116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Megan Willard loves to clean. But she’s also committed to using all-natural cleaning products when she does.
As it turns out, plenty of other homeowners are interested in doing the same.
So when she launched her cleaning company, Oranges and Elbows, in 2015, business quickly took off, she said.
Oranges and Elbows offers residential and commercial cleaning in the Iowa City area. Willard makes most of the cleaning products the company uses or tries to source them from companies that use all-natural ingredients and have a commitment to reducing the use of plastics.
Having worked at New Pioneer Food Co-Op for about a decade, Willard believed there were plenty of consumers in the Iowa City area who focused on reducing the use of chemicals in their homes.
Willard started small, cleaning for just a few households, but word quickly spread. She hired a few friends. Within three years of launching her business, Willard said she had 150 clients.
“I like the physical aspect of it,” Willard said of cleaning. ““There’s just a sense of fulfillment you get just by wiping something clean. You keep busy during the day and you leave the job with it clean and done and feeling fulfilled.
“And clients are so happy when they get home.”
But any expansion has been challenging.
“I have a steady team, but getting more reliable employees has always been tough,” she said.
“Having to email (prospective clients) and tell them there’s not room for them on our schedule is disappointing. And it’s hard to understand because the schedule is really flexible and the pay is great.”
Willard works with a team of seven employees, some of whom have worked with her since she started the business.
“I didn’t set out to exclusively hire women, but it has turned out that way,” she said. “Many of them are going through college or are working this job to help set them up for another career. They are just awesome women and I’m thankful they aren’t just co-workers but friends.”
Willard said she typically cleans at least two or three days a week.
“I actually prefer the cleaning part of it rather than the desk work,” she said. “The cleaning really doesn’t feel like work most of the time. You can plug in your favorite podcast, put on your headphones and listen to what you want while you do this.
“It’s usually pretty simple tasks and I find cleaning to be almost meditative.”
Willard also handles the scheduling and estimates.
“And I do every initial cleaning we schedule,” she said. “That’s when we are really deep cleaning, including air vents and light fixtures, really taking stuff apart to get it really clean.
“... We clean things that people don’t think about cleaning. We show up with our stuff and get really excited about how dirty a place is and how it’s going to look when we leave.”
Owner: Megan Willard
Address: Iowa City
Phone: (319) 855-1503
Willard said Oranges and Elbows brings all the necessary cleaning supplies.
“There’s no need to use chemicals and inhale them and have them around your house,” Willard said, noting that hot soapy water with enough elbow grease will do the trick. “Our products work just as well.”
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