After she was laid off from her job, Holly Griffith did what most people in her situation do: she started looking.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - After she was laid off from her job, Holly Griffith did what most people in her situation do: she started looking.
With an associate's degree in finance and five years of experience as a bookkeeper, Griffith, 25, figured it wouldn't take too long before she landed a new one. While she searched for work, she cleaned friends' and neighbors' houses for extra money.
Weeks stretched into months, as the hunt for a job kept coming up short.
At any one time in the Memphis area, there are more than 50,000 unemployed people looking for work. And while some employers are hiring, the skills they're seeking don't always match those available in the workforce.
In Griffith's case, she said she was frequently told she was too experienced for some of the jobs she was seeking.
Undaunted, Griffith looked at her options.
If she couldn't land work doing what she knew, she needed to acquire new skills. In the meantime, she also needed to make a living.
It's a familiar story for people who find themselves suddenly facing unemployment in a rough economy, said Kevin Boggs, assistant vice president of technology transfers for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Memphis. Being laid off from a job often forces people to try something new.
"Those who view such a change in their lives as a potential opportunity will understand that building on existing skills and acquiring new ones, puts them more firmly in charge of their future," Boggs said.
Griffith decided to take her occasional housecleaning work to the next level, launching The Laundry Fairy, a business specializing in laundry service.
"I started talking with moms in East Memphis neighborhoods," she said.
"Many had gone back to work since their husbands weren't making as much, and they were getting behind on their laundry and household duties. That's how the idea came to mind."
At the height of the economic recession in 2009, an analysis from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire showed 47 percent of family earnings were contributed by working wives, a record high.
As an East Memphis mom herself, Griffith saw being able to take care of her 4-year-old daughter, Abby, while making a living from home as part of the appeal of starting her own business.
Griffith said laundry and cleaning services are practical businesses to go into because they are tasks everyone needs done.
"No matter how bad the economy is, people will always need clean clothes," Griffith said.
All clothes are washed in Griffith's homemade, eco-friendly, hypo-allergenic detergents and softeners, folded or hung, and delivered back to the customer's residence within 24 hours.
Page 2 of 2 - "There's a real push toward green products," Griffith said. "Many people are trying to get rid of chemicals in their homes."
She also offers "in home" laundry service, where the company comes to the customer's home to sort, iron and put away clothes.
The laundry service costs $20 a bag, with each bag holding two loads of laundry. The company also provides commercial and residential cleaning services.
"I tried to look for what there was a need for," Griffith said. "I started a pickup-and-deliver laundry service because many cleaning services won't touch people's laundry, so that's how the business was born."
Griffith started her business in April. Less than three months later, the company employs five college students part-time and has more than 80 customer accounts with 50 customers who pay for a weekly service. Griffith runs the company while attending nursing school, paying for her education with the profit made from the business.
Debbie Goode, Griffith's mother, said nursing has always been what Griffith really wanted to do.
"She's always wanted to work at St. Jude, and with her personality, I think she could do it."
Anna Terry, a working wife and mother, heard about The Laundry Fairy through a friend.
"I called her one afternoon because my washer is broken, and she was there within 30 minutes," Terry said. "It was really fast. She had my clothes back to me, folded and everything, at 8:30 the next morning."
Griffith plans to continue to manage and schedule her employees through college. As her career transitions to nursing, she said she could see herself selling the company to someone else.
"I didn't want another competitive business," Griffith said. "I wanted to start something that was unique, and something there was a need for."
Reach reporter Michelle Corbet at Michelle.Corbet@commercialappeal.com.