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Businesswoman mentors others to follow her lead
Elaine Gordon wants to change the world. Only a few minutes in her presence will convince you she's got the energy to achieve most anything she sets her mind to. Gordon is owner and operator of American Maids, a house cleaning business in Redmond . She runs the business out of her beautiful home in Broadhurst-an indication of just how successful she has been.
Gordon's other mission is to offer the opportunity for success to those who are struggling. In her lifetime, she has helped hundreds of people on welfare launch their own cleaning businesses. Her passion for helping grows out of her own background. She's been there.
Gordon was raised by a single mom on welfare in a New York City housing project. At age 10, she began helping to support her family by taking in ironing. "I know what it's like to have nothing more than some food and the clothes on your back," she recalled.
At 19, Gordon became a single mom and went onto welfare in Florida, but she was determined to support herself. She began cleaning houses. Inhaling a cleaning product put a hole in her lung and sent her to the hospital. "I started calling everyone I knew to ask if they could clean for me, so I wouldn't lose my clients," she said. That's how it started. Within two years, she was not only off welfare, but running the biggest maid service in Florida, with 160 houses a week and 90 people subcontracting with her company. Many of them also were former welfare recipients.
Then Gordon left it all behind to get married, have two sons and move to Washington State. It turned out to be a setback. Creating and marketing a kids' exercise video did not generate enough income to support her family and they spent nearly a year homeless. After a divorce, she decided to start up the housecleaning business again. After 13 years in business in Washington , Gordon's company cleans an average of 127 houses a week. She works with about 20 subcontractors. While she is technically not their employer, many look to her for personal support and inspiration.
"I walk them through the business licensing process and encourage them to get their own clients with flyers or whatever," she explained. "Having a coach, a motivator is important. I call them, crack jokes, get them going. I offer kindness and tell them what they can achieve. And I can't believe how their lives take off." Along with building her business, Gordon also home schooled her sons for several years, earned a. rec room full of martial arts trophies and has launched another career, as an agent placing local professional athletes in commercials.
Gordon is anxious to see WorkFirst succeed and wants to do her part to help those she can. "I want to make sure my life is not a waste. There's so much I want to do," she said. "Without welfare, people would have no where to go, but it should be like an emergency room-in and out. It should give them the vision and motivate them to move on.