How Val Oliveira’s Brazilian background led her to create a one of a kind cleaning company in the United States and improve the homes of thousands
Read on to find more about Val’s desire to bring the Brazilian cleaning technique of faxina to American homes, how she manages her team while also making time for herself, and the surprising impact of COVID-19 on the cleaning industry.
Describe your business in a few words?
Val’s Services is a professional, high-quality, and detail-oriented Brazilian cleaning and organization company based in Chicago. Established in 2010, our mission is to spread happiness one clean space at a time!
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
When I first moved to the United States, I couldn’t find a cleaning service that compared to the ones in my hometown. In Brazil, we would do a spring cleaning of sorts each week called “faxina.” I was surprised and a little frustrated when I moved and found that people weren’t paying attention to the details of cleaning. That’s when I started training a team of cleaners to pay attention to the tiniest and most critical details so that every home could have the high-quality cleaning it deserves.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
When I lived in Brazil, I worked as a lawyer. After moving to the U.S., I went to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu (I love to cook!). A few years later I got my MBA and worked as an international marketing manager before launching Val’s Services.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Yes! Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always been entrepreneurial-minded. My mom owned a restaurant for 25 years, so I think being an entrepreneur is in my blood. When I was younger, my granny used to give me an allowance each month, and I would use the money to buy some candy. Then I would sell it to my sister and classmates at school to make a profit, ha! As I grew older, I continued developing these skills throughout my various jobs and learned more about business operations.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
To be honest, I didn’t have much of a set plan but just dived in headfirst! I had no fear and decided to go for it. I remember when I was first opening my business, I got some friends together from my congregation. We brainstormed and jotted down some bullet points of what needed to be done. I even hand-delivered flyers around the area so people could learn about my business. And everything grew from there!
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
Absolutely. When you’re starting a business, it’s impossible not to make mistakes. One thing that I had to learn the hard way is that if you’re doing business with a friend, you need to have everything in writing. Unfortunately, I had a partnership in the past that didn’t go well, and the person left me with a lot of problems to deal with. My advice to any business owner is to have boundaries and rules and make those clear, even when you’re working with someone you trust.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I’m very proud and thankful of how I’ve been able to manage everything with the pandemic. Every small business has been impacted by COVID, but our team continues to stay positive and focus on our mission. Even when times are difficult, we want our clients to have the peace of mind of having a beautiful, sparkling home. It brings us joy to give our clients the gift of less stress and more time.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
I usually ask the traditional interview questions, but one question that is so important to me is – why do you want to work with Val’s Services? We have such a unique mission, and I want team members that truly believe in the work we’re doing. If someone says that they just want the job for money, I know immediately that they won’t be committed to the company or the position. We’re a small business, and I always stress quality over quantity. I love when applicants feel comfortable to just open their heart and explain why they truly want to work for the company. Our employees are a team, and I want to make sure we’re bringing people on-board that are engaged, respectful, efficient, reliable, and most importantly have a good sense of humor! One tip I have for hiring is to pay attention to body language. You can always tell a lot about a person from their eye contact, demeanor, and presentation.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
It’s been impacted a lot! When the pandemic first hit, it really hurt us. My husband, who is the CFO of the company, thought we should shut the business down. But, as any small business owner knows, the company is my baby! I knew we were going to survive. I took a step back and really looked at what we were doing to see how we could make things work. The most important things to me were to reinvent, be remarkable, and try our best. It hasn’t been easy. Our sales have decreased tremendously, and people are understandably still nervous to have cleaners in their home. But we keep pushing each day to do better. One thing that I like to tell people is that we wore masks before it was cool! Our cleaners wore masks, washed their hands regularly, and disinfected surfaces prior to COVID, and now we are even more careful than ever. People can trust us!
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
My goal is growth. We’re going through a lot of exciting changes right now, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the next few years take us. I hope to bring more awesome team members on board and eventually expand to other states!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
2020 was such a special year for me because I gave birth to my baby boy! Being a new mom and running a small business during a pandemic is not for the faint of heart, but I’ve learned so much in the past year. With more things to balance, I’ve had to learn to let go of the reins a bit and practice patience. I truly love everything I get to do as a business owner, but I can’t do it all by myself. I’ve delegated more tasks to my team while I’ve found my balance between motherhood and business.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
This is a tough question! I think that planning is very important. I’m a pretty adventurous person, and I naturally like to tackle things now and figure out the details later. As my business has grown, I’ve learned the value of having a system and processes in place so that there’s a foundation from things to grow from. Without a strong base, things can fall apart easily. I’m not one to give up, so planning is essential!
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Professionally and personally, I always strive to spread happiness and stay thankful. I think that even when things are difficult, it’s important to maintain a positive outlook. Yes, the pandemic has made things incredibly tough, but I wake up each day thankful to have the opportunity to do what I love and work with my amazing team. There are days when staying positive is hard, but I just take things one step at a time and accomplish as much as I can each day.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Yes! Life is too short, and there’s so much for us to experience. My tip is to create rules for your time off and stick to them as much as you can. For me, I volunteer every Saturday and Sunday morning, and I commit myself to it no matter what. I intentionally take that time to not work or talk about work. I can’t say that I don’t check my email on the weekend (we are a small business struggling with the pandemic after all), but I stay off my computer and use that time to focus on my baby and husband.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I don’t know how to swim! Ironically, I was born in a city called Recife, which is surrounded by rivers and beaches. I’ll learn one day!
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
I always write up to-do lists for each day, so I know what I need to accomplish and what’s coming up for the week. This way, when a random thought or task pops into my head, I can just jot it down and handle it later without getting distracted from whatever I’m working on. I also really rely on my calendar notifications. Having an alarm set makes sure I don’t miss any important meetings or events. I also love to play some music in the background to create a happy and fun working environment.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
As a female entrepreneur, I think it’s so important that we inspire other women to continue chasing their dreams and support them in their endeavors. Being an Entreprenista opens the door for amazing collaboration and solutions for all female entrepreneurs. Providing this support to each other shows that we’re a community, and amazing things happen when we build each other up!