From Homeless Mother to Hometown Hero: This Entrepreneur’s Guide to Growing a Business from Absolutely Nothing

Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood

Editor-in-Chief at Fundera
Meredith is Editor-in-Chief at Fundera. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.
Meredith Wood

A single mom of three, Pam Beach always picked the graveyard shift to waitress so she could see her kids during the day. Life was certainly hard—but she managed to make ends meet.

She’ll never forget the day that all changed.

On what seemed like a normal day, Beach arrived home with her three kids to find their front door locked. The bank had seized her home. Out of nowhere, there she was—with 3 children and nowhere to live.

Not one to shy away from adversity, Beach and her kids went to motels, slept on friends’ couches, pitched tents at the campgrounds—doing what it took to survive. The family remained homeless for just over a year.

Despite losing everything, Beach eventually picked her family up from nothing and got them back into a rental. She made a pact with herself then: she’d never put her family in that position ever again.

“I’ll Never Put My Family in That Position Again”

To help her financial situation, Beach started picking up cleaning jobs when not waiting tables. As she got more and more work, Beach had a realization: “this is something I could do full-time.” The demand was there, and the money was much better.

So in 2000, Pam Beach founded her own cleaning company: Crystal Dove Cleaning, in Morro Bay, California. Trying to seize as much opportunity as possible, she set her sights beyond residential cleaning. She decided to get licensed and insured, eventually receiving her D-63 License for construction cleanup.

Today, Beach has a booming cleaning business with 32 employees—two of which happen to be her own children.

The Power of Sticking With It

Of course, Beach didn’t get to where she is today without a ton of hard work and determination.

What was the most challenging part of getting her company off the ground?

“Getting clients. It took a really long time to build up a business reputation, and there’s a lot of competition out there. There were times I thought I would just go back to waitressing. Luckily, I stuck with it,” Beach admitted.

Beach made a lot of smart decisions over the course of her business, but for her the biggest game-changer came when she really started investing in marketing.

“All small business owners know: it takes money to make money. I learned that myself pretty quickly after I started paying for advertising and, all of sudden, my business just started growing. What really made the difference, though, was giving people something that felt like a ‘deal.’ I started doing 4-hour cleanings for $99, and that turned my whole business around.”

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A Business With Heart

Beach’s business is based in the community where she grew up—she moved there when she was 3 years old. Because of that connection, she promised herself to keep her rates affordable. Beach believes the wealthy shouldn’t be the only ones with access to cleaning services—they should be for everyone.

But when it came to giving back to her community, she didn’t stop there.

In 2010, one of Beach’s long-time customers was diagnosed with terminal cancer. As she visited her client’s home and continued her regular cleanings, Beach felt that “I just saw her getting worse and worse.” Finally, she told the client’s husband she didn’t want to charge for her cleanings anymore. Taking his money just didn’t feel right.

After her customer’s funeral, Beach had the thought that “we just have to do something for people that are that sick. With everything you’re going through, the last thing you want to do is clean your house. But it’s so important your house stays clean and sanitary. So I started putting the word out—radio ads, flyers, and more, all offering free cleaning for patients going through cancer treatment.”

She continued: “Now, we give free cleanings to 3 or 4 cancer patients a month going through treatments. They get a deep cleaning with hospital-grade germicides once a month for 3 months. We fundraise, of course, but I also set money aside to make it happen. Even my cleaners volunteer a part of their hours to help out. But I do it even if I have to pay for it out of pocket. It’s worth it—something so small for someone going through so much.”

Embracing Growth

With a great business model and so much heart, Beach’s company continued to grow as she secured larger and larger projects.

However, Beach recently realized that if she was going to keep scaling these construction projects, she had to get new equipment. To make that happen, though, she’d need outside financing.

With funding in the back of her mind, Beach noticed a recommendation for Fundera in the Apps tab of QuickBooks while she cleaned up her financials. Her interest piqued, Beach decided to investigate. Before long, she had access to the financing that would help her tackle those larger construction projects. Beach had never taken on a business loan before—but she felt pleasantly surprised at how simple Fundera made it for her.

She told us that “After finding Fundera, I spoke almost immediately to my loan officer, Andrew Martin, who was just great. The whole process was so easy. I filled out an application, told him what I wanted, and why I wanted it. He walked me through all my options and I ended up going with the biggest offer. It’s amazing what a painless experience it was. I didn’t have to go anywhere else.”

Always Thinking Bigger

With the funds now in hand to take on bigger projects, what does Beach have in mind for the future?

“Franchising,” she explained. Not only does she want to help other wanna-be entrepreneurs take on her proven business model, but she’s also looking to encourage the same altruism placed at the center of her company in other communities.

Everything Pam Beach endured gave her the gumption to build an incredible business. She proves the importance of seeing your obstacles as opportunities instead of barriers—a mentality you’ll need if you’re going to survive as an entrepreneur.

Just think: Pam Beach started her business with a bucket of rags and cleaning supplies… All after over a year of being homeless.  

There’s no “right” circumstance for starting a business. What’s holding you back?

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood

Editor-in-Chief at Fundera
Meredith is Editor-in-Chief at Fundera. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.
Meredith Wood

13 Comments

Most Recent

  • Pam Beach

    Thursday, December 31st, 2015

    Thank you Keith...for sharing the story. Pass it along as much as you want. Hoping the story will inspire others struggling. I picked myself up, dusted myself off and began again. If I could do it, it's proof that anyone can and I would like people to know that. We lead by example so share and let my story be an example for others.

  • Pam Beach

    Thursday, December 31st, 2015

    You're right Simon. There is lot's of opportunity. The key is to keep going. Keep moving forward and do not give up. Much success to you!

  • Pam Beach

    Thursday, December 31st, 2015

    Thank you, Elissa. My hope is someone else going through a similar struggle will read this article and realize that if they don't give up there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

  • Pam Beach

    Thursday, December 31st, 2015

    Thank you Sherdon.

  • Sherdon Seaforth

    Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

    Way to go Pam! So happy for you and your family.

  • Meredith Wood

    Friday, December 11th, 2015

    @pambeach:disqus -- you'll want to read the above!

  • Meredith Wood

    Friday, December 11th, 2015

    Hey Simon, that's crazy to see how similar your stories are. I think the scalable pricing model is brilliant -- you're also in a great area to do commercial cleanings. You should give us a call if you ever want to talk through working capital options. We're always happy to help. Appreciate you leaving a comment here. I always love seeing how businesses are growing!

  • Meredith Wood

    Friday, December 11th, 2015

    Keith, thanks so much for sharing! Pam's story is truly incredible.

  • Elissa Malaikah

    Friday, December 11th, 2015

    Very inspiring. Great job, Pam! I wish you continued success.

  • Simon Brooks

    Thursday, December 10th, 2015

    Great story. Ours is similar, from homeless to founding a cleaning company that's doing really well. Ours has a scalable data driven pricing model. We focus on commercial office cleanings. While in pilot mode we've grown from having $0, to having a customer pay ahead of service so we could buy equipment/supplies, and just five months later have moved into our own Palo Alto office. We still struggle with working capital as we had zero resources to begin with but there's definitely light at the end of the tunnel. There's a lot of opportunity in the industry if you're willing to work hard and smart.

  • Keith Gormezano

    Thursday, December 10th, 2015

    Great article. I shared it one of my cleaning business clients in always sunny Seattle.

  • Meredith Wood

    Monday, December 7th, 2015

    Of course, Pam. Your story is so very inspiring!

  • Pam Beach

    Sunday, December 6th, 2015

    Love the article, Meredith. Thank you!

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