When some people tell you they work 100 hours a week, you usually don’t believe them, but I have every confidence that Rosalynn Robb puts in that many hours running her business. She worked full-time while handling a full course load through college, 40 hours of work plus five classes during the school year and 100 hours during the summer. Now that she’s graduated, her cleaning company, Freedom Cleaning, is on the path to success, dominating the luxury home market in Kentucky’s biggest cities— Louisville and Lexington. Her ten year plan involves launching in four other cities, and possibly heading to law school in her spare time. The energy and excitement coming across the phone line as I chatted with her leads me to believe that this dynamo will accomplish everything she sets out to do, and more.
Rosalynn was originally on track to become a federal prosecutor and had applied to law school with letters of recommendation from Andy Beshear, currently the Attorney General of Kentucky. Beshear pulled her aside after giving her the recommendation and suggested that, due to conditions in the job market, it wasn’t the best time to go to law school. Why not start your own business instead, he asked her. Rosalynn was torn between her heart, which wanted to go to law school so that she could work on behalf of human trafficking victims, and her head, which suggested that it was not the right time to get into debt for school. Her head won out, and she launched Freedom Cleaning in 2014. But her heart still gets satisfaction from donating 10% of her profits to local human trafficking organizations such as Kentucky Rescue & Restore and Scarlet Hope.
The company motto says it all: “Freedom for you, freedom for others.” By using all-natural cleaning products and providing a vital service to help keep people’s homes clean, she frees her customers to focus on other things. And her passion project of helping human trafficking survivors is encompassed in the “freedom for others” that profits from her business goes to support.
An abuse survivor from childhood, Rosalynn is keenly interested in building awareness about human trafficking. “It’s always been about more than making money,” said Rosalynn.
Despite putting her law school ambitions on hold, she’s not shying away from public service. Rosalyn went to the White House to represent small business as a top woman entrepreneur. She also started a master’s program in political management at George Washington University, which she has deferred for a year to focus more on growing her business. “I’ve thought about doing an MBA but experience is the most important thing,” she said.
The Freedom Family
Freedom Cleaning now provides work for a team of fourteen people, and one of Rosalynn’s success factors is that she’s able to retain loyal employees. “I’ve had two people leave and then come back when they realize they miss the company culture,” she said. “I don’t expect them to do anything that I wouldn’t do, and I’ve cleaned with all of them to build that relationship. I care more about them than about getting rich. We had four girls in nursing school at University of Louisville that I gave $500 a semester to help cover the cost of school.”
In addition to this generosity, Christmas dinners at a local steakhouse are a tradition, and Rosalynn provides lunch every other week. Her clients tell her they can see the difference. “They say, ‘We can tell that your employees are happy with working for you.’”
This drive to provide an environment where her employees feel valued stems from Rosalynn’s own experience working for a cleaning company when she was a sophomore in college. “I’m thankful for that experience, but I know that when I worked as an employee, they didn’t have my back. They scheduled so many homes, one on top of another. I have an open door policy with my team for them to tell me if I’ve stretched them too far. I want to be reasonable and also give them the tools, training, and cleaning supplies that will make them successful.”
The Waiting List
Freedom Cleaning is so successful that there’s a waiting list for prospective clients to join. “We’re small, so we tell them to call in a few months to see if we have an opening.” Rosalynn does not want to add houses to the roster that she can’t support with high quality cleaning, so she prefers to keep a smaller group of clients that she knows her team will impress week in and week out. “I don’t want to hire a bunch of people and then not have jobs for them [if any of the prospective clients discontinues service]. We do an excellent job with the first impression and I want the client to get the same service five years down the road that she got the first time,” said Rosalynn.
While juggling the growing business, Rosalynn still manages to clean twelve homes on a weekly basis, sometimes on her own. “I do think that leadership starts from the top, and no matter how big we get I want us to retain the camaraderie that we have now.”
When first starting out, she had to take whatever home she was offered, but has since been able to hone her strategy. “We target the higher end home because they want more cleanings, either weekly or bi-weekly.” Word of mouth worked quickly for her to build up her business, and Freedom Cleaning cleans homes for politicians, CEOs of major corporations, and leaders in the healthcare industry.
“That’s the beauty of it— you get to meet a lot of different people; Muslims, atheists, gays and lesbians, pastors, attorneys, surgeons, and CEOs of corporations. It’s such a huge honor that we’re allowed to go into somebody’s home.”
Advice for starting a small business
- Find a mentor. When Rosalynn was starting out, she was thirsty for knowledge. “I have a huge desire to learn and to be the best at things.” When she looked around for a mentor, she realized that there was a big difference between being a small business entrepreneur versus being a CEO in an established company. Rosalynn discovered that one of her clients was an executive at a company that she had grown from the basement of her home. The two of them meet up for lunch once a month and Rosalynn peppers her with questions and scenarios to get advice. “I’m pouring into people, but I’m also being poured into,” she said.
- Know your market. Rosalynn was advising a local cleaner who seemed to be cleaning everything, from windows to churches, and homes to commercial properties. She said, “whoa, whoa, whoa, how do you even train for all that? Find out what you want to be known for, and then do it.” This enables her to tell clients exactly what her team will and won’t do, because this area of focus is what they are trained in.
- You won’t make everyone happy. “I want to serve people well, but there have been times that I’ve cried my eyes out and spent who-know-how-many hours on a job where we didn’t make any money, and the client wasn’t happy. I’ve become tough and realized that I am not going to make everybody happy.” Accept the feedback from clients, try to make it right, but at the end of the day, realize that some people are never going to be satisfied with the cleaning they receive.
To experience high quality cleaning in Lexington or Louisville, book an appointment with Freedom Cleaning.