The Purple Fig: Amanda’s Story

Amanda May and her son, Max.

The  Purple Fig is a local cleaning company started by native Austinite Amanda May in 2007.  Get to know Amanda and learn a little bit about the history of The Purple Fig through an interview with Amanda May.

Why did you start the The Purple Fig?

AM: Back in 2006 I worked a corporate accounting job.  The impetus for starting The Purple Fig occurred when I was denied unpaid vacation to visit family at Christmas.  I always thought a green cleaning business would be perfect for Austin.  I would suggest this business idea to friends, but unexpectedly I was presented with the opportunity to start The Purple Fig myself!

How did you come up with the name, The Purple Fig?

AM: Well, I didn’t want to use the word “maid” in the title, because the word “maid” has a class aspect to it.  I believe that all work is meaningful.  Yes, at the end of the day, we are just a cleaning company, but through cleaning homes and other places of work, we are enabling others to carry on with their lives and do the things they deem meaningful.  Our staff members could choose to work a 9 to 5 or do other things, but they are choosing to clean.  I think having a choice makes it easier. I  wanted my company name to have a more natural connotation.  

Many businesses don’t make it past the first few years.  What’s the secret?  Why has The Purple Fig flourished?  

AM: Family support.  If I didn’t have my aunt’s garage to live in, I wouldn’t have made it. During the first six months after starting The Purple Fig, I lived in my aunt’s garage to make it all work. For the first five years, we actually ran The Purple Fig out of my aunt’s garage, we didn’t get an office until a few years ago.  I would say the most important things contributing to the success of The Purple Fig are family support and really hard work!

During your daily routine, what are some of the things you really enjoy doing?

AM: I like checking in with employees at cleans, doing a walk through, seeing how the employee is doing and how their day is going.  It is important to do a quality check and make sure we are hitting all our points that we want to hit in every house.

What schooling or training did you draw upon to help you start and run your own business?

AM: I have a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting.  Accounting has been very helpful.  A lot of business have great products or services and think because of this they will succeed, but they don’t realize business acumen is needed.  I was very lucky to have a little bit of both.

What was the biggest challenge you faced getting your company off the ground?

AM: The hardest part was trying to run my company, while still working in the trenches.  It’s hard to clean all day and then come home and make your business plan.  It’ s difficult to get to the point where you are able to take a step back, evaluate and look at your company from a 10,000 foot bird’s-eye view. Once we were able to hire a manager about six months in, I was really able to help the company grow. The transition from working in your business to working on your business was the most difficult.

What is the biggest challenge you face daily? 

AM: Continuing to figure out how to grow and maintain the same level of service.  We are still working on the foundation and on processes. I want flexibility, but also efficiency. 

What goals or accomplishments are you most proud of?

AM: Definitely, health insurance. Being able to provide quality health insurance to my employees means everything to me.  I could have gone with a simpler, less expensive plan, but I wanted to give my employees something they could actually use.  This means I take smaller margins, but I want to create a respectful work environment where employees feel like they are appreciated and that their hard work is acknowledged and valued.  Offering way more than just basic health insurance is my way of showing gratitude to my employees.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your business?

AM: Getting a big compliment from a client, “this place feels so great,” “this feels so wonderful,” and then communicating that to employees. Every clean is like a production: they had to call in, go back and forth to set up a time, confirm the appointment, our team had to go out there, do a great job, take out the garbage, etc.  There are so many moving parts.  It feels great to hear about a job well done from a client and then pass that along to the team.  Everything is a team effort.  A great review means the office staff has done their job, the field staff has done their job and everyone has worked together to make a client’s day.