BABE #80: MAUREEN PORCELLI,
Owner @ NEAT Jax
I am such a huge fan of Maureen and all the things she is up to! We met a couple months back when we were both in the beginning stages of our respective business ventures and she was generous enough to invite me to a Sip & Scrap event that she was co-hosting, where she spoke about all things NEAT Jax! She's got a heart of gold, she keeps it real, and she just got ENGAGED to the love of her life last week! Thanks for taking time out of life's craziness to chat with us, Maureen, and congratulations! You're a total babe.
Babe you admire and why?
Emilie Christenson - Owner of Jaffi’s Boutique and previous owner of Kyds Boutique in Neptune Beach. In addition to introducing me to some of the most amazing people I will ever know and teaching me everything I needed know about customer service and retail, she is without a doubt the kindest, most forgiving, most inspiring and perseverant person I will ever meet. Her mantra is “You have time, money and energy for the things that matter to you.” She has made it her purpose to dedicate herself fully to the things that matter to her: her family and friends, her businesses, and a handful of amazing local charities including Dreams Come True, and I hope I can one day become a fraction of the human she is!
How do you spend your free time?
Playing with Pepper the pup, tending to my plant babies, enjoying our fabulous city, and of course, tidying up my own home!
Must-have item in your purse?
Ambre roll-on oil in Original Scent - it’s to die for!
Go-to coffee order?
Such a tough question, really depends on where I am! Iced coconut milk cortado from Southern Roots in my FAVE but I cannot pass up a mint basil cold brew from Brew. The coconut milk cappuccino at Community Loaves is pretty tasty too.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
A filet with macaroni and cheese and green beans on the side.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
Italy - siesta, cheese, olives and that coast!
Peter Pan - all versions, but especially the 1953 Disney cartoon.
What’s something that not many people know about you?
I’m a Navy brat and lived in Hawaii from ages 3-7!
Tell us about your hustle:
I am the owner and sole employee of NEAT Jax, an organizing service for your home, office and life based in Jacksonville, FL. I also co-manage DRIFT Boutique in Neptune Beach. There, you can find me answering emails, dealing with vendors and selling pretty dresses!
What does your typical workday look like?
Every day is different depending on the client and the project, but there is usually a good amount of driving, filling up trash bags and donation drop-offs! I typically arrive at my clients homes and/or offices and discuss the spaces in question to determine the goals and desired end use. Together, the client and I sort through the space to eliminate unneeded items, garbage and donatable items. Eventually, we are left with only what’s truly wanted and needed, and then the true organizing begins! I love to work with what clients already have, it’s a much more realistic approach - and much more affordable - but if they want or need new tools, bins, shelves, etc., I can do that too. New is always fun!
When and how did you get into professional organizing? Where does your passion stem from?
I have always been super tidy and organized, even as a kid. I am not sure where it all comes from, but I definitely have to give some credit to my amazing mama. Our house was always clean and tidy and my brother, sister and I always had chores to help keep it that way. I don’t remember exactly what she used to say, but there was a phrase that implied that our home always had to be ready to "receive the queen." I love that, and my home is still that way! It is SO nice to come home after working all day and know that company could literally follow me in and I'd have nothing to worry about. It's one less thing to stress over!
How and when did you make the decision to start your own organizing business?
I started NEAT Jax in October of 2016 when the owners of DRIFT decided they wanted to be in the shop more, and I decided that after almost 15 years, I was ready to do retail a little less! I went back and forth through all the usual employment options and then I met with the previously mentioned Emilie. She said that I should do something that I love, that I am passionate about, and that I'm good at. For me, it's organizing!
Have you found that there’s a common item that people have a hard time letting go in the de-cluttering process?
PAPER! It is amazing how much unnecessary paperwork people hang onto. Old bank records, electric bills, phone bills, unopened junk mail, you name it - people keep it. With phones now, it's so worth it to scan those items or snap a picture of them and then throw them away!
What are the common cluttered areas that you work with?
Any area can be cluttered! Most often I am in clothing closets, garages, general storage closets and cabinets, kitchens, and both home and commercial offices.
How would you say being a woman has affected your career/work/professional experience?
