This post was written by Nagiarry Porcena-Meneus, the Department of Commerce’s Program Manager, Office of Neighborhood Economic Development.
In the fall of 2020, the City of Philadelphia kicked off the Philadelphia Taking Care of Business (PHL TCB) Clean Corridors Program to expand the Department of Commerce’s existing commercial corridor cleaning efforts from 49 commercial corridors to 83 throughout the city. One of PHL TCB’s goals is to promote the economic success of neighborhood businesses by providing opportunities to minority-owned cleaning businesses in Philadelphia.
In this series, we are highlighting the stories of small businesses contracting with PHL TCB community-based nonprofits. ACAM Management is owned by the husband and wife team Jeff and Linda Fortune. ACAM Management contracts with Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corporation (PARC) in South Philadelphia for regular cleaning in South Broad Street, as well as Washington and Snyder Avenues.
Here’s what Jeff Fortune had to say about what the PHL TCB program means for him and his business:
When did you start your business?
Jeff Fortune (JF): In 1999, I started an indoor cleaning services business named LRC Services. Then, my wife Linda expanded our scope of services by adding outdoor cleaning under the umbrella of our business named ACAM Management.
What services does your business provide?
JF: ACAM Management provides indoor and outdoor services including sweeping, sanitation needs, and janitorial services on commercial corridors and neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Our work also encompasses trash removal, light landscaping, power washing, graffiti removal, and event cleaning.
How many people does your business employ?
JF: We have about 25-30 employees including two office managers. Hiring returning citizens is at the center of our hearts in addition to ensuring Philadelphia is clean. We hire each employee with trust in their abilities to succeed and grow.
What inspired you to start your business?
JF: I grew up in South Philadelphia, and I was privileged to have parents who instilled in me a strong work ethic. Since childhood, I felt inspired by the independence and creativity of business owners. I remember admiring my uncle who had a junk business, sitting with him and learning how he ran his business.
What resources or people helped you build your business?
JF: There were a lot of store owners from the South Street Headhouse District who gave me an opportunity to be where I am today..I used to work at the Cheers To You restaurant, where they would listen and support my ideas. Most importantly, my wife Linda has been instrumental and such an inspiration for the growth of our business. We worked with an accountant to register, lay the foundations of our business budget, and ensure long-term success.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to open a small business?
JF: When first starting, we applied for loans through a bank and got denied. It was a challenge to receive this rejection, but we kept working and believing that we can succeed. Eventually we were able to secure a line of credit to help us in the beginning. If you believe in what you are doing, you will succeed. My advice would be to not give up, carry out your mission with integrity, learn something new every day, and invest in yourself. As you are growing your business, make sure to give back. I was able to start my business because of the information that people gave me, so I can do the same for the next person.
Note: The Department of Commerce’s Office of Business Services can help businesses navigate city services, understand business regulations, as well as assist entrepreneurs through the process of opening, operating, and growing a business in Philadelphia. They can be reached by calling the City’s business services hotline at 215-683-2100 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
How has PHL TCB affected your bottom line?
JF: As our crew keeps working, our revenue increases too. We hired ten PHL TCB cleaning ambassadors who are excited to show up every day and grow in the workforce. Often, returning citizens are not given a chance to prove themselves. When given the opportunity, these individuals are highly capable and skilled. My business is growing at its best because we do not overlook these individuals. Thanks to PHL TCB and the Department of Commerce’s incredible resources, we can showcase their valuable contributions to our local neighborhoods.
How has your business been impacted by your new partnerships with the local groups that are part of PHL TCB?
JF: Our relationship with Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corporation (PARC) has been uplifting and supportive. We appreciate the perseverance of nonprofits, in particular Bryan Fenstermaker, a genuine and kind person who is spearheading a lot of what we do.
Since PHL TCB began, how would you describe the difference in the corridors that you clean?
JF: We have seen a big difference in the corridors that we clean and impact each day. We’re grateful for the vision that Councilwoman Cherelle Parker had to expand sidewalk cleaning in Philadelphia’s commercial corridors through PHL TCB. For example, from Front Street and Snyder Avenue to Broad Street and Snyder Avenue, there used to be a lot of trash dumping. That area is spotless now, including no graffiti.
This past year has been difficult for everyone. How do you stay inspired?
JF: In addition to my family, I have a passion for keeping the City of Philadelphia clean and employing individuals who want a second chance after re-entry. As a proud Philadelphian, I am wired to ensure our team is doing the absolute best job we can.