Young eastern Kentucky entrepreneur creates his own opportunity

Shane Hamilton

Shane Hamilton, with MACED’s Paul Wright, receiving a young entrepreneur award at the annual Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards. (MACED photo)

By: Ivy Brashear

Many people like to have a purpose behind the work they do – a reason why they do that work and what keeps them doing it. For Garrett, Ky., native Shane Hamilton, having purpose behind the work he does is more like a life mantra.

“I have goals. I have a ‘why:’ ‘Why do I want to do this?’” Hamilton said “Other people’s ‘why’ is they want to make money. You have to have something that overpowers money. What do you want to do with it? I like to help people who need it. I like to see other people make money. It’s the ‘why’ factor.”

At 22, Hamilton, the owner and CEO of Service Maids LLC, is not the type to wait for opportunity to come his way; he creates it for himself.

Hamilton has considered himself an entrepreneur since high school, when he sold trendy bracelets at local flea markets and festivals. When the bracelet fad started to decline, he decided to move on to a more sustainable business: professional house cleaning.

He had researched what businesses required small amounts of investment to start, and cleaning companies were at the top of the list. And since there were no professional house-cleaning companies in eastern Kentucky, there would be little competition for his business. Hamilton started Service Maids in 2011 at age 19.

He didn’t always want to start his own company from scratch. In fact, he tried to convince large, multi-million-dollar house cleaning companies to open franchise operations in eastern Kentucky that he could operate. But, all of the companies he contacted were skeptical about the success of a house cleaning company in eastern Kentucky.

“They all three said it would not make it,” Hamilton said. “They just didn’t know the area. They didn’t understand it. They didn’t have other people in business in areas like this.”

Service Maids 2

Photo courtesy of Service Maids, LLC

So, Hamilton tapped into a small amount of money he’d been saving. He bought vacuums and mops, had logos made, and “worked my butt off cleaning houses” in Service Maids’ first year. It wasn’t easy. Business was slow at first, and cleaning houses isn’t necessarily a 19-year-old’s first choice of activity.

“I didn’t preferably grow up to be a maid,” Hamilton said. “But I wanted to own a business – not just a cleaning company – I wanted to own a business.”

Four years later, all of Hamilton’s hard work is paying off. He said he’s been maturing as a business owner, and has learned from early mistakes.

“I really started thinking like a business owner. I was maturing. I was trying to get my stuff together. I changed some things around and started hiring more people. I starting upping my advertising budget. I was throwing my personal money back into the company so I could grow the company,” Hamilton said.

Since December 2013, Service Maids has nearly doubled its business. Hamilton now has seven employees and more than 80 customers in six eastern Kentucky counties. National organizations are taking notice of what Hamilton has accomplished. In April 2015, he was named the 2015 Kentucky Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Small Business Administration. He credits all of this success to hard work and to filling a gap that existed in eastern Kentucky.

He wants to stay in the region, and even plans to open a headquarters in Pikeville. But, he also has aspirations of expanding the company’s reach. He wants to start by opening Service Maids franchise locations in Kentucky cities like Georgetown, Richmond or Ashland, and later, expand outside of the state. Those may seem like lofty goals for a 22-year-old business owner, but Hamilton isn’t fazed by doubt.

“You’ve got to shoot for the stars,” Hamilton said. “That’s what I want to do. I’m going to stick to it and do everything in my power to make it work.”

Service Maids 1

Photo courtesy of Service Maids, LLC

Hamilton delights in being able to help others, especially those that may not be able to help themselves. Service Maids participates in “Cleaning for a Reason,” which allows the company to grant two free cleanings a month to two women suffering from cancer. Several of his customers are those who may not be able to fully clean their homes on their own, including people who are elderly or disabled. And, he pays his employees above minimum wage, and intends to find ways to pay them more.

“We really change a lot of people’s lives,” Hamilton said. “It’s just my way of giving back to the community – giving help to someone that needs help more than I need it.”

Hamilton has cultivated a good reputation in the region through his hard work and dedication to his customers. That reputation is leading to referrals and loyalty from existing customers, some of which he’s had since he started the business. This is all part of what’s helping Service Maids grow, and it makes Hamilton aware that he could set a real example of possibility in eastern Kentucky, where jobs are scarce, making the need for entrepreneurship great.

“Hopefully, Service Maids will set an example on people that entrepreneurship can work,” Hamilton said. “Don’t let anybody tell you that it can’t because if you work your butt off and you do it smarter and better than everybody else, I don’t care what you’re selling, it’s going to work.”