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The secret ingredient: ambition

Jill Paull, owner of Island Green Clean. For information or appointments, call 842-1988 or see www.islandgreenclean.net. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Jill Paull, owner of Island Green Clean. For information or appointments, call 842-1988 or see www.islandgreenclean.net.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Jill Paull banks on the success of Island Green Clean.

Jill Paull’s discovery may have come organically, but it didn’t come without a little bit of discomfort.

It began a year and a half ago, when the single mother of two opened a cleaning business. Things started out okay. Soon, though, she started getting sick.

“I figured it was probably the chemicals I was using,” she said, recalling the stinging of bleach on her hands that accompanied her long work weeks.

Concerned about her health, she went to the library to do some research, only to discover that a large array of organic alternatives to traditional cleaning products were available.

She started dabbling, eventually compiling an entire arsenal of natural cleaners. She split from her former business partner and started Island Green Clean, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.

Paull and her two staff members now spend long hours cleaning for about 30 island clients, both residential and businesses. Instead of bleach and ammonia, they use natural ingredients like peppermint castile soap and tee tree oil, and because of that, they don’t even need gloves.

Just as important as softening the blow to her cuticles, Paull said the switch has also softened the blow to the planet.

“If the old products were hurting my hands,” she said, “imagine what they’re doing to the environment.”

In keeping with her natural proclivity – she said she simply likes to clean – Paull prefers her home environment to be tidy.

That’s where she makes her cleaners, which she then takes them out on the road, to use in the homes and offices of her clients. So far, she said, the response has been surprisingly good.

“People really seem to like the products,” she said. “They’re really excited about them.”

Many people like them so much that they’ve encouraged her to sell her products, but since she learned them from a book, she gives away the recipes.

“They’re there for everyone to use,” she said. “I don’t want to get in trouble.”

Key ingredients include vinegar, baking soda, lavender oil and sodium borate, or borax.

Most of her business has come from word of mouth. In particular, she said, the IslandMoms website – an informal Internet community of local mothers – has been a “lifesaver” when it comes to getting referrals. She used to do some work off the island, but business has been good enough lately that she doesn’t bother crossing the bridge.

“There are a lot of opportunities right here on Bainbridge Island,” she said. “I really like being local, so I want to stay here.”

With help from the Washington Cash – a business development organization that provides women, people with disabilities, and other underserved individuals access to capital and training – Paull is learning the nuances of running a business. She even spoke to a group of 500 people at a recent Washington Cash seminar.

“That was quite a rush,” she said. “I’d never been in front of that many people.”

Professionally, her goal, along with expanding her clientele and her staff, is to eventually buy an electric car that would serve as Island Green Clean’s official mode of transportation.

Personally, she hopes her growing business will help her keep six acres of land on Marshall Road that have been in her family for some 80 years.

As far as Paull has come – the growth of Island Green Clean helped her to get off of welfare – she thinks saving the land is possible, as long as she continues to work hard.

“I’m going to build a house here someday,” she said, smiling, from the confines of an aging trailer. “I’ve got big dreams.”

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