March 2, 2013
Working through it
TC3 student takes over family business amid hardship
Most people would expect Ashley Camillo, a 21-year-old business student at Tompkins Cortland Community College, to go to the bar with her friends or get good grades or join a club.
But hardly anyone would expect her to do what she’s actually up to — take over her family’s cleaning business after her mother’s death and in the midst of her father’s ill health.
She’s taken over Floor Doctor based out of the McNeil building at 17-29 Main Street, renamed it Custom Cleaning and is learning to run it alone.
And she plans to expand her business and bring it back to the level her mother had operated at, with several cleaning accounts and over 30 employees, Camillo said.
“I’m looking to expand within the first year,” she said. “That way I can help employ the unemployed around town.”
Camillo’s mother, Diane, started Floor Doctor in 1990 and it was originally located on Carroll Street, near the JM McDonald Sports Complex.
Joe Camillo, Ashley Camillo’s father, took over the business after Diane Camillo died from breast cancer in 2011, but is now facing health issues of his own.
Five years ago Joe Camillo was diagnosed with kidney failure and started receiving dialysis treatments. As his health deteriorated, Joe Camillo was forced to downsize the business and turn away clients, but he continued to work as much as possible.
“I just kept on pushing myself to bring money into the house,” Joe Camillo said, adding that deep down his daughter knew that he could not continue to keep up the business.
“And now I want to take over and get it back to where my mom had it,” Ashley Camillo said.
Larry Chase, a professor in TC3’s business department and Camillo’s adviser, noted how rare it is for someone in her position to take over a business.
“How unusual is it to have a 21-year-old student with her own business?” Chase wrote in an email. “It is extremely unusual to see a 21 year old in that position. Given the economic climate, both locally and nationally, the opportunity just isn’t there for most young people.”
Chase thinks Ashley Camillo will successfully take over her family’s business.
“I think she is up to the challenge,” Chase wrote. “She is a bright young woman. In her coursework she has demonstrated a level of maturity and focus that will definitely serve her well in her future business efforts."
Custom Cleaning currently employs three people — Ashley Camillo and two family friends.
The company cleans five buildings owned by the McNeil family, Ashley Camillo said.
Despite her commitments as a full-time student, Ashley Camillo heads to work at 5 p.m. six days a week and cleans for four hours with her two workers.
“I have Saturdays off, that’s my only day off,” Camillo said, noting that the rest of her time is spent doing school work or working.
“Managing a business is all about managing time,” Chase said. “If she can quickly develop those time-management skills it will certainly help her succeed. Hopefully, she can find a good balance between work and school.”
Joe Camillo is scheduled to receive a kidney transplant from Ashley’s sister Jessica Davis at the end of May at New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.
Her father’s dialysis treatments leave him drained all the time, and Ashley Camillo tries to spend as much time with her father at their home in McGraw as possible, she said.
“When we found out she (Jessica Davis) was a match, I was like, thank the Lord, because this is what he needs,” Ashley Camillo said.
How much Ashley Camillo can expand Custom Cleaning will depend on the recovery of her father and sister, she said.
“It’s all basically going to depend on the condition of my family members,” Ashley Camillo said, adding that she hopes to add five more clients after her father and sister get out of the hospital but does not want to take on more than she can handle.
And after he recovers, Joe Camillo is hoping to join his daughter at her new business.
“I want to be back with her working side by side after I get a kidney transplant,” Joe Camillo said. “That’s what I’m praying for.”
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