Growing up in a family of 10 children on a farm near the Ogden community, Eddie Pickett was told the best hope for his future was to leave the family cotton fields for one of the in-town cotton mills.
Initially, he did better than the odds, graduating from Emmett Scott High School. Some of his siblings and many of his friends never earned a high-school education.
Nonetheless, Pickett found himself on the third and then second shift at the Rock Hill Printing and Finishing Co., more commonly called the Bleachery. He worked in the print shop from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m..
“It was a dirty routine and you’d come home covered in dye. It was clearly a dead-end life,” Pickett said.
To help pay the bills Pickett took on a part-time job, working for Howard Snipes. Snipes had started his janitorial business in his Lancaster County garage but had moved to Rock Hill by the time Pickett started working for him.
The part-time job was a life-changer for Pickett.
The part-time work sent him into homes and businesses, and Pickett saw “the nice things that go with life.”
He also got satisfaction out of a job well done, taking a dirty floor and making it shine. “I like to see the end results,” he said.
The immediate result for Pickett was he left the Bleachery and went to work for Snipes full time.
The long-term result was Pickett set high expectations for his family, especially after the birth of his daughter, Dawn. Two more daughters would follow, Turbulence, or Toby, and Cicely. Pickett and his wife, Freddie, required them to work hard. They did. Dawn is now a teacher, Toby a radiation technician supervisor and Cicely a doctor.
Pickett also set high expectations for himself, and he started his own cleaning service. For the next 17 years, he poured himself into the business, getting clients and adding employees.
But like many small business owners he fell into the trap of taking money from one account to pay bills in another. Ultimately he was in trouble over payroll taxes.
He sold the business to Better Cleaning Janitorial Service of Charlotte and went to work for them as a supervisor. His territory included work in suburban Charlotte and Rock Hill, as he was responsible for more than 100 employees.
One of the clients was Possehl Connector Services in the Airport Industrial Park in Rock Hill. When the regular cleaners couldn’t make it to Possehl, Pickett went himself. Possehl officials said he did the job better than others, and when the firm offered him a full-time job cleaning, Pickett thought long and hard.
He didn’t like the travel associated with his job as supervisor and the hours were long. He accepted Possehl’s offer of $8 an hour – a big pay cut – plus benefits. Like he had done before, he sought outside jobs to support his family.
The idea of owning his own business kept him awake at nights. Before making a decision, Pickett sought help from the Winthrop University Small Business Development Center.
Larry Stevens, regional director for the center, helped Pickett write a business plan and work through his credit problems. With his past financial problems under control, Pickett got help from Stevens and others in securing a Small Business Administration loan.
He started the business during the boom times of 2006. When the recession hit in 2008, Pickett said it didn’t affect his business until two or three years later.
Part of the reason for his success, he said, was a focus on quality work with friendly employees. Another reason was he had learned to “work on my business and not in my business.” He went to management seminars and started networking through various organizations to get work.
In 2011, the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce named Pickett one its five small business achievers.
Business has slowed slightly since 2011, Pickett said. He currently has about 20 clients, including The Herald offices on West Main Street. His company, Quality Cleaning, covers the counties of York, Chester and Lancaster, and employs about 10 people.
To increase business, Pickett is turning to the Internet and social media. His web site is www.thequalitycleaning.com
He’s also turning to his roots, remembering to turn to the Bible, specifically the book of Joshua, when things are tough. He recites the verse from memory, “Do not be afraid, do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
“I had to learn that,” he said. “The hard way.”
Don Worthington • 803-329-4066 • firstname.lastname@example.org