Saudia Davis founded GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning to bring caring for the environment to the most domestic of needs -- cleaning a home. By using green techniques, her cleaning service also protects its employees from the long-term effects of exposure to harsh chemicals. In 2006, while working as a publicist planning premieres and events for big films like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," Davis started a green home-cleaning side business. She left public relations in 2007 and devoted her time fully to GreenHouse. Davis, 35, lives in downtown Manhattan.
Why did you switch careers?
In 2006 my grandmother, a domestic and professional cleaner her whole life, passed away from cancer and it was speculated it was from years of cleaning with harsh chemicals. I had always wanted to start a new business and with her past it had paved the way to provide a healthy choice in cleaning for both the client and our cleaners, the service providers.
What was the hardest part of launching a biz?
The hardest part was understanding all the elements involved in taking a business from being a side venture to a "real company." There are a lot of elements that are involved in growing a successful business but it's just more complicated when you're building a triple bottom line company that is focused on being good to people and the planet.
What does "green cleaning" entail?
We think about it in two perspectives: We think about it from the products that we're using and ensuring that they are healthy for the environment we're cleaning in and for us the other part is about being socially responsible for our employees; and so that's where the people and the planet sort of meet for us.
Why might other companies not adopt this method?
The company was built around really having different levels of green. Our idea is that there is a different shade of green for each New Yorker. And so we clean with baking soda, we clean with vinegar. Not everyone shares the same values and I think it comes down to the leadership of a company.
Have you had any unusual requests from clients?
A lot of our clients just come to us because they're like, 'you guys know what you're doing.' They're entrusting us to bring green into their home and to help educate them in that arena. One of the fun things that we have probably encountered is where a client will ask us how to clean a very specific thing like for instance copper pots and we said to them, 'ketchup is a good way of cleaning copper pots.'
What is a pro and a con of your new job?
The most rewarding part of my job is definitely the fact that I've built a company that solves a real problem in our community. It provides a green cleaning alternative for our employees and the homes and offices our employees clean each day. And I hear from our clients all the time how much of an impact that has on their daily life. I think the downside of sort of having this job is balancing all the needs and the demands of the company when you're a sole-preneur.
Do you wish you had gone into this originally?
I couldn't have done this job early in my career. Building a business is very much about leadership and I just did not have those key skills and experience and even a sense of my leadership at that early stage in my career.
Did your PR experience help you in your venture?
I really learned from my previous manager the kind of leader I wanted to be. I think that experience really served me well, from a groundwork perspective, in building a successful company. When you're a startup, getting people to really work for you, but not just do a 9-5 but people who really believe in your vision and the fact that you can lead them somewhere, is important. It's key. And learning that from my previous role in PR and how to manage people and how to manage people's expectations, how to manage customer service, all those things I think have sort of allowed me to move forward and build something substantial.
Do you have any advice for readers who are considering a career 180?
I would say, begin networking. When you own your own venture you have to be the rainmaker of sorts and so I would definitely recommend that they begin building relationships outside of their work and friend circle and these new people will be allies that will either be future clients, advisors, mentors, even investors, and I think for me I found out even good friends can relate to the experience of starting and running a business.