If it hasn’t been made evident by now, we love people here at AAT! We love hearing about their stories and passions for our community, but we also love hearing about what our fellow locals do and why they do it! For example, we have some wonderful neighbors who own/manager some fantastic local businesses and serve our town tremendously by doing so! This fact is why AAT has partnered up with our good friends at B3 Glass, to bring you all “Small Business Fridays!” Each week, we’ll feature a different, local small business and talk with its owner and hear about their journey, their business in general, as well as their heart for their customers and our city!
This week, we’re joined by Beth Kellum, the owner and operator of Elko County Cleaning Company, a local home cleaning business. Over the last eight years, this Oregonian has not only built a small business here in our community, but a family as well. However, adjusting to living in the Nevada desert, after growing up in the Pacific Northwest, hasn’t come without some ups and downs for our guest. We’re excited to share this honest conversation we had with Beth about some of her experiences living and working in our city, because sometimes it’s healthy to hear a fresh perspective about the realities of Elko life for some of our neighbors!
Thank you for joining us this week, Beth! Now, let’s get to know you a little bit. How did you end up living in and starting a cleaning company in our area?
“As a kid, I wanted to own my own business. I wanted to own a tea company! I moved to Elko from Portland, Oregon after getting married to someone who had family down here. However, he was not a very good guy; he did a lot of drugs and drank a lot. We divorced. We had a daughter together, so when we split, I had to get a job. I started a business cleaning because my mom cleaned, and I would help her out doing that when I was a kid to earn money for things like camp.
“I started out charging fifty dollars for a house because I figured if I could do two houses a day, I could pay my rent. From doing that, I was cleaning a lot, seven days a week! From there, I slowly started feeling like this was something I can do, and I felt comfortable about the idea of having my own business. Eventually, I remarried, and now I’m a mom of five kids—three bonus kids, my daughter, and we have one together!”
What are some of your major daily goals for your business? What are the things that are important to you?
“My goal for each house is to make my clients’ homes look new. I want to build a relationship with my clients because when you have someone come in from a cleaning company, you want to be able to feel comfortable with that person. You want to feel as if you can trust them inside of your home, your privacy. Sometimes people feel embarrassed about me coming in and seeing their homes, but I’ve seen so many peoples’ homes, nothing surprises me!”
How is working/owning a business as a parent of five children, Beth?
“As a full-time mom, going to work and cleaning is sort of like my break! I get some quiet time, I get to listen to my audiobooks, and I get some real time for myself. I used to be a stay-at-home mom, but I’ve struggled with depression my entire life and having a job where I can go with my hands and leave feeling proud of myself has helped with that.”
What has been a couple of the not-so-pleasant moments you’ve had in your cleaning career?
“You’ll come across people who will scam you. They’ll agree to pay, but then tell me my work is worth less than we decided after I’m finished. A lot of these types of situations come from people who do not take care of their homes at all; they expect a cleaning business to come in and work like magic. I’ve been able to overcome this by working off contracts and being upfront with people. I tell them I’m going to make their home as nice as it can be, but I can only do so much if the home has not been cared for at all.
“Recently, I had a former client of mine be racist to one of my workers who happens to be Hispanic. This was very upsetting to me. She talked so crappy to my employee that it made her go home and cry. I was so hurt and furious about this. My business has zero tolerance for that sort of thing, and we will not work for anybody like that.”
As someone who has lived in the Elko area for less than a decade, what has the acclimation process been like for you?
“I enjoy Elko, but I love where I grew up. It was a big change for me when I moved here. You’re going from having amazing greenery everywhere and the ocean to not much green and no ocean! Acclimating from having friends to moving to a town where I have had to build friendships was hard for me. I have a difficult time making friends here; I don’t understand why. I know there are great women in this community, but I’ve had a tough time. It’s just different here for me. If I’m being honest, I love it, and I hate it.”
Well, Beth, hopefully, this feature will give some of your neighbors a chance to know you a little bit. Thank you for being so open with us today! Is there anything else you’d like to share before you get back to making people’s homes sparkle?
“I am a mom of five first before I am a business owner. I want people to feel comfortable hiring somebody to do something (cleaning their homes) without feeling ashamed, especially if they can’t do it themselves. It’s okay to get help. When you go to bed, you want to wake up feeling good about being in your home. It’s your sanctuary.”
You can stay caught up on everything going on around here at AAT by checking out our “Stay Connected” page! Make sure you never miss a feature!
See you around, Elko!
Written by: Anthony Crosby
Edited by: Nadara Merrill