Cleanslate went from idea to activation in 2005, at the hands of Mark Carroll, former Managing Director of Goldman Sachs, who was awarded one of their first-ever Public Service Fellowships for top-performing executives.The year-long fellowship allowed him to use his skills to help a social purpose organization of his choice anywhere in the world. Wanting to return to his home in Chicago, he found Cara and was inspired by its focus on the head and heart of poverty alleviation. He used his fellowship year to help Cara launch Cleanslate, a business initially modeled after Ready, Willing and Able – a social enterprise of The Doe Fund in New York; and so began our exterior maintenance business designed to transform lives while transforming communities in the process.
Fun Fact: Mark originally wanted to name Cleanslate “Tabula Rasa” (the Latin translation of Cleanslate), but we didn’t think that rolled off the tongue as easily.
Like any scrappy new business, when we first started Cleanslate we were resource-constrained. We had our morning huddles in St. Sabina’s basement and we wore garbage bags as ponchos to keep tight on costs. After seeing success in our inaugural community of Auburn Gresham (and then in multiple neighborhoods thereafter), Cleanslate canvassed over 30 unique areas of Chicago and grew its customer base to include business districts, chambers of commerce, the festival circuit, and property management firms.
In addition to helping people secure transitional employment and valuable job skills so they may reenter the workforce, Cleanslate also serves as a catalyst for true community renewal. By concentrating its beautification efforts along high-traffic corridors, Cleanslate establishes itself as a neighborhood presence that helps to restore community pride. It is our goal to grow Cleanslate as an integral part of the community fabric – as important to the neighborhood identity as the schools, parks, churches, and storefronts. The more we live, learn, and play together, the stronger we become.
Our customers and our communities seem to dig what we do. So much so that over the years, we have been honored with the following affirmations of our work:
- 2016 REDF National Portfolio of Leading Social Enterprises
- 2015 Chicago Department of Transportation Winter Wonder Award
- 2011 No Margin, No Mission Social Enterprise of the Month
- 2008 SE Chicago Commission Don Michael Randel Community Svc. Award
- 2008 New Communities Program Community Heroes Award
View a full list of our awards here.
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