Helius is a nonprofit based in the ReCity coworking space in Durham that, with numerous other community organizations, is working to “rewrite” Durham’s story. Helius provides free mentoring and coaching to people building businesses out of necessity to support themselves and their families. Each month, CityWell would like to highlight one of Helius’s entrepreneurs in support of the great work of these businessmen and women.
“Michael Wilson Jr, Durhamite and owner of WilSun Cleaning Services, says, the main inspiration for his business came from ‘God and dad’. As Mr. Wilson tells his story, it all began when he was a teenager, mowing yards with his father and listening to him tell stories of his own entrepreneurial endeavors and growing up in McDougald Terrace, a local community on the east side of Durham. For the younger Wilson, listening to those stories of his father are what ‘sparked the desire to be an entrepreneur’, as his father “gave an example of the commitment it would take to be successful”. This desire to be an entrepreneur, and the commitment required to be successful as one, stayed with Mr. Wilson Jr.
Through the years, he worked at several different entrepreneurial pursuits, such as running a concession stand while a student at Mars Hill College for the lacrosse team, or developing a prototype for a new type of coverall, among other ideas. It was in 2012 that Mr. Wilson set out for business on his own. After leaving Mars Hill College, Mr. Wilson was looking for a job. It was happenstance that, one day, as he was working with his father, the elder Wilson suggested that his son should start his own window cleaning business. The younger Wilson replied ‘if you get me the poles, I’ll do it and won’t look back’; It was as he was returning their work equipment for the day that he saw his father standing with two poles for him, his father telling him ‘don’t forget you’re a Wilson, so go and make it happen!’ He did, and after one week of walking up and down Duke Street, and Murray Ave, 10 miles every day, Michael Wilson Jr had found his first customer, and started WilSun Cleaning Services.
While starting his business might have been serendipitous, and Mr. Wilson Jr says he always had the drive needed to be successful, he lacked the knowledge and “stepwise process” to lead to sustained growth, as well as lacking the funding to support that growth. It was a chance encounter (facilitated by his usual drive and dedication) that lead Mr. Wilson Jr to Helius.
As he was looking for customers, he came into contact with Mrs. Syretta Hill of Set Up Durham, and it was she who introduced Michael Wilson Jr to Geraud Staton of Helius. From there their relationship began, and sometime after Mr. Wilson decided to go through with Helius’ program.
Mr. Wilson Jr best describes how Helius’ helped him: ‘Helius helped me think through my ideas and goals. They provided me access to resources to format and produce materials for my company, coaching on next steps. emotional support. Helius helped me get funding through micro lending with Kiva. They gave me hope and motivated me during my worst days and never let me fail or stop. Geraud showed me that I can make it even if I’m a black man. Helius gave me hope.’
Now, after seven years of business, WilSun Cleaning Service is growing and thriving. Having gone from seven clients to over 60, Mr. Wilson Jr is able to work with his business full time and is excited for the growth his business is experiencing. Again, Mr. Wilson Jr puts it best when he says ‘the future of WilSun Cleaning Services is bright!'”
Article written by Kyrie Mason