He wears a company logo shirt and cap, plus a custom tool belt with microfiber cloths, squeegees, window sleeves or window mops, a BOAB (bucket on a belt), razors and extra accessories. He can put liquid soapy cleanser in the BOAB to have when he’s high on a ladder and cannot keep dipping the window mop into a rectangular bucket which holds it in volume.
With acute precision, John Shields applies commercial grade cleanser to a window, wipes it around, then expertly removes it – every edge and corner with one of the microfiber cloths and the center with a squeegee on a stick. The only way to tell there is still glass in the window – yes, it’s THAT clean! – is to touch it or realize there’s no outside air coming through.
Clouded Spaces Window Cleaning transforms dirty windows, aka clouded spaces, to completely clear with the only clouded spaces now visible in the sky. Shields says that’s his market differentiator. While he did not plan this entrepreneurial route, now that he’s in it, he has impressive goals and big dreams on the horizon.
In the Beginning
His family moved to Ferrum just north of Roanoke when he was 10 years old. Following high school, he completed a degree in business management at Ferrum College then met his wife, DeAnn Shields. She had a cleaning business in the New River Valley, and he joined her in that initially.
When John needed extra money to take DeAnn to the Biltmore House in Asheville, he asked three of her clients if they wanted their windows washed. With Windex and paper towels in hand, he earned $450 for their getaway in September of 2020. “He said he liked cleaning the windows,” DeAnn relates, “and I suggested he make a business out of it.”
Learning the Particulars
Like any serious entrepreneur, John started learning about cleansers, window dirt, supplies, equipment – all the tools and techniques of the trade. Word of mouth from the first three customers brought him more customers, along with a Facebook presence.
“The learning curve was steep, as I seriously under-charged initially, not completely grasping how long it takes to clean glass,” he says. “I focus on details and quality, along with professionalism and safety, and it all takes time.” John quotes jobs by the window, never by the hour. “Some windows have hard water or calcium deposits, and those take longer, which is factored into the cost. How much time on ladders and the configuration of windows are also considerations.” Clouded Spaces serves residential and commercial clients.
Among the top entrepreneurial qualities are common sense, organizational skills, passion, leadership and integrity. John Shields embraces all of those to the max plus discipline, creativity, attention to detail, kindness and a willingness to work long hours. He has a long-term vision paired with short-term goals, high quality results and a laser-focused eye on success.
Text and photos by Joanne M. Anderson