Cornerstone cleans for a cause

Cornerstone Cleaning improves lives in the communities it serves

As a little girl, Beth Derickson, MBA ’97, had a knack for scrubbing and polishing. With a little extra elbow grease, she was able to get even the dingiest surfaces to shine like a mirror. And she’s always been drawn to the hidden benefit of housework: “Cleaning is very therapeutic, and when you’re done, you feel like you’ve accomplished something,” she says.

“My love for cleaning began at an early age, when I would follow my grandmother around while she did her housework… I’d have my little dust rag, she would have hers. And then we would go outside and sit under the trees, in the shade, and have a drink after hours of dusting baseboards and washing windows, and then it was time to start dinner,” she remembers.

“What hooked me even back then was that great sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.”

Today Derickson is the owner and founder of Cornerstone Cleaning, a full-service residential cleaning company she operates from her Phoenix, Md. home, where she lives with her husband and two children.

What started in 2011 as a one-woman show with a dozen or so clients has nearly doubled in size in the last year. Derickson hired two employees last fall, allowing her to expand clientele from Northern Baltimore and Harford Counties in Maryland and South York County, Penn., into Carroll County, Md. What’s more, she’s using her skill and her business savvy to make a difference in people’s lives.

Support beyond soapsuds

Cornerstone Cleaning partners with Cleaning For A Reason, a non-profit organization that matches residential cleaning companies that offer free professional housemaid services to women in their local community who are undergoing cancer treatment.

The organization’s founder, Debbie Sardone, who once owned and operated a housecleaning service in Texas, feels women who are undergoing the physical, emotional, and financial challenges of cancer treatment are the very people who need these services the most.

Since it was founded in 2006, Cleaning For A Reason has worked with nearly 1,000 partners across the United States and Canada, providing cleaning services that value $4 million.

As a partner, Cornerstone Cleaning is assigned two patients at a time, and each receives one general house cleaning per month for four consecutive months. Derickson and her two employees arrive at the patients’ homes with supplies in hand.

“It’s a wonderful thing. It feels really good to help, to give of your time to someone so they can focus on the things that are most important during this time,” she says.

A clean break

Derickson, who grew up in Jarrettsville, Md., received her bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from Stevenson University (then Villa Julie College) in 1992. As a college student, she worked for a woman who owned a cleaning company, whom she’d met through a mutual acquaintance.

“She is always quick to tell those she introduces me to that I actually ran her business while she was on a much-deserved vacation,” she says of her former employer, with whom she is still in close contact today.

Prior to founding Cornerstone, Derickson spent all 18 years of her career in the financial services industry, accepting a job with T. Rowe Price shortly after she graduated from Stevenson. She says she had numerous opportunities while at the firm and learned a great deal about many aspects of business.

“But I am someone who constantly wants a new challenge,” she admits. “My undergraduate degree was so specialized, and when I got out of Villa Julie, I was working as a programmer. But because it was so specialized, I knew that if I wanted to position myself going forward, I needed something broader.”

An MBA from Loyola with a concentration in management proved to be a good fit.

“I chose Loyola for my master’s because there was something about the program. It offered a broad array of different classes that would give you a good foundation for whatever your next step was. And it did.”

Derickson recalls one of her professors in the program, Harsha Desai, Ph.D., professor of management in the Sellinger School of Business and Management, who assigned students a project that required them to go out into the community and create a business plan for a local business.

Derickson and another student were assigned to work with a children’s theater company. The end result was a business plan which the theater could then implement. Today that children’s theater continues to produce shows and turn a profit.

“The courses I took through the Loyola program really prepared me to start my own business,” she says.

After nearly two decades working in financial services, Derickson was ready for a change in her professional life, a new challenge. Her husband suggested “giving cleaning a try”—only this time, as the owner and operator of her own business.

After she completed her master’s, Derickson began the business planning for Cornerstone. “The tools my Loyola degree gave me helped me narrow down and define what I wanted to do next. And the classes I took at Loyola really helped me get this thing off the ground,” she says.

A positive difference

Today Derickson says what she enjoys most about her business is helping others.

She gives her clients a sense of order and peace of mind. When they come home laden with groceries and tired from working at the end of the week, they are happy to see their home has been cleaned by someone they know and trust. And they are highly appreciative.

“We know that having a clean home makes a positive difference in the lives of homeowners. We see and hear it each week from our clients, many of whom have been with us since the beginning and are considered part of the family,” she says.

“And I’ve always wanted to give back to my community. Through my church growing up, through those projects I did where I donated my time and materials to local business when I was a graduate student, I was able to do that. Now I want to do more, especially with my business, and we can. We are positively impacting the lives of women battling cancer.”

And of course, there’s that hard to match sense of accomplishment she still gets when she leaves a happy client’s home sparkling and spotless.