Cathy Tang

CEO & Co-Founder

Location: San Francisco, CA

"In the first few weeks of operations, we really leaned in. We had two steady cleaners—us."

Back in August, I left my job at Google after five years to start my own business. The weeks leading up to “the talk” with my manager were stressful and nerve wracking. I agonized over my decision to leave a great job. My career at the company was on the up and up, I enjoyed my work and the perks were great. My parents called me everyday to offer new reasons why I should stay and sent me links to articles about unemployed college grads. My friends were supportive, but ultimately the decision and whatever consequences came of it were my own. I realized I had learned so much in my time at Google, but to continue learning and growing on a steep trajectory, I needed to strike out on my own.

With my co-founder Jack, I started working on Hipstermaid, a home cleaning service with a techie twist. It was a radical departure from my previous job, but we both wanted to work in an industry where we could help low-income women. My own mother had immigrated to Canada with $200 and had worked as a babysitter and nanny for many months to survive, and Jack’s mother, Awilda, was a house cleaner for 10 years in Tampa. In those 10 years, she never dared to ask for a raise, even as inflation increased living costs year after year.

In the first few weeks of operations, we really leaned in. We had two steady cleaners—us. Jack and I went to all of our customer’s houses, and we mastered the art of scrubbing down kitchen sinks and taking soap scum off bathtubs. It was exhausting work, and there were many times when I questioned whether I had made the right choice. The highs were very high, and the lows were very low. As we started growing and hiring more cleaners, I realized that a lot of people were depending on us for their livelihood. Giving them work meant that they could pay their rent, fill up their gas and take their kids to the doctor. It was a strange, humbling and empowering feeling, and something that I’ve carried with me as a constant reminder of why I started Hipstermaid in the first place.

Today, we’re active in three cities and planning to expand to many more. I never imagined that one day I’d be the CEO of a nationwide company. If I’ve learned anything in the past six months of leaning in, it’s that the impossible is quite possible if you take small, concrete steps everyday. So schedule a meeting with your manager. File a business incorporation. Set up a website. Get one customer. These actions don’t seem like much on their own, but you’ll be amazed at the outcome in six months.