LYNNWOOD — Angel’s Cleaning Service, a small two-person business, got a big new client this spring — a contractor for Sound Transit’s light rail Lynnwood Link Extension.
It took the owner of Angel’s Cleaning, Silver Hernandez, by surprise.
“I wasn’t going out and looking for business,” she said. “They found us on Yelp.”
For the last few years, it’s been Hernandez and her husband, Cesar Lopez, earning enough to take care of the family, she said.
Then the contractor invited Hernandez to submit a bid, and she was awarded the contract to clean their new office.
The firm moved into the lower level of a former Sears store in Shoreline this spring.
About 180 workers, including engineers and planners, are based there.
“It’s a busy office during the day, so we clean it at night,” said Hernandez, 37.
Moving from a one or two-person family business to a business with employees is challenging, no matter what kind of operation you run, small business experts say.
Instead of viewing it as an onerous task, focus instead on how hiring “can open up a range of possibilities for your business. You’ll be able to grow your revenue, take your company in new directions, and maybe even enjoy your work more than ever,” according to a recent business.com article.
“It’s scary and exciting to have this new customer,” Hernandez said.
“We clean from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,”she said. “We go home to eat dinner and then we go back to work until 9 p.m.”
“I am going at a rate that I never expected,” said Hernandez, who founded her cleaning business four years ago.
The stepped-up pace prompted her to reach out to the Small Business Administration.
The SBA referred her to Alicia Marselina, project coordinator and financial analyst with Economic Alliance Snohomish County.
“Alicia is helping me with how to do my books — things are going to grow,” Hernandez said.
Marselina helped connect Hernandez to SCORE, a national volunteer network of business experts and mentors.
Said Marselina, “Having a good accounting system is very important for small businesses, specially when they are growing, adding employees and also getting into government market.
Yes, accounting could create a headache for some people, that is why program like ours, Small Business Transportation Resource Center could assist and provide guidance.”
Hernandez is meeting with a SCORE volunteer in Edmonds who is advising her how to write job descriptions and locate good employees.
“I’m feeling good about everything that’s happened,” Hernandez said. “Before, me and my husband kept the business going, but we just stayed where we were.”
Hernandez learned the business from her mother, Bonita Prock, who operated the Cleaning Lady Northwest.
“I’ve been cleaning since I was 12,” Hernandez said. “I helped my mom. She did residential, apartment move-outs and janitorial help.”
Hernandez, who attended Mariner High School, worked in retail businesses and then for a Bellevue cleaning company. In her mid-20s, she rejoined her mother’s business.
“We worked together until four years ago when my mom got sick,” Hernandez said.
Overnight, it became hers — the business that her mom started 25 years ago.
“I never knew the whole business side, the office side, the scheduling, the accounting,” Hernandez said. “My mom tried to teach me some of the business side. A lot I learned, but through trial and error.”
The first year was rocky. “I don’t know how I survived,” she said.
If she had it to do all over again, Hernandez wouldn’t change the name of her mom’s business. “I wanted to start over at that point,” she said.
Now, she recognizes the value of a legacy business and its reputation.
“We learn by our mistakes,” she said.
Recently, a supervisor at the Shoreline office asked Hernandez if she would consider cleaning the contractor’s Bellevue offices.
The offer has provided “some reassurance that they like us and want to work with us in the future,” Hernandez said.
Whatever happens, she feels prepared to take the next step.
“There’s great sources of education and help for the small business,” Hernandez said.
“I really wish I had known about that when I started this. Now, I am connected. I think I can take my business to a greater level.”
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods