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Single mom builds crime scene cleanup biz, Pure Decontamination

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The real-life version of Sunshine Cleaning is playing out in Detroit's Cody Rouge neighborhood.

For those who haven't seen the 2008 comedy-drama, the gist is a young single-mom (Amy Adams) starts a crime-scene cleanup business to support her family. Check out the trailer here. In the real-world Detroit-version, Shena Penn is the entrepreneurial hero who helps people during the most profound and often saddest experiences of their lives.

Penn graduated from Wayne State University with a journalism degree in 2010 and landed a job with a medical research firm in Ann Arbor. She had to get up at 3 a.m. to be at work by 5 a.m. each day. Raising a young child by herself, Penn lasted about eight months on the job before she knew she had to find a different way.

"The hours really weren’t conducive to family life," Penn says. "I wanted to find a way to make money and spend more time with my family."

That's when she started Pure Decontamination, a crime scene cleanup company, from her home in Cody Rouge in 2012. Penn enjoyed cleaning and the barriers of entry to the business were low. It was a good fit for an ambitious young woman who didn’t have an overabundance of family resources to rally.

Pure Decontamination started as a side gig while Penn got a new day job working at Quicken Loans. She also leveraged the entrepreneurial training resources at ProsperUS Detroit to help build her fledgling business. Penn quit her Quicken Loans job a month ago to pursue building Pure Decontamination on a full-time basis.

"You have to choose either (your day job or building your own business) or get no sleep," Penn says.

Today Penn is working toward her MBA and has a staff of 10 independent contractors working under her. She is focused on building Pure Decontamination in the tri-county area, securing contracts with local municipalities, and getting the word out about her business.

"We would really like to push ourselves at this point to make sure people know we are available," Penn says.

Source: Shena Penn, owner of Pure Decontamination
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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