Green Clean Homes Boss Steers Clear Of What’s Toxic

By Anthony Clark
The Gainesville Sun, Fla.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) 34 year old Mary Held started “Green Clean Homes” in 2013 with $50 worth of supplies from Target. The business specializes in using green cleaning products free of toxic chemicals, including Mrs. Meyer’s brand products and a lot of distilled white vinegar.

The Gainesville Sun, Fla.

Mary Held was trying to get out of a bad marriage, but needed more income to provide for herself and her three young children.

She was taking in some income by hiring out independent contractors for her Aloha Pet Sitting & Dog Walking business, but it wasn’t enough, so she started reading Entrepreneur magazine for ideas. She found an article about 101 part-time business ideas and was particularly drawn to the idea of a green cleaning service. She said she had been into natural goods such as hair products and whole foods since she was a teenager and knew that Gainesville was more environmentally conscious than her native St. Augustine.

“I had heard about Student Maid at the time and I thought, ‘Well, if she could do it why not me? And why not green?’ ” she said.

Held, 34, started Green Clean Homes in 2013 with $50 worth of supplies from Target.

The business specializes in using green cleaning products free of toxic chemicals, including Mrs. Meyer’s brand products and a lot of distilled white vinegar.

Like her former pet business, Held hires independent contractors to do the work while she handles customer relations and marketing, which allows her to stay home with three kids ages 2 to 5.

Held, who is studying psychology at Saint Leo University, said she screens contractors for honesty and integrity, usually hiring older women with experience in cleaning for part-time work. Her workers start at $10 an hour with regular raises up to about $20 an hour within a few months.

She did $80,000 in business during her first year and is now building the business back up after putting it on the back burner last year while going through a divorce.

Customers include homeowners, Realtors and apartment property managers. At the peak of “turn” season in August, she used 26 contractors to prepare apartments for an influx of new residents and is now using seven. Held is in talks with a couple people about partnerships to grow the business.

For the business to reach its potential, Held said she needs to educate more people about the health risks of conventional cleaning products. Despite Gainesville’s reputation as a green community, she said many customers insist on using conventional products and she is not in a position to turn them down.

“People say they don’t want green. They just want bleach,” she said. “The marketing goes a long way with people seeing all the commercials over the years with bleach.”

Held moved to Gainesville in 2008 to start over from a lifetime of abuse that saw her going in and out of women’s shelters.

While in Peaceful Paths’ transitional housing program, she sold her car and bought a scooter, using the $4,000 left over to start the pet business.

She also met a neighbor and got married, but said the relationship went bad.

“I finally got to this point to realize I had to break the pattern which means basically I won’t be dating anyone for a long time until I can learn what I need to do to get out of that pattern,” she said.

She started the pet business because she wanted to work around pets and not people, but she has since immersed herself in the community. She serves on the city of Gainesville’s Nature Centers Commission, which oversees the city’s natural areas, and previously served on the City Beautification Board.

Held said she wants to serve as an inspiration for other women.

“I believe that part of the whole thing I want to do here is give women hope that they can create a life no matter what they’ve been through,” she said. “I also don’t think a formal education is necessary for creating success — it does help and it is valuable. I just want women to have hope for their future to believe in themselves and that they’re capable of doing whatever they want to do.”

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