Providing A Second Chance At Economic Opportunity

Tequila outside her home in Chicago, IL (photo courtesy of Atlantic Re:think)

 

Tequila Jarrett describes her cleaning business as much more than a source of income. “The business means opportunity, a second chance, a sense of hope,” she said. “We are able to help others provide for their families when they otherwise wouldn’t have had an opportunity.”

 

Tequila understands the effect that a criminal record can have on an individual’s hiring prospects. “They get out and they’re rehabilitated and they’re ready to be productive members of society, but society won’t give them an opportunity. They have to eat, so what happens is they end up going right back to what got them locked up in the first place,” she explained. When she considers hiring a new team member, Tequila appreciates the value of offering people a second chance. “Giving those people opportunity, I find that they work so much harder the second time around because they know what they never want to go back to.”

 

Family Roots

Tequila started her business at age 22, when she was still in college. She was looking for a way to earn extra income while balancing a full-time course load. “My dad said, ‘You clean better than anybody I know. Why don’t you just start your own cleaning business?'” 15 years later, Tequila has grown the business to employ seven team members and earn nearly seven figures in yearly revenue – all while balancing a full-time teaching career.

 

Tequila’s family shares in her success. “My family, they’re so proud of me even though none of them like to clean,” she joked. Tequila had family in mind when she rebranded the business from its former name, We Jus’ Wanna Klean, to its current name, MDW Facility Services. “MDW, that’s my son’s initials, she shared. Trying to leave a legacy for him. For him and his kids, and their kids – trying to create some generational wealth around here.”

 

A strategic shift

In 2012, Tequila made a strategic decision to transition the business from residential to commercial clients. That shift has paid off, but it wasn’t easy at first. “We quickly realized that this is a really different ballgame. On the residential side, we got paid every day. On the commercial side and you submit an invoice and you wait,” Tequila said. That’s when she started looking for capital to continue operating the business. The Women’s Business Development Center in downtown Chicago referred her to Accion. “We’re in a good position thanks to Accion. It helped us to secure contracts we probably wouldn’t have been able to, because we wouldn’t have been able to pay our payroll.” Tequila recently paid off her second Accion loan.

 

Tequila with MDW employees Clarence and Troy(photo credit: Moonhouse Productions)

 

A business can’t be successful without its employees

Clarence, an MDW employee of more than four years, first met Tequila while supervising her company’s work at his full-time employer. “She had to be about 31 when I met her. To see a young black lady doing her thing – she motivated me to want more out of life,” he recalled. Clarence had been working in maintenance for over a decade and was looking for a part-time job to better support himself and his five children. “I try to give my kids the things I didn’t have coming up,” he said. Since Clarence started working at MDW, he has grown his leadership capacity to take on a supervisory role within the company. “If you’re dedicated you can learn a lot from Tequila,” he said. “She’s trying to better you and teach you the business so you will put your heart in your work and you’ll appreciate making the customers happy.”

 

Tequila’s philosophy that “a business can’t be successful without its employees” is evident in Clarence’s comments about the company. “We’ve got a tight-knit team. The employees give it their all, and we work well together,” he explained. “If there’s anything Tequila can do to help do that, she will. You can ask a favor, like getting paid early, that you can’t ask at big corporations.” Clarence also appreciates Tequila’s hiring philosophy, sharing that if he had his own business he would adopt a similar approach. “I probably would take the person that needs the help more than the person that I know can get a job,” he said. “It’s hard to get a job when you might have a background or made poor choices in your life earlier on when you were younger.” Clarence added that Tequila tries to pay her employees more than others in her field. “What I love about her most is she’s fair. She doesn’t try to short change you – she tries to give you as much as she can.”

 

Tequila’s next goal is to secure larger contracts. Her main motivation? “To be able to provide a lot more jobs.” As she previously shared with Atlantic Re:think, “success is not always determined by the dollar you have in your pocket. It can be determined by how many lives you’ve changed.”