Maid for Success
Dust Queen founder Shelly Barless turned a one-woman operation into the largest residential cleaning company in Edmonton and surrounding area.
Shelly Barless was just 26 years old when she started Dust Queen in 1989, but she’d been dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur since her teenage years.
“I’ve always been a leader,” she says. “I wasn’t a good employee because I’d always wanted to get in there and lead.” After high school, she worked in retail, where she was quickly promoted to assistant manager. But while she was doing well for herself, Barless needed a bigger challenge to be truly happy.
Barless decided to strike out on her own, becoming a company of one in the residential house cleaning business. Bucket in hand, she began cleaning two houses a day. “I learned the business from the ground level,” Barless says.
Just a year-and-a-half later, she was ready to expand. Barless hired her first cleaning technicians and moved into her first office space. As the company grew, she began hiring office staff, one by one. In the years to follow, Dust Queen evolved into Edmonton’s largest residential cleaning service, surpassing established franchises.
Today, Barless, President and CEO, oversees the company to ensure the operation runs smoothly across all departments. Dust Queen operates from an immaculate 5,200-square-foot office space in Ellerslie, welcoming visitors and staff with modern decor and floor-to-ceiling windows. “When people come into our office, they’re blown away. They tell us they’ve never seen an office like ours,” says Barless.
At 7:30 a.m. each day, dozens of technicians arrive here to pick up supplies and attend a meeting led by the field supervisor, before heading out to clean homes in Edmonton and surrounding area. This daily check-in is unusual in the industry, but ensures that staff members are prepared and feel part of the team. “It’s part of our culture as an organization,” says Barless. “We expect a lot from our people, so we empower them to do their best work.”
Since 1989, Dust Queen’s employees have risen to the challenge, exceeding customers’ expectations with superior cleaning services and customer service. Barless credits her staff for the awards the company has earned over the years, most notably the Consumer Choice Award for Business Excellence. Dust Queen became the first maid service to receive the honour in 2004 and has received it every year since then.
“My goal was always to raise the bar in this industry and we have — and will continue to,” says Barless. But while proud of the company’s awards and recognitions, she stresses that they aren’t the only way to measure Dust Queen’s success.
From the beginning, busy people from all walks of life have relied on her company to make their lives more manageable. And, over the years, Dust Queen has helped its many employees earn a living and advance their careers.
“It’s always been important to me to make a difference in peoples’ lives,” says Barless. “As an entrepreneur, I believe my company should have a positive impact on its customers, employees, and the community.”