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by Tarice L.S. Gray

Family owned-businesses are everywhere; in fact, they make up roughly 90 percent of all North American companies according to Family Firm Institute, an organization for family enterprise professionals. The Moore family caught the ownership bug when Theodore Moore Sr., a union construction laborer, and his daughter, Sirena, an office administrator, noticed that there was a need within the construction industry for on site cleaning services. In 2002, Elohim Cleaning Contractors was incorporated. When the family embarked on their entrepreneurial journey, they had little capital, no investors or official office space. Today, Elohim has become a nationally recognized family firm, generating $2.7 million in 2009. Sirena, who serves as the company’s CEO, spoke to TAP about the family’s journey and what plans are underway for the future:

Sirena, your family started Elohim in 2002, during a time when many people were skeptical about the economy due to the brief recession that occurred after 9-11. What motivated you and your family to launch Elohim?

The economy had nothing to do with our decision. We were just regular, old working Americans who pretty much saw an opportunity and pursued it.  My father worked in the construction industry, I worked, and my brother, at the time, was also working and attending school. When my father found out that a contractor was awarded a six figure contract to do what he knew how to do, he came to me and said, ‘if you can figure out how to start a business, I can do the service and we can have our own.’

What is your background Sirena?

I got pregnant with twin girls during my last year of high school. I gave birth right before my graduation in 1999. It was during that summer when we actually came up with the idea for the business. Between ’99 and 2002, we started [preparing to launch the business]. After high school, [I decided] I wanted to become a financial adviser after getting petitioned with Morgan Stanley Dean Whitter (now Morgan Stanley Smith Barney) and another company called Advest. I worked as a financial sales assistant for some of the top producers for each of the two companies. So my background has been in office administration.

What about your father and brother? How did they dive into world of business?

Though my brother attended Allentown Business School [in Pennsylvania] for a year or two, he doesn’t have a business degree. My father never finished high school. So we really started this business like most individuals who just want to get into business. We started with hard knocks–a lot of research, surrounding ourselves with people who were doing great things and finding great mentors. That’s kind of how we boot-strapped.

What about investors? Did anyone help you plant the seeds for Elohim?

Not one. This was a family business and all of us had to make major sacrifices. I didn’t know anything about starting a business. I took a few classes at the Women’s Business Development Center while I worked full-time. I even worked part-time the first four years of the business because we couldn’t afford to get paid right away.

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