Growing up working at her family’s funeral home, Kiva U.S. borrower Danielle learned early on that success isn’t just about the numbers.
“My grandmother had a women-owned business that was started in the '20s, and for an African American during that time it was rare,” says Danielle. She always knew that she would one day have a business of her own, and she’s now the founder and owner of Dallas, TX-based home services company, Prepped Place.
“I would answer the phone, ‘Lindsay Funeral Home, this is Danielle,’ literally mimicking everything she did.”
Interacting with clients made a deep impression on the future entrepreneur, as did the way her grandmother treated her staff.
“She gave hope and provided employment opportunities to those who would not have been afforded great pay, benefits, and representation in a field that was dominated by men at that time,” she explains.
“This helped me realize that a business was more than making money—it's about the impact on the people who surround you.”
Her grandmother’s inspiration continues to dictate how Danielle thinks about her own employees, who are mostly women. Accounting for their families’ schedules and need for a liveable wage has built a loyal labor force, and she has been able to create more jobs with the help of a Kiva loan.
“The Kiva loan impacted my business financially, but it impacted me as a person as well. I had a lot of growth, which is priceless.”
“We create a work environment so that the many single moms are home by 4pm to pick up their children and prepare dinner,” she says. “We pay more than average, and we get involved with our teams.”
‘People don’t understand this systemic thing’
Danielle launched Prepped Place in 2018, by faith. After acquiring a short term rental property and finding that there wasn’t a cleaning company that met her standards for flexibility and attention to detail. The company has grown exponentially, providing cleaning, laundry, maintenance, design, and moving services for her growing stable of rental properties as well as a clientele in and around the Dallas area.
While she has fond memories of her childhood in Yazoo City, MS working with her formidable grandmother, she also remembers the racial and social inequities that continue to affect African Americans and other people of color.
“Coming from where I came from, just to be honest with you, my hometown was segregated,” she recalls.
“Looking at the struggles of my parents and my aunt, my uncle, and growing up in the South, our struggles tend to get swept under the rug. People don’t understand this systemic thing that stems from all of that.”
Acknowledging that she witnessed tragic fallout from drugs and violence in her community after moving to Missouri as a teenager, she adds, “struggle and perseverance gave me the experience to step out on faith as an adult.”
Leaving the corporate ladder to become the boss
“If I want to have an impact on helping others, I have to understand what it feels like to be on the receiving end, right?”
Taking the lessons learned at her grandmother’s desk, Danielle finished school and began a career in corporate America. As she encountered racial and gender barriers that prevented her from advancing, she only worked harder to get to the level she knew she deserved.
“Every single time they would hate on me, I’m like, boom! I kill them with kindness. I ask how we can make things better, creating processes and all of that,” she remembers with a small sigh. “Even though it was a mountain, the obstacles seemed a lot smaller because I applied those principles.”
After the company she worked for asked her once again to perform tasks below her pay grade, she decided enough was enough and turned in her resignation. After two weeks of vacation and contemplation, Danielle held no hard feelings and was ready to start her own venture.
“I know that the values during that time positioned me to handle everything that I come in contact with now in business,” she affirms with a nod.
As the burgeoning boss began to build her business, she realized that people were its most important resource. She also recognized the challenges of working in the cleaning industry.
“People tend to look down upon it. It’s not the most glamorous job. You’re not going to see anyone on social media taking photos while they’re cleaning a toilet unless they’re shopping for branding opportunities,” Danielle deadpans.
“And traditionally, the pay is very low. I didn’t like that because these ladies work so hard. I decided, ‘No, that’s not what my company is going to be.’”
By paying above-average wages, providing leadership training, and promoting within while holding space for family and free time, Danielle has accrued a devoted staff in an industry that typically has high turnover.
“Most employees that are with our company have been with us for a very long time, and I’m so grateful for that,” she attests.
“I’ve seen them send their children to college from working here.”
The devotion of her crew was put to the test in February of 2021, when the power grid failure that left 4.5 million Texans without heat or electricity threw many small businesses into chaos. The Prepped Place owner responded by opening properties to families in need as well keeping her people working through the crisis.
“Our entire team left their homes, and they stayed on site,” Danielle remembers. “They were able to get the apartments cleaned. During that time, we cleaned 72 apartments in three days.”
How a Kiva loan helped create more jobs
As her business recovered from the energy blackout and began to boom again, Danielle knew Prepped Place could service more clients if it had access to commercial-grade washers and dryers and industrial vacuum cleaners. She also envisioned crisp, branded uniforms that would signify the professionalism of her team. So in early 2022, she applied for a zero-interest U.S. Kiva loan—a step far out of her comfort zone.
“First of all, I have been so independent my entire life. I’ve never asked for help with anything. I never wanted to ask people to join me in my vision or to donate or do any of those things,” she says of the loan process that requires funding from a borrower’s home community.
“This made me so uncomfortable, having to get the people to get involved and then post on social media.”
But Danielle’s longing to expand Prepped Place and provide more opportunities to other women won out over the uneasiness of asking her friends and family to contribute to the loan.
“I had an opportunity to stretch and understand that it’s just not about me. If I want to have an impact on helping others, I have to understand what it feels like to be on the receiving end, right?”
Powered by 159 lenders, her $8000 Kiva loan allowed Danielle to meet her immediate goals for Prepped Place, and she says she would consider applying another loan in the future to meet her ever-expanding vision: A new storefront, servicing more and bigger cities, and giving more crew members fair compensation and a workplace with dignity, just like her grandmother did.
“The Kiva loan impacted my business financially, but it impacted me as a person as well. I had a lot of growth, which is priceless,” she says.
“I want to continue the legacy by taking everything that has been afforded to me and creating leaders.”
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