by Len Lear
Jonathan Williams, of Chestnut Hill, is just 21, but he has already been running a successful business for five years. While just a junior at Central High School, Jonathan started a professional cleaning service, Chestnut Hill Cleaning Company, which eventually wound up with regular clients such as Grace Epiphany Church, Regional Housing Legal Service, Blue Hill Partners. the Chestnut Hill Business Association and Culinart, Inc., which provides food service for schools such as Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
In addition to running his staff of five, Jonathan somehow also manages to attend classes at Philadelphia Community College, where he will soon graduate; he has worked as a sous chef in a kitchen that feeds the homeless (unfortunately, the program ended after a great run due to lack of funding), and he does vegan food demonstrations and catering with vegan chef James Mitchell.
As if all of that were not enough to tire him out, Jonathan started a program in 2016 entitled “Sky Is The Limit Entrepreneurial Program,” which reaches out to local students in the 5th to 8th grade, teaching them the basics of being an entrepreneur. The program combines sporting activities and classroom instruction in business planning, marketing and accounting.
Jonathan offers the program every Thursday at the Cecil B. Moore Recreation Center in North Philly. “We usually have from 15-20 kids depending on the day,” said the Chestnut Hiller. “The money we raise is used to purchase sporting equipment, classroom supplies and to defray legal fees,” Williams said last week.
“My ultimate goal is to be able to build a conglomerate and give international business a shot. As far as the after-school program, I would love to see it progress into the school district, and for the cleaning company I just wish to spread my reach throughout the city and hopefully another city.”
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 freak out. I don’t like clutter. You can’t fully focus when things get cluttered.”
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 wing and showing me how to run a business. I was interested in it and always wanted to do something that wasn’t set every day. One day I was with friends. We didn’t have 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 what we could do that other people probably wouldn’t want to do, something we could profit from.
“Everybody was thinking about going to college at that point, so money was something 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. According to Mitchell, “Jonathan is a fine, respectful, hard-working young man. I cannot say enough good about him.”
Karen Naughton, of Blue Hill Partners, a Chestnut Hill firm that provides management consulting and physical and special project development, has used Jonathan’s services for more than two years. “I’m very satisfied with his work,” she told us last week. “He does exterior cleaning, but he has also been kind enough to do things I cannot do like snow removal and move furniture. I don’t have a full-time handyman, so Jonathan has been a big help.”
For more information about Chestnut Hill Cleaning Company, call 215-919-9328 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org. Carole Verona also contributed to this article. Contributions to the “Sky Is The Limit Entrepreneurial Program” GoFundMe page can be made at gofundme.com/sitlprogram.