SATURDAY ? June 24, 2006
Redmond woman finds success in making houses sparkle
Forget the drudgery of scrubbing toilets, washing floors and dusting shelves
When Redmond's Elaine Gordon Evans talks about housekeeping, she doesn't see chores -she sees economic opportunity.
And that's what she tells those who ask about how she built her business, Elaine's American Maid Housecleaning Service.
She'll talk about her story - and her vision - on "StartUps with Joan Durand," a Martha Stewart radio show airing at 4 p.m. today on Sirius Radio.
"I grew up in a welfare project in New York City," Evans said. "My father left when I was 5. My mother was very ill. I grew up on welfare. I don't remember being a child."
To help out, she says, "I started ironing shirts for a nickel apiece when I was 9."
She was 18 when her mother died. Inspired by a subway poster showing a man lounging on a Miami beach, Evans headed south to Florida.
By 19, she was a single mom making her way by cleaning houses. Then she got sick and landed in the hospital. Desperate not to lose her customers, she drafted other single mothers to fill in.
"That's when my housecleaning business really began," she says.
Evans eventually married and ended up living in California. Then she produced a children's exercise video and she, her then-husband and their four children - two of them her stepchildren -began touring to promote it.
But the couple's plans didn't play out the way they'd hoped they would.
"We were homeless - staying in churches, schools, campgrounds. That's how I ended up in Redmond - a family took us in. I was pregnant.
"We landed here in time for me to give birth to my youngest son."
Soon after, she again launched a housecleaning business, lining up clients, then finding people to provide services to them.
These days, her business - now in its 21st year - provides cleaning for 140 homes a week. Some 80 self-employed house cleaners do the work for her clients. At the same time, she says, they're learning how to build their own clientele on the side.
"What I do is launch them," she says. "My customers are to keep them going. I insist they also find their own customers. They know how to put ads in the papers, put fliers out. I vouch for them when customers call."
Evans has plenty of dreams about where she wants to take her business - and her vision.
She wants to launch her business nationwide, not to offer franchises but to go into cities and teach women how toopen their own housecleaning businesses.
"My mission is helping lowincome women across America open their own housecleaning services to support themselves," she says. "Give them a few tools and they will be the most phenomenal entrepreneurs you have ever seen."
Next fall, she hopes to have out her first workout video, "How to Clean Your House in 30 Minutes and Get An Aerobic Workout."
"It's the Cliffs Notes of cleaning," she says. "We do pushups and squats over the toilet."
In addition to her other efforts, Evans also created "Elaine's Maid for Life" two years ago. The organization, which operates under the umbrella of the Heritage Foundation, provides free housecleaning to women with cancer and the husbands of women who have died from cancer.