Lori Hildebrand interview with the founder of Clean & Simple

In the Beginning Series: Interviews with women entrepreneurs and their journey with starting their own business.

Excerpts from interview (full interview here):

What do you do?

I take the stress and the struggle out of clutter clearing and getting organized. I make it fun and easy using systems and teaching people the skills.

What prompted you to start your business?

I didn’t find my business – it found me. At the time, professional organizing was still a new industry. Nobody else in the state of Utah was doing this. I didn’t even know there was a National Association of Professional Organizers. The universe put it in my lap when I went to an Artist’s Way group. The group helped me to see that I love to create by stepping into absolute clutter and chaos and creating order and organization. This just makes me happy.

Two weeks after that awareness came – and this is how the universe works – a woman called me up and said “I have a home office. Somebody gave me your name and number. Can you come help me?” I told her that I would love to. I was so excited to do that. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. She asked how much I charged. I told her $35 an hour. We scheduled the appointment, got off the phone, and I freaked out. I created a business card and went to work. Within a year, it had grown to a full time business because there was so much need. I did not plan it.

When you started this business, how did you fund it? How did you get that initial boost?

For whatever reasons, I made a conscious decision that if this business was supposed to happen, I was going to be supported. I never went into debt to fund my business. I always used the money that came my way to fund what was next. If it was time to make a product, that meant I needed to come up with ways to get the funding, create the product, get it sold, and then take it to the next level. When I started training organizers, I didn’t have the funding to launch that whole aspect of my business. I had to decide what that first level was and how I was to create those funds.

Did you have other sources of income that were helping to support you?

Yes. In my first year of business, I didn’t just dive in. I had two other jobs. I was building this on the side. It was only when it was ready to be a full time business that I let go of those other sources of income. I’ve trained a lot of organizers and I tell them all the time that you do not want to live on the edge because you will not thrive. You will not create. Make sure that your needs are met and then build your business.

How long did it take you to take that big leap?

A year to a year and a half, then it was my full time income. It was 1999 when I started. I got divorced in 2003 and I didn’t take alimony. I really thought through that. I made the decision to take the business to the next level. That’s when I added the organizer training. I think it was a real powerful piece for me in training organizers all these years, that I could look them in the eye and say, “My business was my sole source of income for x number of years.” It still is. I didn’t have other things to draw from. When it is your sole source of income, you will do things that other women will not do. There are a lot of women in this industry where it is a sideline or a hobby. They don’t need to make money. They don’t treat it the same way that I do. I’ve always told women that you’ve got to pay yourself first. Until you pay yourself first, it’s not a business.

What are some of your biggest rewards over the years?

My business is my soul’s purpose on this planet – helping people get free of clutter to create a home and office where they love to be and where they thrive. That’s what I came to this earth to do. I knew that after working with my very first client. The biggest reward for me is that I get to see who I am with the gifts that I was given and it really change somebody else’s life. That’s huge. I love that I have supported myself. I love that I can say I didn’t take alimony. I absolutely gave my all to my business. My daughter was three when I started, so she grew up thinking that every woman gets to do this!

I would say another reward is the creative freedom – to really create from my heart, my soul, and my strengths. I don’t know any job that would give me this kind of freedom and power. Your business grows as you grow. When you change, your business is going to change. You get to re-brand. You get to really evolve through your business.

Looking back at the beginning, what are some of the mistakes that you made? What are some of the things you did that others can learn from?

I’m a bit of a workaholic. Being a business owner and a woman really feeds into being a workaholic. The challenge is that you’re playing all of the roles. The painful things have been when I tried to do too much for too long or too much, too fast. Trust the creative cycle. Trust that things take time in order to be created. Don’t push the river.

I’ve gone through business partnerships leaving and ending. That’s a divorce. Here is what I would teach, preach and share with you – everything goes into writing. So many of the painful things I could have avoided if I had known differently. Now I adhere to it with every agreement, vendor, partnership and alliance. Everything is in writing. Treat your business like a business. When you really need the professional, pay for the professional. When you really need to outsource, pay for the professional that you need.

How have you created boundaries that work for you?

The most important boundary that I set for myself is taking an admin day every single week. Monday is my admin day. It’s such an important boundary – giving myself that day for phone calls, emails, financials, and all the catch up stuff. Then, I enter the week in a really grounded state. I’m prepared. I see a lot of women that expect that they are going to get that done on the side. It doesn’t happen. This was a really important lesson that another female entrepreneur taught me that has been invaluable. I save time, energy, and money by doing this. It’s a really clean boundary.

Have boundaries that are absolute. For me, I don’t work on the weekends. Whatever it is for you, choose one or two boundaries that are absolute. By honoring those, you will make sure that you have your personal time. Mine is an hour every morning of “me” time. Meditation, journaling, planning – these things happen no matter what.