After a 30-year career in aerospace, longtime Santa Clarita resident Kelly Ford wanted a change of pace, deciding to put it all on the line and start her own business.
“I took some time off for a couple of foot surgeries, and the longer I was away, the more I realized that, with what was remaining of my career, I really wanted to do something for myself, so I just didn’t go back,” Ford said, laughing.
Just over a year later, Ford reflects on her first year in business as the owner of Window Genie of Santa Clarita, a year filled with ups and downs that were exacerbated by the pandemic, of course.
“I’ve been around for a few years, and I’ve run multimillion-dollar companies before, so I thought this would be like shooting fish in a barrel, no problem. But it’s a whole different learning set and a whole different perspective,” she added. “The risk is all your own.”
Ford had self-funded the window-cleaning franchise with her retirement money, getting off to a good start before hitting a lull in the winter.
“In California, as the winter comes along, people are less interested in window cleaning, so business dropped off … but we augment that with Christmas lighting, which I really love,” she said. “And then COVID hit, and it really got slow. Your first year in business is all about learning and is usually a little bit difficult, but the pandemic really exacerbated the struggles.”
Ford worked hard to keep her business afloat, retaining her employees and continuing to operate through the pandemic while ensuring both her customers and employees were safe.
“It’s an awareness more than anything, and a willingness to adapt and adjust your business practices to make sure that people stay safe and are comfortable,” she said.
In working with the local Small Business Development Center at College of the Canyons, Ford learned of The Red Backpack Fund, a grant aimed at elevating female entrepreneurs, created by Spanx founder Sara Blakely’s foundation.
“I’ve been a Susan Blakely fan forever,” Ford said. “She’s amazing, and I so admire what she has done with her business. Now she’s giving back to helping other women in business, which I think is phenomenal.”
Ford was awarded the grant, an honor she said she’s proud of.
“I’m just so delighted to be selected by someone I admire so much,” she added. “This lifeline from America’s first female billionaire and her foundation is the biggest validation that the sky is the limit for me.”
Now, she hopes to share what she’s learned with other women so they don’t have to struggle, as well.
Though her first year in business was more difficult than she’d anticipated, Ford said she has no regrets as she looks toward the future.
“Ultimately, it’s my goal to have eight or nine vans and just keep growing the business and keep building my team,” she added. “I think there is untapped potential here … and we’ll just continue to expand our expertise and our offerings.”
For Ford, who’s lived in the Santa Clarita Valley for 30 years, starting a local business was a natural fit.
“I love it here, and it’s nice to serve a community that I have just adored for so many decades,” she said. “I just can’t imagine having a business and not living in the same community just because I feel so tied to it. It makes me proud.”