FlockTALKS: Cleaning Is A Dirty Business
If you’ve been following Flock for a while, you know we’ve been running a weekly Flockletter email campaign since our original feathered brand, Nest DC, started. That’s a weekly newsletter from us for over 13 years! In that time, we’ve had the opportunity to interview some great local businesses as part of our “Flock + Friends” segments. Meet FlockTALKS, our long awaited opportunity to take those featurettes a step further – diving deeper into some fantastic stories and, in this case especially, spotlighting some of those social justice company missions we LOVE!
Our Boss Lady, Lisa Wise, sat down with Aaron Seyedian, the founder of Well-Paid Maids, to talk about running a values-based business and the living wage movement. We’ve been admirers (and clients!) of Well-Paid Maids for a while now, and we were thrilled to be able to learn about how they got started, their company ethos, and more of what goes on behind the scenes.
Lisa: I know I surprise a lot of folks when I talk about social justice and property management at the same time. But I believe real change can come about when social justice and business intersect. How is this true for you, and Well Paid Maids?
Aaron: To put it simply, cleaning is a dirty business. The industry is rife with operators who misclassify, overwork, and steal from their staff. By operating Well-Paid Maids as a living-wage company, I am trying to demonstrate that this industry does not have to be oppressive, and that a living-wage company can thrive in any sector. So when we succeed and grow as more and more customers choose us instead of the other guys, we hope that that can spark change. And just in case it can’t all on its own, we have been advocating for progressive policies in our region and federally since we started.
Lisa: What inspired you to get involved in the living wage movement and build a business with a living wage engine?
Aaron: I saw a fight I wanted to be in – the fight for a higher minimum wage – and found myself on the sidelines. I tried to join that movement formally – applying for jobs at unions, for example – but it didn’t work out. So I decided to build my own path into this work via the business, and I think business is a great way to contribute. So often, during fights to raise the minimum wage, the typical business lobby assembles and they trot out their Chicken Little stuff about how a few more bucks an hour is going to destroy small businesses and nobody can call a foul on that. And I thought that if I had my own small business that I ran with a living-wage model, I could help push back against opponents of policies that help workers in the public arena.
Lisa: What do your clients love about your values?
Aaron: Look, it’s the DC area – a lot of people are here because of their passionately-held beliefs and my customers are looking to live their beliefs any way they can. People want a clean home, but if they go with the competition they are often supporting practices they don’t believe in.
My clients are just like me – they want a cleaning company that they can feel good about using. To be candid, there’s a lot of guilt for a lot of people that comes with paying for your house to be cleaned. Most people weren’t raised with their family having a cleaner come by and there’s this sense that having a cleaner is unseemly. And when you consider that most cleaning companies are indeed exploitative – and people are becoming more and more aware of this, thankfully – you can’t really blame them for feeling like that.
But with Well-Paid Maids, my clients love that they can trust that our staff are treated well, paid well, and taken care of with a full benefits package. Because they know that, they can actually book a cleaning and take one thing off the very long to-do list in their lives. Our values give our clients the permission to buy something that most of them would otherwise never buy.
Lisa: If you could change anything in the lives of your team members, what would it be?
Aaron: I wish I could take just one of their burdens away. I meet and hire so many people who are being pulled down by a variety of things – unstable housing, lack of childcare, health problems, you name it. And it often feels like if they could just fix one of those big burdens, that everyone could fall into place. I am proud that my company pays people enough to live on, but at the end of the day, without broad social change, that’s all it is – a way to survive but not thrive.
That’s why I am so committed to advocating for not just a higher minimum wage but Medicare for All, paid family and medical leave, and other progressive policies. It takes much more than a job to help the working class. So while I am happy to have paid out over a million dollars in living wages, I know that people need so much more than that.
Lisa: What’s next for Well Paid Maids? How are you planning for growth or expansion?
Aaron: In the next 5 years, we would like to have one new vertical here in the DC area that’s as big as we are now in cleaning. Our customers have let us know they’d love to buy other living-wage services from us, so we are planning out how to make that happen.
Lisa: How can our fans book a cleaning?
Aaron: Just go to www.wellpaidmaids.com/#booking. It’s quick and easy and you’ll find our real-time availability. Stay tuned for a new website in 2022 as well!