tampabay.com

Keeping homes clean, naturally

By ELIZABETH BETTENDORF
Published May 14, 2007


Natalie Kelly was looking for a way to spend more time with her 10-year-old son when she stumbled across a small-business idea.

It not only smelled good, she thought, but it was also good for the planet.

Her business, Home Therapy Cleaning Service, uses only nontoxic, all-natural plant-based cleaning products enhanced with aromatherapy scents like rosemary mint, garden geranium and tango mango.

"We mix our essential oils with things like baking soda and vinegar and use tea tree oil to scrub spots in the bathtubs, " explains Kelly, a New Tampa resident who lives in Highwoods Preserve.

It's a side business for Kelly and her business partner, Audrey Glover, who both work for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office as detention deputies.

"We click because we both have the same standards and ethics at work, which is something that's hard to explain but really works in a business, " Kelly says.

Kelly, 28, grew up in Pahokee, a historic town on Lake Okeechobee, where she was raised by her grandparents.

Her grandfather was a supervisor at a sugar processing plant; her grandmother worked for the School Board.

Throughout middle and high school, she was a serious clarinet player who performed with her marching band at events all over the state, including festivals at Florida A&M University, the Orange Bowl and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in St. Petersburg.

Now, she says, work keeps her away from the clarinet, but not her duties as a mom.

"I started this business because I hope someday in the future I'll have more time for my son, " she says. "Now, I take him to school in the morning but can't pick him up in the afternoons because of my shift."

She says that before starting her organic cleaning service, she spent time reading books on entrepreneurship and small business ownership.

She also combed the Internet, reading about businesses she thought might pan out for a single working mom. She found a Web site for a similar all-natural cleaning service in Orlando, and she was hooked.

She loved the idea for the business and jumped on it, but had no idea she would hit a nerve.

In an era when "green" living has catapulted people like actor/green living expert Ed Begley Jr. into HGTV stardom and when cosmetic companies are launching organic lines of beauty products, it's not a stretch to think that she might be on to something.

"Once I started my business, so many people said to me: 'That is a really good idea; we're so glad that you care about the earth, ' " she says. "I was surprised at how many of our customers are into organic."

There is "nothing like it that I know of in the Tampa Bay area, " says Kelly, who used to sell aromatherapy candles and other products from home.

She and Glover also use lavender and lemon oils to add to the "refreshingly clean" scent that's their signature. Even carpets are freshened with an aromatherapy baking soda blend.

They only use ammonia on the outside of windows and use harsher chemicals indoors only if the customer asks.

"If a person only wants us to come every other week or once a month, we'll also sell them products to use in between visits, " she says.

The company now serves customers in the New Tampa and Pasco County areas, with hopes of soon expanding.

Reach Natalie Kelly's Home Therapy Cleaning Service at 1-866-427-7754.

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at ebettendorf@hotmail.com.