From homeless to giving women livable wage jobs in her cleaning business [grant winner!]

loren single mom grant cleaning business

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Loren Guillory, Owner of First Stream Cleaning

Loren Guillory moved to Dallas, only to have her new job fall through. Homeless and running out of resources, she found assistance, got on her feet, and created First Stream Cleaning. Starting her own business quickly boosted her esteem and enabled her to think bigger. Now she helps other women find their own opportunities as she explores her own potential.

In this episode we discuss:

  • How Loren went from homeless to entrepreneur
  • The challenges of starting over as a single mom
  • How trusting karma and staying positive makes all the difference
  • Why finding your community and asking for help is so important
  • How Loren helps other single moms be more resourceful



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Transcript of Like a Mother with Emma Johnson Interview with Kickass Single Mom Grant Winner Loren Guillory

Emma: Hey, hey! It’s my favorite time of the month. Not that time of the month. It’s the time of the month that I give away my Kickass Single Mom Grant. This is when I give away $1,000 to a mom, a single mom who is out in the world doing something incredible. Maybe she started a small business, like today’s winner, started a non-profit, is serving her community, something that is amazing. Maybe it’s huge and global, maybe it’s small and local, but the idea is not just that it’s really fun for me to give away my money, the spirit of this grant is inviting this amazing woman on this podcast, featuring her on my blog, on social media, highlighting what it means to be a single mom.

Let’s face it, collectively as a culture, we’re still hung up on this idea that a single mom is a welfare mom, a single mom is a loser, a single mom is lonely and not contributing, and we know that’s not true. This is inspiring other women. This is changing the definition of single motherhood for the world.

Today, this grant is part of a sponsorship from my incredible partner, Go Banking Rates. Now, Go Banking Rates is this unbelievable resource of financial education and resources. Whether you’re digging yourself out of debt, you want to finance or refinance a home, figure out a way to pay for school, refinance all the student debt that you have, figure out how to get your kids to college, figure out how you’re going to retire, there is so much information on Go Banking Rates. They’re so committed to helping women and single mothers be financially independent. As part of their sponsorship, they are giving away copies of my book the Kickass Single Mom. It’s a number one, international bestseller. The Kickass Single Mom. Every month they’re giving away ten copies as well as the winners will also get a copy of the number one New York Times Best Seller, Nicole Lapin’s, Boss Bitch. So you get the Kickass Single Mom, Boss Bitch, two books that help women kickass financially, and both books have swear words in the title, which I think is really awesome.

If you want to apply to win one of Go Banking Rates giveaways of the Kickass Single Mom, go to and you can also find it all over my blog,

Now, we are on to the meat of our show which is an interview with the winner Kickass Single Mom, Loren Guillory. She is a 33-year-old mom of one son, and she has started a cleaning service. It’s called First Stream Cleaning Service, a little more than a year ago. The thing that caught my eye about this business is that she says, “My goal with First Stream is to provide living wage jobs to low-income women, with an opportunity for professional development.” That caught my eye. Then I got to know Loren a little more and she is an incredible woman that’s got a really compelling personal journey. We’re going to learn about that in a moment.

Loren Guillory, Creator of First Stream Cleaning

Loren, thank you so much for being here.

Loren: Thank you. I’m excited about this.

Emma: Well, I’m excited about you. You have a very compelling story. What really just popped out at me when we started chatting a little bit, you said you live in transitional housing. I want you to tell me really briefly about your journey. How you got to where you are right now.

Loren: I actually grew up in small-town Louisiana. About five and a half years ago actually, I decided to move to Dallas. I visited for the first time when I graduated high school because my dad is from here. He’s actually from Fort Worth. I would come and visit back and forth over the years, so I decided that I wanted to move here. I saw that it was a growing city. There are more job opportunities and opportunities for entrepreneurship, and I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

Emma: And where were you moving from?

Loren: I moved from Louisiana. Small town called Opelousas.

Emma: You had a child by this point?

Loren: Yes. So, my son at the time, he was five when we moved here. He was entering kindergarten. It was always also a goal of mine to move to a different city before he started school. I wanted to be able to build a support system before he started school. It’s kind of didn’t happen that way, but I think things worked out fine.

Suddenly homeless in a new city

Emma: You moved thinking you had a job. I’ve actually been in this situation. Then you move, and then the job fell through. Through a series of events, you actually wound up homeless for a while?

Loren: I did. I interviewed extensively for this position with a State Farm agent here. I was led to believe that the job was pretty much in the bag. That fell through, but I moved here anyway. I said it won’t take me that long to find a job. I had savings that I could live off of for a couple months, four or five months. I had a cousin who lived here who said, “Hey, you can stay with me until you get on your feet.”

