Jonathan Williams, the 19-year-old owner of the Chestnut Hill Cleaning Company (right), and Chris Smith, 19, operations manager for the company, are seen cleaning the office of one of their steady clients, the Chestnut Hill Business Association, 16 E. Highland Ave. (Photo by Len Lear)

Jonathan Williams, the 19-year-old owner of the Chestnut Hill Cleaning Company (right), and Chris Smith, 19, operations manager for the company, are seen cleaning the office of one of their steady clients, the Chestnut Hill Business Association, 16 E. Highland Ave. (Photo by Len Lear)

by Carole Verona

When most people think about cleaning, they think about dusting and vacuuming. When Jonathan Williams, the 19-year-old owner of the Chestnut Hill Cleaning Company, thinks about it, his thoughts turn to the peace and tranquility that cleaning brings into his personal and business life.

His mother, Jasmine Williams, a teacher at the James Logan Elementary School, handed down this philosophy to him. “As a kid, everything in our house was clean,” Jonathan recalled. “If it wasn’t clean, if my bed wasn’t made, my mom would come in. According to her, everything has to be straightened immediately. Me, I watch it as it builds up, then I freak out. I don’t like clutter. You can’t fully focus when things get cluttered. I try to move things around so that everything can remain calm and peaceful.”

Jonathan started the business when he was 16. While a student at Central High School, he started working for James Mitchell, who at the time ran the Café at the Mills in East Falls. “Really, he was taking me under his wings and showing me how to run a business. I was interested in it and I always wanted to do something that wasn’t set every day. One day I was with friends. We didn’t have that much money and I said, ‘You know what, guys, we can’t just sit around anymore and wait for stuff to come to us. We’ve got to make something.’ We began thinking about what we could do that other people probably wouldn’t want to do, something that we could profit from.

“Everybody was thinking about going to college at that point, so money was something that we were going to start to need on a serious basis. We decided on a cleaning company and got business cards the next day. That $7 investment was probably the best I’ve made so far in my life.”

Jonathan began handing out business cards in front of McDonald’s and other Chestnut Hill businesses. He recently became a member of the Chestnut Hill Business Association and now manages the cleaning of those offices as well.

His relationship with James Mitchell, his first mentor, remains strong. The two volunteer together once a week, providing meals to the less fortunate at a church in West Philadelphia. (According to Mitchell, “Jonathan is a fine, respectful, hard-working young man. I cannot say enough good about him.”)

Jonathan still remembers the day he landed his first commercial contract. “I was sitting in the lunch room at Central. It was a snowy day, and I was bored. Then I got a phone call from Joe Bernstein from Spina and Company, a property management business.” Bernstein offered him a commercial contract for one of his businesses, and that started an ongoing business relationship.

Jonathan believes that building and maintaining personal relationships are key to the success of his business. “If you think someone is a good salesman who will not steer you wrong, and you feel comfortable with that person, that’s the person you want to go with. I try and build personal relationships with people so that they can feel that way about me,” he said.

The Chestnut Hill Cleaning Company now has four commercial contracts in addition to residential work. Jonathan’s goal is to move more in the direction of commercial business. “I want to do commercial work and lock up this area. I want to take over Chestnut Hill! It might sound like a big goal for a small guy, but hey, I think I can do it. I’ve seen myself grow so much that now being able to give paychecks to others feels great.”

In addition to commercial and residential cleaning services, the Chestnut Hill Cleaning Company provides landscaping, snow removal, moving-out services and help with miscellaneous tasks.

Jonathan has lived in Chestnut Hill his whole life and attended Our Mother of Consolation School. He is currently studying business at Community College of Philadelphia. After he receives his associate’s degree, he plans to go to Arcadia University or Cabrini College. The grandson of a lawyer, he is also interested in attending law school to diversify his knowledge.

Chris Smith, Jonathan’s “brother” (not biological), and Lauren Jeffries, his friend since second grade, have been with him in the business since the beginning. Chris’ title is operations manager, but Lauren does not have a title. Chris went to Germantown High School until it closed and then transferred to a school in New Jersey. “My mom has always been supportive of it,” said Jonathan. “Sometimes she wishes I put the same attention to other stuff as I pay to the business. I’m always thinking about the business. It’s my baby; it’s my passion.”

For more information, contact Jonathan at 215-919-9328 or chestnuthillcleaning@gmail.com. Or visit the company’s website at https://sites.google.com/site/chestnuthillcleaning/.

...