Going Legit: When Your Side Hustle Blows Up (In a Good Way!)

Carlie Veeder is the mother of 4 children. What started as an under-the-table, twice a month job turned into a full-blown business. Read her story about how she went from cleaning offices twice a month to owning her own business.

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Kathryn Smith is the author of Mompreneur — an ongoing series tackling the issues facing working moms. Have a topic to suggest? Email editor@zenefits.com

For many women with children, easing back into the workforce after staying home with children is a stepwise process. A couple of hours here, a random gig there and voila!

A nice little side hustle that does double duty: extra cash in the family budget and a chance for mom to recapture her sense of self and get away from the kids for a few hours.

The road to being a Boss Mom started much this way for Carlie Veeder, anyway. A mother of 4 young children, the Minnesota native wanted to make a little bit of cash when her youngest child was only a few months old.

So, after being out of the workforce for 6 years, Veeder used a beloved and time-tested strategy employed by women everywhere when faced with a challenge: she called a friend.

“I told my girlfriend I wanted to get a part-time job after being a stay-at-home mom,” says Veeder. “Luckily, her friend’s husband was looking for somebody to clean his office ⁠— a flexible arrangement that paid cash under the table.

For the next few years Veeder cleaned the office space ⁠— by herself ⁠— every other week.

“I loved the immediate satisfaction of cleaning, but going there alone only twice a month became sort of a drag,” explains Veeder. “More than once I forgot about the office until I was ready for bed. Then I’d have to run down there and clean it at 10 o’clock when all I wanted to do was sleep.”

In 2017, the building’s management changed hands and they asked Veeder to come clean every week. Around the same time, Charity Slack, Veeder’s cousin and lifelong best friend, mentioned she was interested in starting to work again.

“Charity, who also has 4 kids all about the same age as mine and lives half a mile away, told me she wanted to get a super part time job. I convinced her to start cleaning with me,” says Veeder.

Even though it meant splitting the money, Veeder says that the benefit of adding a partner far outweighed the cost.

“We’ve always enjoyed working together and [going into business together] meant we could spend the time talking over the vacuum cleaner and catching up about things we couldn’t discuss with our 8 kids around,” she says laughing.

In 2018, the office’s management decided they wanted to start writing off their cleaning expenses, so ready or not, it was time for Veeder to go legit. The women knew they needed to become an LLC but they didn’t know where to start.

Once again, a relationship held the key to unlocking next-level success for Veeder and her little business.

“Charity and I talked to a good friend of ours who is an attorney for a nationwide insurance company based in our town. She’s a boss ⁠— a woman who is genuine and kind, but who stands her ground when she has to. We have total respect for her.”

A former teen mom turned majorly successful attorney, Veeder’s friend shepherded the women through the LLC application process.

“She was so helpful,” explains Veeder. “The process was way over our heads and her help was invaluable. It took several months.”

Just as the paperwork for Polished, LLC  was about to be finalized, Veeder’s husband, Fred, was laid-off from his job. While some people might have used this unexpected turn of events as a reason to retreat, Veeder used it to fuel her expansion. She brought on another partner: Fred.

“If I remember right, I think it was Charity who first suggested that Fred quit job hunting and just clean with us,” she says.

With Fred’s unemployment pay as capital, they decided to grow their business and gather a few more clients.

What started as a side hustle now brings in more than enough revenue to support both families.

Though Veeder never set out to be a small business owner, she certainly comes by it naturally. With a father and brother who each own their own company, she had a good sense of the blood, sweat, and tears required to build a company.

On the flip side, though, she’s loved getting to create something from the ground up with 2 of her favorite people who, thankfully, have similar ideas about what it takes to make a business a success.

The business has grown exponentially, but also organically. Veeder admits that she started a Facebook page last year but she hasn’t done much with it. The 3 of them carry business cards and hand them out when the opportunity strikes, but for the most part they get their clients through word-of-mouth referrals.

Clear, honest communication with clients has played a major role in Veeder’s success.

“Charity and I don’t sweat the small stuff,” she explains. “Cleaning is uncomplicated and we have a good rapport with our clients. Having open communication with them has been a big priority for us. We always ask what they want from us and, if that changes at all, they just need to ask.”

The women don’t make clients sign detailed, iron-clad contracts because they are confident in their service.

“Many of our clients have come to us from other cleaners who are underpaid and unmotivated, so when we show up on time and do what they ask, they’re overjoyed! We always tell them their jobs are busy enough and we don’t want the cleanliness of their facility to be a headache.”

In March, Veeder was approached by a new kind of client: an assisted living facility. “They were desperate for help after a string of bad housekeepers,” she explains. “When we started it had been over a month since the facility had been cleaned well. I’m not going to lie, it was gross. The smell of one of the rooms made me dry heave more than once. Fortunately, having babies in diapers for 9 years has left me (almost) totally desensitized,” she says with a smile.

Saying yes to the opportunity to replace an in-house job has been a game changer for the company.

“We bid the job generously because of how big it was and because we knew they needed us. We don’t have to spend 40 hours there each week, though, since we get paid to do the job and not by the hour,” says Veeder.

What took the facility’s housekeeper 40 hours to accomplish, Veeder and her husband can get done in 8, freeing up more time to spend with their family, on other clients, or doing the things that Veeder loves ⁠— like lifting weights, hiking, biking or enjoying a good beer.

It helps that Veeder actually likes the work.

“Fred and I have really enjoyed the people in the assisted living facility, too. Fred is so personable and easy to talk to. He naturally connects with people and remembers them. Some of the older ladies didn’t trust us when we started but Fred has won them over! I tell him no woman can resist a man with a vacuum.”

“It’s been the most surprising experience,” says Veeder. “It was just supposed to be a side gig! We were really forced into it because our first office wanted to make our ‘under the table job’ legit and now I get to work with my best friends and support our family.

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