Former Special Education teacher turned entrepreneur, Janet Schultz, began Blue-J in November of 2012. During the first year, the biggest struggle and frustration was finding employees who would clean to a process, were dependable, committed, detail-oriented and who were routine driven. Then the Epiphany came. Individuals on the Autism Spectrum had those attributes coupled with a strong work ethic. Hiring Eric in 2013, who was Blue-J’s first employee on the spectrum, marked the beginning of the solution to the problem of finding a reliable employee base. After some investigation into this idea, it was found that the high unemployment rate of those on the spectrum, was and still is the current platform and focus of Autism Speaks and other said groups. It all began to come together and make sense. Blue-J had become a social entrepreneurship enterprise. “The Blue-J Idea” is a win-win for all involved.
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A Note From Janet
The name of this company, “Blue-J Small Office Eco-Friendly Cleaning”, is not a reference to birds. In the company name, ‘Blue’ stands for Autism awareness and ‘J’ stands for Janet. When the company was initially founded, the color ”blue” represented “clean”. I founded this company because I was faced with a forced life changing event in October 2012 and as a result I needed to support myself. Being in the classroom was out of the question. I would be like a bird in a cage in that setting. I had been given a taste of being a small business owner in my previous marriage and knew that I was in my zone with that. During those years as a business owner, I discovered capabilities about myself that I did not know I had. Sales and marketing became my “thing” and having been a teacher, I certainly knew management skills. Finally with that experience, I learned what to do and most importantly, what not to do. The entrepreneurial spirit within me was ignited and it drove me to venture out on my own. Having been a single mother and a teacher for many years, I would supplement my income from teaching by cleaning houses on the weekends and during the summers. I had found I was good at it. Praying and processing through my situation, The Blue-J Idea was born and a vision reborn.
One of the many benefits of being a small business owner was the opportunity to offer employment. I derive a tremendous satisfaction and reward in being positioned to do that. As a special education teacher of an OCS classroom in prior years, where the emphasis is on job skills, I recognized that I enjoyed that part of educating those students in my care. I especially was drawn to those on the Autism Spectrum and it was reciprocated. We “get” each other.
Employing those on the spectrum did not come right away. It would take a year into my business for me to discover that those on the spectrum were a great fit for Blue-J. We now had a solid reputation of being a detail driven and consistent cleaning company. Internally, however, maintaining an employee base that would fulfill those qualities and clean to a process was becoming increasingly difficult. We had carved out our niche by primarily cleaning small offices. That’s when the epiphany came. Those on the spectrum had those attributes and so much more. The small office concept was perfect for them. That setting was less overwhelming and easier to manage. In the early part of 2014, Eric became Blue-J’s first employee on the spectrum. Eric would work his way up to team supervisor and “keeper of the keys” before leaving Blue-J in 2016 to relocate to South Carolina. Hiring Eric was a turning point and set the stage for how Blue-J would move forward. Today, Blue-J has an employee base of twelve. Five of these employees are on the spectrum.
By intentional design, Blue-J was set up to be a duplicable cleaning company. I did not know how or what that would look like in the beginning. Over the course of five years I have developed a prototype that is now ready to be passed on to others to do what I have done. I love being an entrepreneur. I am a supporter of small business. I am an encourager, a teacher and I love to help people. Passing on the Blue-J Idea is where my dream lies. Being able to partner with other Blue-J startups allows me the opportunity to utilize the talents and strengths I have been given. Together we become “more than cleaning company; we are a movement creating change in the marketplace”
Thank you for joining the movement.
Owner and founder