TWB Cleaning used several programs that help small businesses to build a winner
Trina Worrell Benjamin is an example of an entrepreneur who has taken advantage of the many programs designed to help small businesses, to help her build a growing, successful Black-owned company.
Years ago, she and a partner started picking up corporate cleaning jobs as subcontractors, but when she wanted to take the business to another level, her partner did not.
So Benjamin, 51, launched TWB Cleaning Contractors in 2014 and completed a one-year Entrepreneur Success Workshop program at the Temple Small Business Development Center and then she enrolled in the SBDC incubator program, which gave her access to low cost office space, a computer and telephone, along with a business address.
As part of the program, TWB Cleaning got help creating a business plan, marketing materials and things like an employee handbook and free legal advice.
“I really wanted to build a company for longevity and Temple SBDC helped me a lot,” Benjamin said. “My main goal was to build that foundation.”
In 2016, TWB Cleaning won a contract at North Broad Renaissance, Inc., one of the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Districts, which provides cleaning and services along the North Broad St. commercial corridor from Erie Ave. to Spring Garden St.
Today, TWB Cleaning, based on Cecil B. Moore Ave. has grown from one employee and no sales its first year, to more than 40 employees and annual sales of more than $500,000 — with clients that include Allegheny West Foundation, the city of Philadelphia, Enon Coulter Community Development Corp., the Enterprise Center and Wells Fargo.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) named Trina Benjamin, owner of TWB Cleaning, as its Eastern Pennsylvania District Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year for 2023.
“I don’t do this for the accolades, I just do the work. Going up against so many entrepreneurs, I didn’t think I would win,” she said. “But when I won, it was awesome and amazing. But it was important not just for me, but for my team, my family and the people that supported me.”
Along her journey, Benjamin said, she met several people who served as mentors such as Della Clark, president of the Enterprise Center, a non-profit group in West Philadelphia that assists small businesses, along with Bernard Savage and Kenneth Scott, president of the Beech Companies, which also has a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), known as Beech Capital.
CDFI’s have a mission to help small, disadvantaged businesses get access to financing.
As a first generation entrepreneur, Benjamin said she didn’t have business people as examples growing up. TWB Cleaning is a member of the African American Chamber of Commerce.
“But Bernard Savage at Beech has been very inspirational and a mentor for me,” Benjamin said. “He gave me a lot of information and knowledge. He helped me to chart my course.”
In 2020, the city kicked off the Philadelphia Taking Care of Business (PHL TCB) Clean Corridors Program, seeking to increase the number of the Department of Commerce’s existing commercial corridors cleaning programs to 83 areas, up from 43.
In addition to beautifying the city and helping to discourage crime, the program, championed by Democratic mayor nominee Cherelle Parker when she was a Councilmember, was also designed to provide opportunities for minority-owned cleaning businesses.
So, TWB Cleaning was one of several companies that took an advantage of the opportunity.
According to Benjamin, the PHL TCB program helped to expand her business.
Subsequently, the company needed to purchase more equipment and trucks. Since then, TWB has been cleaning additional commercial corridors on North 22nd St., Ogontz, Stenton and Wadsworth Aves., and has expanded into cleaning construction sites and landscaping.
When TWB Cleaning started out, it landed a $25,000 loan from Beech Capital. But the growth meant it needed more financing, so Benjamin was able to get additional lines of credit from Beech.
“Helping small businesses is a major part of the Beech Companies mission. Beech spends millions of dollars every year with over 80% of the work with minority contractors,” Scott said. “Trina is a great example of someone who has a strong business plan and is willing to learn and put in the hard work to becoming a successful business owner. We view that as important as a credit score.”
A graduate of Chestnut Hill College with a degree in criminal justice, Benjamin grew up in north Philadelphia, attended public school and worked in health care. Her studies and background made her recognize the importance of hiring people in the community and also formerly incarcerated returning citizens.
“When you first start out, you need capital and I was able to get a loan from Beech, when no bank would help me,” Benjamin said. “When you are an entrepreneur, you can’t do this alone.”