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Entrepreneur Mom Vanessa Higgins on Blending Careers and Families

By Brook Cosby

Entrepreneur and mother Vanessa Higgins exemplifies the adage that sunshine is the best disinfectant. As owner and operator of Clean Tu Casa, a boutique cleaning company in the Atlanta metro area, she shines a light on the hardworking people she’s proud to employ and uplifts the atmosphere around her with her positivity, sincerity and commitment to excellence.

Born and raised in Atlanta, Vanessa embodies her Colombian mother’s entrepreneurial savvy and her Queens, NY-born father’s ingrained sense of loyalty from his time in the corporate world. Fascinated by the power of logos and marketing, she’s been drawn to business culture since childhood. It’s perhaps no surprise then that she spent 24 years in the corporate sector, working in both advertising and marketing for major American corporations such as Delta Air Lines and Home Depot.

After the birth of her first child and while finalizing a divorce at age 25, she found herself torn between her professional ambitions and the pressures of being a single mom. With the help of her parents and broader community, she excelled in her role as marketing director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. By the time her son was in elementary school, she was not only working 9-5, but also running her own small advertising agency which catered to Atlanta’s Hispanic community. “Networking, advocating, connecting people to opportunities… That's what I do. It’s hard to turn it off,” she reflects. But two careers and raising a son was proving to be too much. She credits being a mom, both then and now, with helping her define her values and priorities. She loved the creativity and autonomy of running her own agency, but not the hours it took from her son. So she let go of her “side gig,” and embraced the family-friendly stability of corporate life.

Six years later, Vanessa’s life as a working mom took on a new dimension. She reconnected with a high school friend and quickly discovered their shared family values and compatible approach to the world. They married, Vanessa happily became stepmother to two wonderful girls, and eventually they had a son together, making them a blended family of six. “I always knew I wanted to be at the center of a big, lively family,” she shares. In becoming a mom again at age 37, Vanessa considered stepping away from corporate life, but as she explains: “I always wanted to work. I was fortunate that I could have chosen to be a stay at home mom, but I wanted to keep working.”

In 2017, now with four kids under her roof, Vanessa began to feel the strain of balancing a large family with a demanding corporate job. She was running global B2B marketing campaigns for Delta Air Lines. ”It was the kind of job I’d always dreamed of. I loved the people, the culture, the work itself, and the benefits of being a long term corporate employee were a serious perk.” But commuting over an hour each way, plus the extensive travel demanded by the job, led her back to the same question that she posed over a decade prior: is this job in alignment with who I want to be as a person -- and as a mom?

After two decades in corporate America, she realized she wanted to be more present for her family and of more direct service to her community. She was ready to embrace her “home self” as the person she was in her professional life. Of her life at home, she shares that “we built a soccer field in our backyard. The kids and their friends are always here. We’re ‘that’ house -- it’s what I always wanted.” So her challenge became: how to take her happiest self -- her nurturing, magnanimous, hospitality-focused self -- and launch a new professional chapter as that person?

Vanessa reflected that throughout her career, regardless of the particular position she held, she always enjoyed connecting with her colleagues and clients on a personal level. She recalled that she had consistently found herself recommending two specific housekeepers to just about everyone she knew. The accolades she received for the exceptional job these women had done added up, and she realized the significance of a clean space to improve someone’s day. Given her drive to be of greater service, she decided to start a cleaning company. 

From her years in corporate America, she knew first hand the value of well established systems. She understood that the key to her success would be to, in her words, “operate with a system and great customer service like Chick-fil-A or Target.” With her husband’s encouragement, she began working with a business coach. She also began learning the industry, literally from the ground up. She swept, mopped and scrubbed. She learned which products work best for which needs. She learned the hazards of the job, both chemical and personal (as a result, employee safety is one of her top priorities; each member of her team is outfitted with a screwdriver, a first aid kit, and pepper spray). She also built an infrastructure to onboard employees with W2s and strict compliance guidelines. The cleaning industry, she explains, faces a disproportionate risk of audit, given the number of undocumented workers employed in the hospitality sector.  

She also credits both her experience building a blended family and her time in the corporate world with instilling in her the importance of intentional cultures. In her previous jobs, she learned how systems contribute to an employee’s sense of belonging and their goodwill towards the organization. And that having a positive, caring work environment leads employees to give their best -- and to stay. This same dynamic of trust, respect and clearly defined expectations helped her and her husband to integrate their children into a new family dynamic that flourished.  

A sense of community within an organization is critical, but so too is the community that surrounds that organization. Vanessa shares that one of her first moves in founding Clean Tu Casa was to join both the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the nonprofit organization Cleaning for a Reason. Both affiliations have proven deeply rewarding. Clean Tu Casa was recently honored with the GHCC’s 2023 Small Business of the Year award. And the fulfillment of offering free home cleaning to cancer patients via the Cleaning for a Reason partnership continues to inspire her and her team (Vanessa pays her cleaners their usual wage, but offers their work for free to the nonprofit). By participating in community focused efforts, Vanessa feels personally recharged and more deeply engaged in her efforts to continue serving with excellence.

And as for the question she gets asked all the time… Yes, Vanessa does clean her own house, but not all the time. “I’m a Clean Tu Casa client too! Someone on my team does a deep clean every other week, but I do some upkeep in the interim.” She shares these five must-haves for keeping your home sparkling between more substantial cleanings:

  1. Dawn Dish Soap. She describes this soap as “my desert island cleaning product.” Mix two drops of Dawn with 20 oz. hot water and 2 oz. white vinegar to clean any surface, especially granite or other natural stone countertops.

  2. White Terry Cloth Towels. “Terry cloths hold and absorb the right amount of liquid, and they’re so easy to work with. I love them for cleaning toothpaste off the mirror or sticky stuff off the kitchen counter.”

  3. Handheld Steam Cleaner. For truly clean countertops, Vanessa recommends sanitizing with steam after wiping them down. Pro tip: add a little baking soda to the water for extra freshness.

  4. Microfiber Cloths. To add a finishing touch of natural shine, nothing works as well as a clean and dry microfiber cloth. It’s the best finisher after cleaning with a hot terry cloth on surfaces, but the microfiber cloth needs to be clean and dry.

  5. Cordless Vacuum. Keeping a lightweight, cordless vacuum in her kitchen has been a gamechanger for cleaning up after her family of six. “Why sweep when you can vacuum up quick crumbs under the kitchen island or between the chair cushions? Cordless vacuums are inexpensive and so efficient for small jobs.”

Vanessa beams to share that building a business that has allowed her to spend more quality time with her family also now employs her entire family. Her husband, who has a business development and corporate sales background, is now the Chief Financial Officer and also handles all Human Resources and Compliance. All four kids work as assistant cleaners, and they especially enjoy cleaning the Cleaning for a Reason houses. By putting her truest, happiest self at the center of her work life, Vanessa no longer struggles to balance the personal and professional aspects of her identity. Whether she’s coordinating the details of her team’s workload or her kids’ nonstop schedules, she now operates full time as her thoughtful, joyous, and deeply generous self.


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