By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
Since its inception in 2014, Southside-originated Buckets & Belles cleaning company has offered efficient and reliable service throughout Etowah County and beyond. As business continues to grow, owner and founder Laura Hooks reflects on the past and aspires to a successful future.
Born in Texas to a military family, Hooks returned to her mother’s hometown of Hokes Bluff at eight months old. An aspirational child, she always envisioned herself as the first female president of the United States, earning a degree in finance. She married her high school sweetheart at 18 and the pair remain together years later, adding three children to their loving family.
Hooks doted on her children and husband, emphasizing that family – an aspect of life she treasures and understands as significantly important – arose as a major factor in Buckets & Belles’ origin story. Following a sky-diving accident a decade ago, her husband took a medical leave from Goodyear to undergo back surgery. Although Hooks worked for Merrill Lynch prior to caring for her children fulltime, that change in circumstances faced her with a decision. While she could have returned to finance for a few months, she chose a different route to provide for her family: cleaning houses.
After her husband returned to work, Goodyear sent him through medic school – a passion he could not abandon that led him to ultimately pursue nursing. Throughout her husband’s education, Hooks offered cleaning services to different houses in her community. Although she began her business as one person, the success that would follow far surpassed her grandest imagination – something she credits entirely to the Lord.
“I never expected this to happen,” said Hooks. “I’m really grateful.”
The shift from one woman wonder to powerhouse team occurred when Hooks joined Business Network International, an investment her husband encouraged her to sow into her future. Hooks noted that BNI proved the key for her business’ explosion, because of its referral-based philosophy. With her name out in the community, her business launched with a solid foundation.
“Within two months of joining BNI, I hired my first employee,” said Hooks. “It grew at a pretty steady pace. We grow every single year. The business that was just supposed to be me is now 17 ladies.”
Throughout the years, Hooks gained a wealth of knowledge regarding business ownership. A self-described Type B personality, Hooks enjoyed spending time with her children and rarely felt the need to branch out. Her position with Buckets & Belles – the name she coined to for her business, inspired by the South without the intention of being derogatory or offensive – forced her out of her shell as she learned to communicate with the public.
Now, meeting new people and listening to their stories proves Hooks’ favorite aspect of her job.
“I’ve learned you have to step out of your comfort zone if you’re going to be a success,” said Hooks. “There were so many times I had to mentally prepare for a regular phone call to a customer, because I was just not that type of personality. I [also] had to learn to take time off, because it can be all consuming if you let it.”
Hooks shared that while her dedication to her business manifested constant growth for Buckets & Belles, it also resulted in some negative side effects in her health. Over time, she developed a balance, learning to take time for herself as she continues to provide for others.
Women owned and operated, Buckets & Belles represents a business that offers women the opportunity for success. Hooks reflected on societal constraints of former generations, when women could not apply for a credit card or open a checking account without a man’s signature.
In today’s world, Hooks strives to create an atmosphere where women can break those barriers of the past and move forward into a promising future.
“I think [being women owned and operated] is a credit to our area,” said Hooks. “Being a woman owned company, there is no glass ceiling. If they’re willing to work for it, the ladies can move up as high as they want to go. If you’re willing to put forth the effort, you’re going to move up. There’s no cap. Everything is fair. The pay is fair. It’s the same across the board with the promotions.”
While Hooks originally wanted to stay in the Southside area, her partnership with Courtney Gray produced a multitude of growth for the business. Describing her as inspirational and encouraging, Hooks noted that Gray’s impressive nature as a hardworking employee translated into her assistance overseeing the business. Gray helped Hooks setup a second office location in Oxford, branching business out beyond Etowah County into Calhoun, St. Clair and Cherokee counties.
“I could not do it without her,” said Hooks. “She is a lot of the reason why [Buckets & Belles] has grown the way it has. She’s a strong woman and she’s teaching her kids to be strong. I know her kids really look up to her. In fact, for career day last year, one of her daughters dressed up in a Buckets & Belles uniform and took a Swiffer, because it’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s something to be proud of when you work hard. It shows when you take pride in your work.”
A cross between a chain and an individual, Buckets & Belles provides customers with trustworthy and reliable ladies who perform their job with efficiency. Hooks shared that clients establish relationships with team members, who routinely clean specific locations. If a client’s regular lady cannot perform the cleaning, Buckets & Belles will let the client know that someone else will clean in her place, then send an additional team member to inspect her work.
Buckets & Belles is in the process of working with SurveyMonkey to provide text message updates for clients after every cleaning. Following the cleaning, clients will click on a link that asks them to rate their cleaning, name their cleaner and offers a comment section where they can express their thoughts on the experience.
“We’re the perfect mix,” said Hooks. “We really care. You’re not a number with us like you are with a chain, but we’re much more dependable than an individual. You get to know [customers] and they’re just special to you…they become more than just a customer.”
Hooks reflected on a beloved customer who recently passed away due to COVID-19. She spoke with her on the phone prior to her illness, apologizing that the business had to raise its prices. The woman simply laughed and said, “Laura, what is $10 between friends?”
Buckets & Belles extends its generosity into the community, offering free bi-weekly cleanings each year for one to two households.
“We’ve had a lot of different people over the years that we’ve helped,” said Hooks. “It’s something little we can do.”
Hooks reiterated an essential aspect of her business, who carry the work on their shoulders with grace and commitment each day: her team members. She commended all Buckets & Belles employees for their dedication, emphasizing that they are the reason for the business’ success. Through their combined passions, conscientious mentality and assiduous efforts, Hooks joins her incredible team members to maintain Buckets & Belles mission of efficiency and service to all throughout their community.
“[Buckets & Belles’ success] is because of them [the team members],” said Hooks. “It’s so big now, there’s no one person that could do it on their own. We depend on these ladies to be here every day. They work in a place where they are needed and appreciated. I would like to think we’re like a family. We’re here to support each other.”
Buckets & Belles specializes in residential and commercial cleaning, serving approximately 300 residential and commercial customers each month.
Buckets & Belles provides both regular cleaning and deep cleaning services for clients. Regular cleaning services include washing sheets, shaking and airing out SM rugs, cleaning kitchen including exterior of appliances and cabinets, cleaning bathrooms including soap scum buildup, Swiffer dusting, polishing wood, cleaning glass doors and mirrors, taking out garbage, vacuuming all floors and mopping. Deep cleaning services target inside windows and blinds, baseboards and all trim work, doors and knobs, light switch plates, light fixtures and ceiling fans, air return grates, vacuuming under the refrigerator and cleaning grate and spot cleaning walls. Buckets & Belles also offers misting for COVID-19 precautions.
For more information, visit http://www.bucketsandbelles.com/.