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Local group empowers a trio of entrepreneurial wizards

Adelante Mujeres enabled three motivated women launch their own cleaning business


Clients of the Cleaning Wizards know the housecleaning trio of women will use organic products to leave their home sparkling. But they may not know that through their work, the Cleaning Wizards have achieved a dream that at one time seemed unattainable - self-employment.

"If you had asked me some five or ten years ago, I would not have imagined that I would be part of having a business," said Gabriela Perez of the Cleaning Wizards.

The journey to business ownership started in 2007 when Perez was a student in the Adelante Mujeres' Adult Education program for Latina women. There, she met co-owner Idolina Ibarra. The women were looking for a way to increase their income. Alejandro Tecum, an Adelante Mujeres teacher, recruited the women to participate in the MicroEnterprise program.

To raise the money necessary to launch their business, Perez and Ibarra sold food at local construction sites and traded cleanings for important items like a vacuum and liability insurance. Later, in 2009, they recruited the third member of their team, Margarita Plancarte.

Before Cleaning Wizards, Ibarra said, she was cleaning at a hospital during the weeks and working at a restaurant on the weekends. She experienced headaches and dizziness from the products she had to use.

"It wasn't easy," Ibarra said, but now as a part business owner she can choose organic products she finds more agreeable.

All the women say the experience of participating in Adelante Mujeres' programs and owning a business has changed their lives.

Adelante Mujeres is about more than just helping you to get a GED and find better work opportunities, Perez said. It embraces the whole person.

"They educate you in how to be a volunteer. They educate you in how to recycle," she said. "You learn that you are an important person in society."

Since their graduation from the Adult Education program, the Cleaning Wizards have continued to get support with their business through the Adelante Empresas program.

"The Adelante Empresas program was created in 2009 because the organization realized that if the Cleaning Wizards were benefiting so greatly from direct business development support, there must be other businesses owners who would also benefit," said Ali Brown, director of Adelante Empresas.

Today, Adelante Empresas supports 30 Latino businesses in the industries of green cleaning, carpet cleaning, construction and painting, by providing training, networking and technical support. They also support a variety of food projects through the new commercial kitchen project, Sabor Color.

Adelante Empresas also guides entrepreneurs through a 10-week business development course which covers the foundations of business planning and business administration, from registering a company to setting up a marketing and operations systems. Twenty-eight individuals just graduated from the class.

When asked about future goals, Plancarte smiled and said, "To have a group to work for me so I can go on vacation. Paid vacation."

Brown said the women are no strangers to hard work -- a value passed on to their children.

"One of my favorite stories about the Cleaning Wizards was at the Dia de los Muertos event two years ago," Brown said. "I was eating dinner with Gaby's three-year-old son and he was asking if I worked hard. I said that I try and work hard. He then responded with, ‘Well then how many houses do you clean a week?' He is proud of the hard work that his mom is doing and one day wants to clean houses just like her."

EDITOR'S NOTE:

This is the first article in a 10-part series leading up to the 10th anniversary of Adelante Mujeres.

Founded in 2002, the local non-profit organization fosters the empowerment of low-income Latina women and their families by providing them the tools to achieve self-determination in the areas of education and enterprise.

The 10th anniversary celebration, "A Decade of Success" will be held in conjunction with the Forest Grove Farmers Market on Sept. 12, 2012.

The News-Times is proud to be a sponsor of this event