Twenty-five years ago, Sarian Bouma arrived in the United States to create a better life for her family in Sierra Leone. But after a year of marriage, she found herself divorced, pregnant and out on her own. She found solace in a woman’s shelter and went on welfare so that she could feed her son. However, she never allowed her status as a recent immigrant and unemployed single parent keep her from accomplishing her personal goals. After working at a variety of odd jobs, she landed a position as a bank loan officer in Washington, D.C.
During this time, she was encouraged by her customers and future husband to start her own business. After attending a series of seminars on business ownership, Bouma decided to become the owner of a franchise commercial cleaning firm. She was attracted to the opportunity because it didn’t require much start-up capital and she would be able to build clientele quickly.
"If you have a big name, they [contractors] feel that you can deliver," says Bouma. She named her business ServiceMaster of Capitol Hill Inc., as a reminder of the place in Washington where she one day wanted to do business. Over the next five years, she proved her capability as an entrepreneur, procuring lucrative custodial contracts with government and commercial agencies.
In 1993, she decided to become an independent contractor and established Capitol Hill Building Maintenance Inc. in Lexington Park, Maryland, with the help of the Small Business Administration and a $25,000 loan from the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority. Providing full-service janitorial services to offices, warehouses and medical suites in the metro Washington, D.C., and Norfolk, Virginia, areas, Capitol Hill Building Maintenance has 13 clients and grossed $3.4 million last year. It is also recognized as one of the fastest-growing small janitorial firms in the Washington, D.C., area.
Despite her success in business-Bouma has contracts with such federal agencies as the Department of Navy, has won awards and grossed millions of dollars-she feels that her greatest accomplishment has been helping the 200 people she employs. Besides giving them jobs, she has instilled in them the desire for an education, home ownership and entrepreneurship.
"I am in the battlefield and I cannot lose," says Bouma. "I must fulfill the needs of my customers and my employees."
Capitol Hill Building Maintenance Inc., 21692 Great Mills Road, Lexington Park, MD 20653; 301-737-1445