Lateshia Jackson, A & L Environmental LLC
Hazardous Waste Removal
Organizations: Allies for Community Business
Lateshia Jackson’s journey to start a company was an unexpected one. Throughout her career as a nurse, her husband Anthony worked in hazardous waste removal. However, he only worked seasonally, despite being employed by the same large company for 23 years. “When they needed a minority or section 3 worker, they would [call him],” Lateshia explained. “The government requires that you have so many low-income workers.”
As a two-income household Lateshia says that she and Anthony were “trying to make it work,” but her husband’s unpredictable work schedule was draining emotionally and financially. “One day I said, ‘Why don’t you start your own company?’” Lateshia recalls the start of A & L Environmental LLC. “We can hire minority workers and keep them working all year-long!” Lateshia and her husband worked with their alderman to “change the system” she says. “Minority workers aren’t getting work, and it’s just not fair.”
Lateshia took classes at the Chicago Department of Procurement Services to help her with initial steps to start her business while she was working full- time as a nurse during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears,” Lateshia said. “I would work 12-16 hours [in the hospital] and then get up and get on the computer short of sleep in the morning, just to get the business started.”
When A & L, launched, Lateshia and Anthony worked on small demolition contracts. The husband-and-wife team wanted to take bigger jobs, but having to pay their workforce prior to being paid for a job was a hurdle for the couple. “I applied for loans at a bank, but everybody turned me down,” Lateshia said. “When Allies [for Community Business] came in, I got an immediate yes. I was so surprised. They wanted to help.” Having faced so many obstacles as a Black woman in business, Lateshia thinks that repeated support for small business owners is key. “With Allies, once they gave me that loan, they kept reaching out for support. They really want to see minority teams grow.”
Lateshia and her husband pushed forward, securing their first big contract for nearly $500,000. Now that they have experienced success as a company, they are determined to give back. Lateshia currently employs returning citizens, helps them attend training, and is proud to pay her workers $48.90/hour. She also helps to run training programs for people in the construction trades and volunteers in the community with programs like Toys for Tots. When asked what her advice for new companies Lateshia says, “To never give up. If this is something you want to do, keep at it until you do it right.”
Develop Your Idea – A & L Environmental LLC
1. Identify the Problem
What is the problem you are trying to solve?
“Creating a company where we (minority workers) would be able to work year round, not just a project.”
What is my product?
“We specialize in asbestos, lead, and mold remediation, which includes interior demolition.”
How will I price it?
“In the beginning, we hired an estimator, someone my husband worked side by side with. He taught us how to price [our services].”
2. Define Your Ideal Customer
“Mostly general contractors. The larger general contractors or residential contractors that we get referred to by the City of Chicago.”
3. Prepare to Sell Your Product
How will I market my new idea?
“I go to all of the events. Any construction gala that is going on, I am there.”
How will I make my first sale?
“At an event, we met a potential client who gave us our first big job. We sold them on how long we’ve been in the business and the work we’ve done. They wanted to sit down with us. We had a couple of meetings with them before we got the job. The first job we received was $485,000, a lead and abatement job. We had 8 employees on that job and worked for approximately 4 months.”