There’s a new business in town and they are quite literally cleaning up the islands. 25 year-old entrepreneur, Jackson Blackburn, started Mt. Baker Window Cleaning Co. last fall as a way to support his incurable snowboarding habit. Since then, it has grown at a rate that even Blackburn himself never anticipated.
“I had no idea I would be standing here one year later with a crew of two and revenue of six figures a year,” he said.
Blackburn never did well academically—with the sole exception of one highly-medicated semester during his junior year of high school. Western Washington University fancied him for a year before he left in pursuit of adventure. He held 16 different jobs from the time he was 14 and moved two to four times a year, chasing various seasonal gigs. He had his ups and downs, as we all do, but rarely slowed down, opting instead to travel the globe acquiring different skills and embarking on a dizzying array of adventures .
As he never felt quite himself in the classroom, similarly Blackburn felt restricted and confined in the workplace. He seemed destined to perpetually butt heads with that most American of petty tyrants—the boss.
“I was tired of working for other people, getting treated poorly, and constantly ripped off. That being said I have had a blast the past few years of my life. From working as a snowboard coach, to a craft cocktail bartender, living in an off the grid house only accessible by snowmobile, working as a lab-tech in a state of the art I-502 cannabis lab, as a deckhand on super-yachts in the south of France, to becoming 1st mate (by default) on a wooden 100-ton war ship from 1942 and almost dying numerous times in Alaskan seas, and raft-guiding, bus- driving, weed-growing, and all the way to summer camp counselor, you could say I have my fair share of fun.”
Fun was fun, but Blackburn felt it was time to set out and become his own boss. What was it going to be? Everything seemed out of reach. A lack of funds, few logistical resources, and the glaring absence of a college degree, along with the cynicism of nay-sayers, all seemed to stand in Blackburn’s way. Luckily though, his step-dad, an old-time Australian surfer with a knack for self-employment, saw the struggle and reached out.
Having been recognized by the Australian government for his contributions to neurology and work with Aborigines, Ehrenburg taught his stepson techniques of long-term visualization and self-talk.
After the five-day course, Blackburn drove cross- country from his parent’s home in Connecticut back to Bellingham. A couple weeks of brainstorming and frustration eventually bore fruit; he was going to start a window cleaning company.
“I thought it would be something easy to learn with little start-up costs” says Blackburn. He asked an old high- school friend to make him a logo and it was on.
Blackburn stayed up late every night stringing rubber bands through paper flyers, so when daytime came he could walk around Bellingham and string them on people’s doors.
“The beginning was very difficult and I was losing my marbles on a daily basis. I had many, many breakdowns and the future was looking bleak.”
Autumn was a rough time to start a window cleaning business and the stress of not having enough money for winter was immense.
“My friend suggested I string holiday lights, I loved the idea.” Blackburn invested what little money he had made from the fall season into advertising for hanging and selling LED Christmas lights. That was when business picked up.
“People were calling my phone off the hook and I actually got a contract with Metropolitan Market in Seattle to hang four of their stores. I actually had no idea what I was doing when they accepted my bid. I didn’t know what kind of lights to use, where I would get them, how much they would cost, or how I would even attach them to the building.”
Blackburn says he has learned more from YouTube in a couple of months than he had from a year of college. You could argue no one really learns a lot their freshman year because of the many distractions of newfound freedom. But this doesn’t diminish the lesson of how effective DIY education can be. The business had made it through the first winter and into spring. The momentum kept up and Blackburn started buying more equipment, watching more YouTube videos, and adding more services to the menu.
Fast forward some months down the road and Blackburn’s Mt. Baker Window Cleaning Co. now offers complete exterior cleaning and uses the best technology in the game to do so.
“We are currently cleaning roofs, gutters, windows, siding, driveways, patios, walkways, solar panels, and more.”
The company hasn’t even turned a year old and is already rated #2 on Yelp in Bellingham for window and roof cleaning and has even locked down a job at the famous Madroneagle Estate on Orcas Island. Blackburn says he really enjoys his new job and hopes he doesn’t get fired anytime soon.
Mt. Baker Windown Cleaning serves the San Juan Islands - Shaw, Orcas, Lopez, San Juan - Anacortes, Sedro Wolley, Burlington, Mt Vernon and All of Whatcom County, Point Roberts