The young Shannon Miller always knew she would excel at self-employment, even while building her first business at age 12. The university neighborhood where her mother resided in California proved a lucrative market for washing cars. Hiring 17 acquaintances at $8 per day each, the pre-teen was “making great money” coordinating washes for tenants and neighbors, until the homeowners’ association intervened.
Next up was babysitting, which she managed from ages 13 to 17 in the same community. Aligning parents of young children with a crew of nine sitters, Miller earned a percentage of the sitting fees. That enterprise shuttered when her mother moved out of the condo complex. The teen then embarked on a venture growing and selling house plants.
Miller’s entrepreneurial nature has propelled her from those fledgling enterprises to community college, a bachelor’s degree from UCLA in business management, a silversmith certificate, marriage, children and grandchildren. Entrepreneurship runs in the family, as Miller’s father was self-employed as she was growing up.
Now, both Miller and her husband, Duane, each have their own businesses, with his expertise in plumbing. Their full private lives include raising granddaughter, Maiya, 3, and grandson, Makaius, 2, while the children’s mother serves with the U.S. military in Japan. A nanny helps out during the day, allowing the couple to manage their respective businesses.
Miller entered the cleaning profession after closing her downtown Prescott jewelry store when the recession hit. Not wanting to leave the area, she hired on with a cleaning company. Several months later, she set up her own crew and formed Kastle Keeper Cleaning Services, LLC.
Starting its ninth year in May 2018, the company now employs 10 professionals who clean 60 to 100 houses a week. Besides routine cleaning jobs for steady customers, Miller accepts referrals from real estate agents to clean houses for sellers prior to listing. She donates cleaning services to cancer patients as a giveback to area communities. In all endeavors, Miller prides herself on putting customers first and maintaining very high standards of workmanship.
“Having a plan is half the battle, even if it is on a cocktail napkin,” Miller noted. “There must be a plan that you follow from A to B to C. It’s like sailing. You need to have a list to check your goals and make sure you are still on track.”
Strong organizational skills are essential, she says, especially since Miller simultaneously runs two other ventures: a consulting practice for small businesses and freelance writing for the cleaning industry. In consulting, she targets women-owned businesses. Clients include two cosmetics consultants, a cookie enterprise, and three Phoenix-area cleaning companies.
“I find that women seem to be under-represented when it comes to guidance in managing a business,” she said. “It can be scary for entrepreneurs to hang it out there every day and take the risks and responsibility of running your own business. Some people seem to have full-on meltdowns from too much financial pressure or management obligations.”
Having seen businesses operated by degreed entrepreneurs succeed as often as endeavors undertaken by tradespeople brimming with passion, Miller asserts that desire and willpower are equally as important as formal education.
“I am one of those very fortunate people who has two careers that I absolutely love, and I hope to have more,” she said enthusiastically about cleaning and consulting. “I am very lucky and blessed to be here in Prescott. I would really like to land a radio gig. Who knows what the year ahead will bring.” QCBN
By Sue Marceau