Local Leaders: Cinderella “Cindi” Bermudez, Washington, DC
It started out as a threat. When Cindi Bermudez was just 14, her aunt warned her that she’d better straighten up, or the teenager with a knack for breaking the rules would end up cleaning houses the rest of her life.
“It was a real Cinderella story,” jokes Bermudez, whose first name is a shortened version of the fairy tale character’s. “I guess I didn’t straighten up.”
To get in on the joke, consider this: Maid to Clean, the trailblazing company Bermudez founded almost two decades ago, is the Washington, DC area’s leading home cleaning service, with some $2 million in annual revenues, its own fleet of vehicles, and a team staffed almost entirely by women who are either the children of Latin American immigrants or recent transplants themselves.
That last distinction, says Bermudez, is no accident. Born in West Texas to Mexican parents, she spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica, where she helped local women set up a pre-school for their kids.
It was there that Bermudez learned one of the guiding principles of her business career. “The ideas we took with us as volunteers didn’t come from within,” she recalls. “Once I started listening to the women I was supposed to be helping, I realized they cared about other things.” Instead of a sewing cooperative — the project Bermudez went to Costa Rica to set up — she helped the women build a pre-school for their kids.
It wasn’t easy, though. “I knew next to nothing about schools, and I had no idea where to begin.” So Bermudez took a bus to Costa Rica’s Peace Corps headquarters and brought back a stack of magazines for the kids — the only learning materials she could find. It was a simple start, but it worked.
“When I came back to the United States,” Bermudez recounts, “I decided I wanted to build a business based on simplicity.” And she has been true to her word. After a frustrating stint in the hotel industry, she set off on her own, enlisting a handful of Central American women who shared her clear-eyed conviction that “if we want more money, we need more clients.”
Getting there would take mobility. The problem was that none of the women Bermudez had enlisted could drive, much less obtain driving licenses. The solution? Bermudez contracted with a driving school and made passing its course a job requirement. Today, 18 years later, that driving school is still a Maid to Clean partner, and thanks to the kind of “Cinderella” ingenuity that has propelled Bermudez all these years, dozens of women on her payroll have also earned their own driving licenses.
That’s why 12 of her first employees are still with her, and why we at KANAVA International are proud to feature this remarkable entrepreneur and local leader.
Learn more about the Maid to Clean story here.