Ava, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My background and passion gave me the idea to start my own business as an environmental consultant. As a researcher and laboratory supervisor in various universities, I was able to communicate with my young students very well but I had never challenged myself to communicate and impart my knowledge to a variety of people with different backgrounds, especially customers. Although I did not have any background in customer service, I relied on my extensive scientific expertise, and completed necessary training to receive multiple certifications. I did not have very much money to start but I fortunately have many educated friends who are experts in different fields. I received their opinions and guidance in business administration, computer science, marketing, customer service, and even sciences with which I was not familiar. Fortunately, in Los Angeles, there are different organizations with free training for startup businesses offering assistance and training. I proudly established my business and now, I believe I made one of the best decisions in my life. The most effective help to me and my business ‘Healthy Indoor Professionals”, however, have been my customers. People are very smart to recognize and appreciate good service. Their attention and appreciation is the most powerful motivation to me in this journey.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has not been an easy path. I was not raised in the U.S., so I had to become more familiar with the culture and system for a small business owner. I had to study and learn rules and regulations for doing business in the U.S., California and Los Angeles County. As a woman who is in a minority in this industry, I need to have many strong qualities to compete and stand out among others in this industry. English not being my first language is yet another challenge I must overcome every day in gaining customer trust. After building a strong reputation and getting referrals from my previous customers, I feel even more responsibility now to do a perfect job for my customers. The learning process on this path does not seem to reach an end. I have had an array of interesting clients. Most of my clients are concerned about their and their families’ health, others concerned about their tenants, or business owners worried about their employees’ health. Some of my clients are currently ill or very sensitive with compromised immune systems and have some health symptoms while some other customers just want to check the air in their indoor spaces to assure that it is free of contaminants. The majority of my clients know the type of inspection and testing they need performed for them. Most of these clients request a mold inspection or some specific bacteria such as Legionella, heavy metals such as Lead, Cadmium and Arsenic or respirable particles and fibers such as asbestos or silicon and quartz. The most difficult ones, however, are those who are feeling sick who have no idea why. In these cases, I have to invest a lot of my time, effort, sometimes hours of research, contacting different experts and references to find possible causes and effective tests to conduct for their buildings. I often discover that most of these clients are not able to pay for my time nor the necessary tests. I don’t get disappointed because I have gained precious knowledge after studying exceptional cases. One of the painful and challenging experiences on this path is receiving phone calls from no income or low income, many unemployed single moms with small children. Many of them have had flooding and water damage in their homes. Their children have asthma and other respiratory problems. A musty odor is detectable in their home. These moms are desperate and ask for my help. I want to help them all but honestly my budget is so limited and I cannot help everyone in need. One of my challenges is finding a way to provide awareness about mold and its effect on the human body and the immune system, to find a way to fund mold inspections and testing for these vulnerable children and their families.