Step One. Sometimes, if you’re going to get a fresh start, it helps to clean. You know, before you do anything, it’s nice to be in surroundings that are as clutter- and as germ-free as possible. For most people, getting a fresh start by cleaning means clearing off the clutter on their desk or maybe scrubbing down the bathrooms and kitchen and organizing the silverware drawer — and hoping everything stays looking spotless for at least a few weeks. But for Jennifer Poulos’ fresh start, she went in a different direction.
She bought her own cleaning business.
Poulos is a master franchisor for Stratus Building Solutions. In case you aren’t familiar with the term, she buys the rights to sell Stratus franchises to people who want their own Stratus cleaning businesses in the Miami, Florida area.
She became a Stratus Building Solutions master franchisor on October 18. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s back up a bit.
Starting over. Earlier in 2019, Poulos was working for a corporation, Altria, that produces and markets tobacco, cigarettes, and other related products. She had been very successful there and enjoyed her job, but when a buyout became available, she wound up grabbing it.
Poulos has lived in and out of Richmond, Virginia, for the past eight years, working there for Altria, and working for the company in Florida, running a sales organization and leading 140 people.
“I loved that job,” Poulos says. “It was my dream job in my dream state.” But as Poulus says of her time at Altria, “I peaked too soon.”
Because she was successful running the sales team, she was eventually promoted, and she didn’t like her new responsibilities as much. So, when the company decided to reduce expenses by reducing employees, she raised her hand.
For a few months afterward, Poulus wasn’t sure what she should do, but then one day, the entrepreneurial bug bit her. As she recalls, she was eating lunch with her 17-year-old stepdaughter, Annaliese, at a popular restaurant and noticing how busy they were.
“It looked like a gold mine — like they were printing money,” Poulos says. And suddenly, she began thinking of franchising.
Thinking of franchising. It was June of 2019 when Poulos had her franchise epiphany. She soon was working with two franchise coaches and investigating franchising opportunities on her own, “mostly brands I knew,” Poulos says. It was one of the franchise consultants who introduced her to Stratus Building Solutions.
“What stood out to me was that it was unique. It’s certainly an executive-led model. It isn’t a glorified manager of a retailer. You aren’t buying a job — you’re buying a business, and I was very attracted to the multiple revenue streams.”
She also felt that the initial investment was reasonable.
“Commercial cleaning may not be sexy, but it’s really a great business opportunity,” Poulos says.
Starting her Stratus Building Solutions business. Poulos also liked the eco-friendly concept that the franchise fosters.
“We definitely care about the environment,” Poulos says, referring to her daughter, who either wants to study drama or perhaps go into environmental sciences or activism. “She’s torn between the theatre and saving the Amazon,” Poulos says.
But as important as the environment is to Poulos, she also loves the idea of helping aspiring business owners in Miami. The Latino community is very important to her, she says. Poulos’ partner, Janet, and their daughter are Dominican.
“I love that this business model allows me to help people get on a path to business ownership. That’s important to me, to help people get financial freedom so they can care for their family.”
Still, Poulos didn’t come to Stratus Building Solutions without a lot of thought. She met with seven different CEOs and presidents of companies of other franchises and looked at a lot of different concepts before deciding she liked Stratus the best.
That said, she moved quickly. After her fateful June outing, she learned about Stratus around the Fourth of July weekend. By the second week of August, she had traveled to Stratus Building Solutions’ headquarters, participating in their “Discovery Day,” which are held every month and give interested entrepreneurs a close look at what it would be like to become a franchise owner.
“By the time I was done, I felt extremely confident in the business model, leadership, and support they would be offering,” Poulos says.
And by October, she was a Stratus Building Solutions master franchisor. Poulos bought an existing franchise, which, she says, has allowed her to sort of ease into the business since she already has franchise owners she is working with — and isn’t starting completely from scratch. And she is already acting like an established business owner — recently taking a shopping cart of toys and other goodies to Miami Children’s Hospital, contributing to the gifts the patients will be receiving over the holidays.
It's something she has been doing for almost a decade, however, long before she became a business owner.
“I think that giving back to the community is a big deal,” says Poulos, who is excited to be working in South Florida.
So that’s how Poulos completed Step One. She de-cluttered, in a sense, her old career and found a new, exciting one. Step Two? Helping a lot of other aspiring business owners with their own fresh start.