Adrienne Simpson – President of Smooth Mooove Senior Relocation Services
This Black History Month, Adrienne Simpson, president of Smooth Mooove Senior Relocation Services, tells PINK how she’s turning adversity into a million-dollar company.
By Kathryn Whitbourne
After struggling with depression following her layoff from an executive job, Adrienne Simpson, 51, saw an opportunity for a new type of moving service, one that would target seniors, when she helped her own mother relocate.
As we celebrate Black History Month, Simpson talks about her own success and how she uses it to help others.
PINK: How does a senior moving service differ from regular moving services?
Adrienne Simpson: When seniors move, it’s very emotional. It’s usually because of failing health, a house that’s become too much to handle or loss of a spouse. Often, they’re leaving a house they’ve lived in all of their life and downsizing to a retirement community. We help them decide what furniture to take. We pack them up, and when they get to their new place, we unpack and put everything away, even hang pictures and remove packing materials, to reduce the trauma.
Sometimes when we show up, a senior will be sitting in a corner crying and not packed a thing. We’ll do it for him or her. We are the only company that does the whole service; we don’t contract out the moving trucks.
PINK: How do you plan to celebrate this Black History Month?
A.S.: We help the community year-round, by moving low-income seniors pro bono or at cost. Also, when our clients move, we have an arrangement with the city of Atlanta to donate excess furniture to Hurricane Katrina survivors. We transport the furniture for free.
PINK: How did you come up with the idea for Smooth Mooove?
A.S.: I had to move my mom back to Michigan, and she was so overwhelmed with it because she could not take everything. When I called movers, no one could handle her special needs. So I helped my mother and she bragged to all her friends. They started calling me for help, and I thought there might be a business there.
PINK: What was your background before that?
A.S.: I was a director of operations at CIGNA HealthCare of Georgia. I was downsized after eight years and had no luck finding something that paid comparably. I was clinically depressed for over a year.; I would get up, get my daughter ready for school and then go back to bed until she came home. I was having anxiety and stress-related asthma attacks.
PINK: What turned it around for you?
A.S.: My daughter; I knew she was watching me. Her grades were starting to slip. She saw life was beating me down and keeping me down.; I decided to see a psychologist, who put me on Paxil. I started to realize this wasn’t really me. I’d faced other challenges before. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and decided to start my own business.
PINK: Was that scary?
A.S: Oh, I was scared to death but more scared of starving. I began spending a lot of time online searching for resources to help me. One day I found the Women’s Economic Development Agency (WEDA). I enrolled in their 12-week business startup program, which was free because I was unemployed. Going through that program gave me the lift I needed.
PINK: How did you finance your business?
A.S.: With credit cards.; I knew that no bank would give me a loan because I had no experience in the field. But I did go to SCORE and the SBA for classes and help. I started business in 2003, and in 2005 I entered the OPEN from American Express Make Mine a Million program. I presented to an audience of 1,000, who voted on the winning entries. I won a $45,000 loan to help with marketing, and a business coach for a year. This year, my business is scheduled to make $1 million.
PINK: What is life like for you now?
A.S.: It’s all so exciting.; My daughter got a full scholarship to Columbia College. I can hardly believe how blessed I am. A few years ago I was afraid to dream. Now I’m living it.
PINK: You’re planning to franchise?
A.S.: Yes, I am currently working with the Atlanta Urban League to grow my business nationwide. They are supporting my growth because I can create jobs in low-income areas across the nation. You don’t need any special skills to work at Smooth Mooove, just a compassionate heart.
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