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 Len Lear & Carole Verona

Jonathan Williams, 20, started the Chestnut Hill Cleaning Company when he was just a 16-year-old student at Central High School. The young entrepreneur, who was featured earlier this year in the Local, provides commercial and residential cleaning services (one of his clients in the Chestnut Hill Business Association) as well as landscaping, snow removal, moving-out services and other miscellaneous tasks.

Jonathan, who will be obtaining an Associates Degree in business this fall from Community College of Philadelphia, plans to attend Cabrini University next spring to complete his bachelor’s degree.

But the great thing about Jonathan is that his ambition is not just to advance himself but also to share what he has learned and help other young people succeed in business. Thus, he has participated in City Councilman Dwight Evans’ Career Day Program for elementary school students over the last two years, and he delivered the keynote address at the James Logan Elementary School graduation last year in the city’s Logan section. He has also spent the past five years working as the sous chef in a kitchen that feeds the homeless.

Jonathan is also starting a program entitled “Sky Is The Limit Entrepreneurial Program,” which will reach out to local students in the 5th to 8th grade, teaching them the basics of being an entrepreneur. The program will combine sporting activities and classroom instruction to teaching how skills developed from participation in sports can be utilized in business.

“The money we are able to raise will be used to purchase sporting equipment, classroom supplies and to defray legal fees,” Williams said last week. “Alongside the sporting instruction there will be classroom instruction, where quick lessons in business planning, marketing and accounting will be taught.”

The program is scheduled to begin Oct. 11 at Grace Epiphany Episcopal Church, 224 E. Gowen Ave. in East Mt. Airy. It will run until Nov. 1 on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school hours.

How did Williams, who has lived in Chestnut Hill his whole life and attended Our Mother of Consolation School before Central, decide to start his own professional cleaning business? “As a kid,” he told us in an earlier interview, “everything in our house was clean. If it wasn’t clean, if my bed wasn’t made, my mom (Jasmine, a public school teacher) 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.”

While a student at Central, Jonathan 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 happen.’ 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 one I’ve made so far in my life.”

Jonathan began handing out business cards in front of McDonald’s and other Chestnut Hill businesses. Some were impressed with him and gave him a chance. 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.”)

People can contribute to the “Sky Is The Limit Entrepreneurial Program” at www.gofundme.com/2jw673hp/donate or directly to Grace Epiphany Church, signifying their intent for its use by the program. More information at 215-919-9328 or chestnuthillcleaning@gmail.com

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