobs like organize, wipe down baseboards and move plants to vacuum behind them. When she’s finished, she turns on lamps for ambiance.
Neely Carlton, a working mom with small children, said she appreciates Faulkner because she does more than clean her house.
“Vivian also considers how I live in my house and makes suggestions on how things could work better,” said Carlton.
Starting her small business was risky, but Faulkner has found her hard work was definitely worth it. She is earning a much larger income, and Oh My Goodness has grown faster than she could have ever predicted. She plans to add more employees as she steers her business toward more commercial work.
Working lockstep with Peters, Faulkner and her employees will be cleaning the new Fondren Place when it is finished. Fondren Place is an old school that Peters and Andrew Mattiace plan to start renovating late this summer into a $25-million mixed-use development of luxury condos, shops and restaurants.
Even with a sizable crew under her management, Faulkner still works 55 to 60 hours a week. One recent Friday night found her on the roof of the Fondren Corner building, getting it ready for a Saturday night wedding while her daughter played nearby. Another day she was cleaning elevator door grates in the Plaza Building. Nobody will spot the clean grates as they rush on and off the elevator, but Faulkner knows it’s this extra effort that has carried her so far.
“People don’t notice it, but I do,” she said.
Contact MBJ Staff Writer Kelly Ingebretsen at firstname.lastname@example.org.