By Lajeune Hollis
Uniquely Cleaned, a residential and commercial cleaning service based in Naugatuck, is a typical family business at heart--but the family that started it is pushing things beyond the norm.
Four years ago, Byron Williams was inspired to pursue a family business by his father, a re-entering citizen. “My dad was in prison for 26 years. I didn't want him coming back home and working for somebody. We wanted a business to reintroduce him back into society,” said Williams. “So, we asked him, ‘What type of business do you want us to start?’ and at first he said a moving company, and then somehow, a cleaning business came up.”
So, the Williams’ went to work. Once they finished all the paperwork necessary to register their cleaning business with the Secretary of the State, they had to decide what to call it. Byron's wife Dee explained, "My full name is Dewygee, so growing up I would always hear, ‘that name is so different,’ ‘You’re a unique person.’ And I always did do things uniquely!” She just knew their family's cleaning business would have to be called “Uniquely Cleaned.”
In that spirit, Uniquely Cleaned accommodates jobs small, large and in between. As far as they are concerned, every mess is unique, and so is their service. "We pride ourselves on our customer service,” says Dee. “We are not your norm!”
Unfortunately, Byron said, “Things did not work out with Dad. He lasted maybe 4 or 5 months.” After the Williams’ found themselves with a cleaning business they hadn’t planned on operating they pressed on, he says, starting with just “some brooms, mops, and a vacuum cleaner. We started off residentially and then got to a point where, on my father’s last day, we received our first commercial contract with a dance studio."
When the business launched, the Williams' started it with their four children. Byron handles the marketing and finds customers on a part-time basis, while also working full-time as a power plant operator in Bridgeport. Dee works full-time managing Uniquely Cleaned after leaving her job at a non-profit. Their eldest daughter, Oriana, heads up the business' human resources. 19-year-old Gary and 17-year-old Donni supervise the cleaning business part-time, and their youngest child, at age 11, helps with tasks like taking out the trash.
“The bigger we are, the more people we can help.”
Things started to take off as residents of Naugatuck, Cheshire and Waterbury began calling with residential jobs. Their social media posts and business cards were working, in addition to referrals from happy customers. In their first year, Uniquely Cleaned had seven clients. That number doubled to 14 in the year to follow and, by 2020, their service had grown to supporting 70 clients.
But, when COVID-19 hit, it took away about 85% of their business. However, it wasn’t going to be the end for Uniquely Cleaned. Even though they had lost most of their residential business in 2020, they were able to pivot towards more lucrative commercial contracts as people continued to return to work.
Returning to his day job at Bridgeport Harbor Station, Byron saw sanitation employees coming in during the day to disinfect the building with a fogger. The entire job was completed in two hours and came with a fee of $5,000. A lightbulb went off in Byron’s head, and he went out that evening to purchase two chemical foggers for Uniquely Cleaned. But instead of only seeking out industrial clients looking to sanitize large facilities, he started including fog sanitization with small deep cleaning jobs, too. This led to more and more calls from pharmacies, daycares and even an automobile dealership. Now, Byron says, “we will be actively looking for contract opportunities in various sizes, applying to and bidding on more state and government contracts, as we are looking to expand as far as we can.”
Byron also used Pandemic downtime to obtain a Minority-Owned Business Certificate from the State of Connecticut. In fact, they found themselves eligible for several grants, including for veterans like Byron. They also registered with a program in Naugatuck to provide summer jobs at their business to a handful of high-school students, and provide hands-on experience with cleaning and office work to learn business administration.
Dee is also heavily involved in their local community. She has formed partnerships with Naugatuck’s Police Chief and Superintendent of Schools. She is also on the Board of Directors for Naugatuck’s Youth Services, where Uniquely Cleaned serves as a job site, and as a partner in mentorship and community services. Community service, she says, is her passion. "Community service is a major component of what you are supposed to do anyway," she shared. Mentorship comes as second nature to her after running a federally-funded program to get minority students from Bridgeport, New Haven and Stratford into the medical field in 2012.
In keeping with their original mission, Uniquely Cleaned is a Second Chance Employer. They actively look to hire, train and help people that other employers may reject because of their history of incarceration. This includes a supervisor training program to learn leadership skills, and an administrative training program to help people adjust to working in an office environment.
As for what is next, The Williams' are focused on growing their business around the principle that “the bigger we are, the more people we can help.”
Uniquely Cleaned is located in Naugatuck, Connecticut. Visit their website, Facebook or Instagram to learn more.
BROWSE THE SHOPBLACKCT DIRECTORY: