In 2007 I was 31 and newly divorced after seven years of marriage. I was recovering from the shock and personal disappointment of going through a divorce, which is something rare in my family.
I was blessed with an inner fortitude that came from my faith in God. I knew I was a survivor; strong and independent since childhood. In my 31 years, I was already a seasoned Paramedic, and the Captain of an EMS service. At the same time, I was still serving in the US Air Force Reserves as a Technical Sargent stationed with an Aerovac (Flight Medicine) Squadron.
Even with my professional accomplishments going well, I was searching for a purpose in my life. A close friend suggested I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I did, and that’s when it hit me! I was an entrepreneur at heart! But, what kind of business did I want to start? I searched my heart and asked myself questions like, “What do I care most about,” and “What makes me happy?” I kept coming up with the same answer. My answer was simple; I liked helping others.
I ended up starting a personal errand and concierge service, which was successful. I had customers that loved and trusted me with the keys to their million dollar homes and luxury cars while they were away. These same customers also trusted me to handle sensitive matters in their personal lives. Soon after I had started the concierge service, I found out about the trash can cleaning industry. This industry was apparently huge in areas of the UK, Europe, and Australia. It fascinated me because that seemed like a great way to help others. I mean, who wants to clean their own trash can? Further, you have to be humble to want to clean someone else’s dirty trash cans. Ha! I tabled the trash can cleaning idea for seven years because I was already running my concierge service and then ended up happily remarried to another business owner.
My new husband and I ran his successful transportation company together for years. In December of 2013, we sold his company. By this time, I was ready to start that trash can cleaning service. I had waited long enough! My husband went back to school full-time at Texas A & M University, and he was subsequently unable to be a partner with me. I enlisted the help of my younger sister, Katrina, as my business partner. She was happy to take on this unique endeavor with me, and she was excited about the vision I had.
Katrina, is a veteran of the United States Navy, where she served as a Nuclear Power Electrician for seven years. At the time of our initial start-up, she was one of only a few women working in the off-shore industry as a Sub-Sea specialist and she was rocking it! That is some serious girl power there! More importantly, she was honest, hard-working, a community servant, and a volunteer in her church. Katrina has a heart of gold, and she would give someone anything they needed, even if it meant she had to go without. Her heart has always been about helping others. She has enjoyed several mission trips to Haiti serving children at an orphanage. She was a volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America. Although she left the program eight years ago to relocate for work, she still keeps in close contact with her “little sister.”
I knew I wanted this new business to be purposeful, and I wanted go back to the heart of the” helping others” desire that started me on the path of entrepreneurship in the first place. Our mission statement was simple. Even though we provided a unique trash can cleaning service, that was not why we started a business. We knew our company’s mission statement had to reflect that. Our mission statement reads “Our mission is to give to those in need and to provide jobs. We accomplish this by being a leader in a unique industry, and by being humble in our service to others.”
From the day we decided to go for it and start this service, we knew our goal would be to not only provide a wonderful service for our local community, but to offer to build these cleaning systems for others who would want to start their own business; particularly military veterans.
Our father retired from the military after 20 years of service and our grandfather did the same. Our other grandfather served and we have an Uncle that retired after 30 years of military service. We have many more family members currently serving, too! Working in the medical field I witnessed, first-hand, the physical sacrifice so many young men and women who served in the military have made. I feel deeply emotional about that. War is hell, as my grandfather always said.
It is hard to imagine those who sacrificed so much could exit the military and disappear into civilian life feeling that they have nothing left to offer their community. I believe many of these men and women are capable and deserving members of society who work hard and provide for their families.
A Feb 2017 report by the Watson Institute at Brown University reported the following statistics given to them by the Defense Department:
- Since 2003 veterans are exiting the military at a rate of 250,000/yr and expected to continue at this high rate until at least 2019
- As of 2008, 52% of the 250,000/year were 25 or younger
- Only 4.5% had a bachelors degree
- 65% need help finding meaningful work
These veterans typically have difficulty transitioning into civilian jobs even though they are:
- Have attention to detail
- Are punctual
- And respectful to authority
Our service may be the cleaning of trash cans, but part of our mission is to help other Veterans have a way to integrate into civilian life. We believe this type of service is the kind of business that is perfect for a Veteran and we want them to know they have options and can have a different mission. A mission that will allow them to:
- Utilize their leadership skills
- Serve others
- Provide for themselves and their families
- Provide the same service to their communities that we are providing – a service that few are providing and more and more are looking for
Other veterans, who are just like us, can provide a service to their community while creating a source of income for themselves. Veterans who may otherwise be discouraged by civilian/employee life can, instead, have a sense of purpose. They may also see this as an outlet to use their leadership skills while providing a useful service to their communities.
When so many of the “Greatest Generation” returned from the battlefields of WWII, they built their own homes, and businesses. They created things, and they got involved in their communities.
I believe if we invest in our veterans today, we can have another “Great Generation.” Let us not forget them. Let them not be made to feel as though we no longer need the skills they have. No, I want to give them a new mission. They can have a mission to humbly serve their community. Their new mission could become one of community leadership through business ownership.
Like myself, at 31, looking for a new life mission, I want to share what I’ve learned and hopefully be an inspiration to those who may otherwise feel like their mission is complete, and they have nothing left to offer.
Update: I’ve written an e-book, titled “Trash Can Cleaning in America” that is available for download and is on our website at www.cleanRcans.com. After speaking with over 100 people about the industry, it was becoming increasingly difficult to call and speak with all the people requesting that of me. The e-book does a great job of answering all the common questions people have about the industry and gives you enough knowledge to see if it is something you want to pursue.