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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Lesbian and straight friend form new cleaning company
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2013-01-16

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Two long-time friends, La Toya Burkhalter and Tanesha Taylor, recently formed a local cleaning company named TaylorMaid For You Cleaning Services. The business motto is "Let us cater to you."

Burkhalter and Taylor service residential apartments, houses and commercial businesses throughout the entire Chicagoland area, traveling as far as the border between Illinois and Wisconsin in the north, northwest Indiana to the east and out to the western suburbs. Their services include general housecleaning, laundry, cooking and organizing, and they generally charge about $75 per service.

The women met about 10 years ago through mutual friends and their friendship has grown over the years as both women have gone through both personal and professional changes.

Although Taylor was previously married to a man and had children with him, she is currently in a seven-year relationship with a woman named Dee—with children of her own—whom she has known for 20 years. Burkhalter has a boyfriend and they have been dating for two years.

Taylor noted that she has been out to all of their clients since they began their business March 1. "Our clients have either been neutral or accepting of my sexual orientation," she said.

They have lost friends though since they started their business, Taylor remarked. Some wanted to work for them—which both women agreed would be a bad idea—and others were jealous when both Burkhalter and Taylor graduated from college last year.

They decided to start their business since they felt it was almost a recession proof career choice. There are some people that always want to pay other people to do their cleaning and organizing, Taylor noted.

The genesis of their business began with a phone conversation between Taylor and Burkhalter. During the conversation, Taylor told Burkhalter that she was interested in striking out on her own since she was tired of corporate America. From there the two women decided to form their own cleaning company. Then in February of this year Taylor left her job at Paychex in Naperville to build their business and vowed never to go back.

Burkhalter has a bachelor's degree in small-business entrepreneurship and currently works as a property manager over five buildings. Her boss is very flexible with her work schedule, Burkhalter said, and has supported her endeavor from the beginning.

Neither woman has specified what titles she would have within the company, and they don't have any other investors other than themselves. With Burkhalter still working as a property manager, Taylor spends more time in the field dealing with the clients face to face. Since Burkhalter works until 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday, she deals with most of the administrative tasks such as the bookkeeping and scheduling appointments with their clients. Taylor said that she is the enforcer and runs the business with an iron fist, dealing with their employees and any belligerent customers.

They currently have four full-time and four part-time employees and have grown from about 25 clients to 50 clients over the course of just a few months—some of whom are recurring clients. Taylor said that all of their current clients have been satisfied with their work although if a client did express dissatisfaction with the work they are committed to making sure that the client walks away happy.

Burkhalter said that some of the stories they hear from their clients about other companies stealing have amazed them. She said that their clients have tested them by leaving items such as checkbooks, purses and money out in the open.

Along with the other services they provide, the company also works with hoarders to sort out their lives. "We are contracted through a counseling service that does interventions for hoarders," said Taylor. "The counselor goes into the home with us and we have the client clean with us because it defeats the purpose to just go in by ourselves and clean it up and throw everything out because the client will build it right back up. When we are finished with the job we have the client either donate items or throw them away."

As for the future, Taylor sees their company growing to include big accounts, a full staff of 25-50 employees and the company going public with a stock. Burkhalter said she envisions a time when they will have additional investors as the company grows.

To get the word out about their company, Taylor noted that she and Burkhalter talk to everyone about their company while wearing their company T-shirts. Burkhalter added that they advertise on Craigslist; hand out business cards and car magnets; and have a presence on various social media platforms.

Of their business and working together as a team Taylor said, "There are all these negative preconceived notions about LGBT people but our business proves that a straight person and a gay person can work together as a team towards a unified goal. It's not about either of our sexual orientations it's about being driven to succeed."

"Look up TaylorMaid, call us, let us cater to you because you need us in your life," said Burkhalter.

See the company's Facebook page for more information www.facebook.com/pages/TaylorMaid-for-You-Cleaning-Services/276283585778782 .


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