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Midnight Janitorial: Cleaning with a conscience

Angella Luyk, owner of Midnight Janitorial, runs a finger along a wooden banister.

"One of the hard things with an old mansion like this is dust," says Luyk, walking up an ornate stairway. "Dust, dust, dust and cobwebs."

And while Luyk says her cleaners have the dust under control, they joke that occasionally they're plagued by something beyond their expertise: ghosts.

"I don't believe in ghosts, but my hair would stand up like it was really somebody there!" laughs employee Jessica Perez, as she cleans a law office in the converted East Avenue mansion.

"When you walk in the day after we've cleaned, it smells clean, it feels clean," owner Luyk says. "And we're ghost hunters - just kidding about that part."

One thing Luyk isn't kidding about: giving people with disabilities a shot at steady employment.

Overcoming disability

Midnight Janitorial serves more than 50 business clients in the Rochester area. The company employs 42 cleaners - many of whom, Luyk says, wouldn't get hired elsewhere.

"We work a lot with the local charities to hire disadvantaged people, because I feel like people judge them prematurely,"  Luyk says.

"They are some of the most phenomenal people you will ever meet - their stories are great, their work ethic is great, but people think 'disability' and they think, 'Nope, can't hire them.' "

Luyk herself has a disease that holds her back. She says if she works too many hours in a day, she gets very sick.

"And people, when I tell them that, they judge me instantly," says Luyk. "But I still run my business fine."

"These guys are the same way," Luyk says of her workers. "They want to work. They just maybe have to sit down a little more frequently. Maybe they don't process as quickly as we do - but they still want to work. Why can't we give them a chance?"

Luyk has built Midnight Janitorial into a nearly million-dollar business. Until four years ago, it was her doing the cleaning. Now, Luyk has more than 40 employees and is branching out.

Not waiting

Luyk recently started a distributorship for cleaning products to win better prices from her suppliers. ("I have a great catchphrase," Luyk says. "You're going to laugh: 'We're your number one business for your number two business'.")

She even wrote a book that gives advice to would-be entrepreneurs.

"To be able to say I'm a business owner is so empowering for me," says Luyk, who adds that her "entire job history" consists of being a waitress at Perkins and a nanny for triplets. "I don't think I could do anything else."

The Rochester native says she wants to help more people understand that entrepreneurship is within reach. Luyk currently mentors aspiring business owners - especially girls and young women - who feel, like she once did, that they aren't "smart enough" to run a business.

"No matter what, we are smart enough," says Luyk.

"And when you're a business owner, yes, the economy dictates, yes, you have clients who dictate. But ultimately, if you want to make more money, you just work harder. I'm not waiting for someone to tell me what to do."

WXXI/Finger Lakes reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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