Honestly, I think in my professional career of retail, fashion, sales, and organizing – being a woman has been to my advantage. Some people feel that these industries pigeon-hole women, but I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work in industries where women are so trusted and revered.
How do you juggle all of the roles that contribute to making NEAT Jax successful?
It’s constant. For now, since it’s just me, I have a strategy of sorts and I to force myself to stick to it. I have pre-edited social media posts that go up same time every morning. I always have my phone on me, and I encourage clients to email and text me so I can respond from other appointments. I force myself to let calls go to voicemail from time to time, which is really hard for me! I am realistic about scheduling, knowing myself and what I am capable of (while also knowing what Jax traffic is capable of.) I'm really excited about the future and about growing. Hopefully I can take some of this off my plate, but until then, I'm doing okay!
What are some of the everyday struggles with your job that we might not see?
Being friendly and encouraging for hours is exhausting and can be downright draining with difficult clients. The intimacy of my time with a client is often overlooked by outsiders; it’s easy to forget that I am spending hours alongside them, sorting through their personal information and belongings. I have to stay on the whole time, even when they turn off. Also, have you ever had a garbage bag full of paper break on your way to the trash can? Talk about a nightmare!
What is one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work? How’d you overcome it?
So far, my biggest obstacle has been lulls in business due to holidays, weather and other unavoidable circumstances. I just try to stay positive and know that things will work out!
What’s your favorite thing about your job? Least favorite?
My favorite thing is the always my clients reactions to the finished project. Even for the smallest or simplest job, they are so relieved and won't stop gushing about it, which is the best! My least favorite is when logistics don’t work out and I get stuck with a car full of donations because we finished after the donation center is closed on a Friday, or the consignment shop isn’t able to take everything like they thought. I hate not being able to fully complete a project!
Who are some fellow women entrepreneurs that you look to for inspiration?
Where do I start! Besides all the incredible business-owning babes I have already mentioned, there’s Kayla Beckman Barnhart, CEO of Small Fox Media, Tenley Dietrich of Tenley Dietrich boutique in Riverside, the ladies at Sailors Siren in Neptune Beach, and of course all the babes of Babes Who Hustle. I could seriously go on forever. I am so proud to be a part of this local community and to be surrounded by such impressive women! They are everywhere!
What advice would you give to a Babe trying to break into your industry?
Utilize your community - they are here to help. Expect it to start slow! Show up prepared with tools, trash bags, an empty car and an open mind.
What motivates and inspires you?
Honestly, I just really love helping people. I always have. It genuinely brings me joy. I can’t help but giggle when a client says, “OH MY GOD I have been looking for that everywhere!”
How do you find a work-life balance?
I don’t work on the weekends. I of course still use social media, answer my phone, texts and emails... but I never book appointments. Saturdays and Sundays are for time with my family!
What helps you wind down and manage stress?
I love listening to the Kind World podcast from WBUR – short stories about true genuine acts of kindness. The best!
What are some notable (funny, embarrassing, interesting) experiences you’ve had on the job?
Definitely the things I find while organizing people's spaces: a fully intact rat skeleton in a garage and almost a whole year’s worth of 1980’s Seventeen Magazines. There was that one time that my client and I were both surprised by the legitimate hoarders that were living in her rental we were going to pack it up. Other than that, I love love love all the furry friends I get to meet and the gentlemen at the hazardous waste center who are always excited to see my little VW pull up!
What are your goals for the future?
I would love to hire someone to do social media for NEAT in the future. It would take so much off my shoulders!
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Just do you. Make sure that at the end of every day, you can say that you did your best - you did the right thing, and everything you could to be a better you. Find a peaceful balance between doing what makes you proud, what makes you happy and what feels right to you while remaining aware that everything you do somehow affects others.
In partnership with: Sailors Siren
Owned and operated by mother/daughter duo Michele and Whit, Sailors Siren is the Jacksonville beaches headquarters for home and gift essentials that celebrate the salty, southern life. We've partnered up with the SS babes to provide a BWH-exclusive discount toward anything in their online shop! Check it out and use offer code "BABES" for 15% off your entire purchase. (You're welcome!)