It took me about nine months to find a job. I was online, in her little office, from 8:30 to 5:00 every day, filling out applications. It just happened that it took me that long to find a job. I guess you could say I wore out my welcome there. So I moved in with a friend for about a month. That didn’t work out. We ended up sleeping in a shelter, sleeping in a car. Had some really nice people that helped us out. There was a kid in my son's class that lived across the street from my cousin where we lived, and he had nice teachers, and that family took us in for a couple weeks.

When I finally did get a job, until I was able to get my first paycheck and get an apartment, but between that time we stayed in motels. We had an organization called The Helping Hands of Rockwall, in Rockwall, TX. It’s a small little town, but probably one of the richest counties, so I’ve heard. There was an organization there that helped people in need. They paid for us for a motel for a couple of days and then the church that we were attending at the time, Lakeshore Church, they also paid for another few days for us to stay in a hotel.

Single mom, desperate for work

Emma: You worked through a number of different programs. All along you were developing yourself. You were looking for work. What kind of work?

Loren: At that point, I was looking for anything.

Emma: You had wanted to get into financial services, you thought you might want to. Right?

Loren: Right. But I went to banks, I went to call centers. I ended up getting a job at a call center. Then I was looking for a second job. I even applied at Domino’s to be a delivery driver.

Emma: Right, because you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. Fast forward to today, five or six years later and you’re still in transitional housing. You started this business. I know people start businesses every day of the week, but you, you’re going to school online, you’re plugged into some incubation programs where you’re getting mentorship and actual support and developing this business in a really meaningful way.

The first thing I always do when people tell me about themselves or apply for this grant or whatever, I go to their website and nine times out of ten, it just looks like shit. I’m going to tell you. These websites, I don’t know what they do. They look like they were built fifteen years ago. They’re horrible. You got your act together. She knows what she’s doing. I know you’re starting out, but you have a clear vision. You have a marketing strategy. Part of this is because you opened yourself up and sought out support and advice from experts who are steps ahead of you.

Loren: Absolutely. I’m a big believer in, you do what you’re good at and you let other people do the rest. I tried for a couple of weeks to build a website, and I’m no good at this. I’m going to pay someone. I put out a call on Facebook and was like, “Tag your favorite web designer.”

Emma: It looks sharp. It’s Tell me about the name of this business.

Loren: The name is really simple. It’s my first independent stream of income.

Emma: I like it.

Loren: So, I said, “Hey, First Stream.” And there you go.

Emma: And it works. It’s catchy. I got it. I didn’t need an explanation, but I’m really glad I got one. Why is baked into your vision of this, to support other women and give them a workable wage? Where did that come from? Because I find that especially when people are at rock bottom, living out of their car or hotel, you’re just trying to get ahead, like, I can’t help others because I can barely help myself. Where did this sense of service come from?

Loren: When I left Louisiana, I had a good job. My background is actually in the insurance industry. I was doing okay with one kid and living in small-town Louisiana making just above 60k a year. I mean, it’s pretty good for a single mom.

Emma: That’s great. You go from 60K in a small town. How much was your rent?

Loren: Probably about $500.

Emma: That’s great, right? And then to go from that to living out of your car. What’s that like for you?

Loren: It was very humbling. I took a big bruise to my pride. Having to ask for help, and going through that time really taught me how to ask for help, and that it was okay to do that. Going from living out of my car, and hotels, and shelters, and then when I finally did get a job, I was making $10 an hour, and I was like, “I don’t know how people live off of this.” The apartment that I got, I got a one bedroom apartment, in an okay apartment complex, and I was able to get a one bedroom for $605.

Emma: In Dallas, in a major city.

Loren: In Dallas.

Emma: That’s really good.

Loren: And it wasn’t run down. I mean, I was shocked. It wasn’t run down at all. It wasn’t a gated community or anything, but it was decent.

Emma: Even then, $10 an hour, you can’t do it.

Loren: No, no. Especially with being out of a job for so long, I was basically living two paychecks behind. I got to the point where I was like, I have to get another job just to try to catch up. It came up on Christmas break, I had sent my son back to Louisiana to have Christmas break with my parents and my family. I packed all of his school clothes, I had already talked to my mom, she was totally okay with her grandchild coming to live with her.

Emma: She was happy to see him.

Loren: Yeah. I’d been applying for jobs, and I remembered that I had applied for transitional housing when we were homeless. A lady in the single mom’s group in my church had told me about it. I had forgotten and I said, “You know what, let me see if maybe my name has come up on that list and maybe I don’t have to send my son back.” But just in case, I sent him with all of his school clothes, all of his pertinent documents, so that my mom could enroll him in school out there for the spring semester.

Emma: You were worried that you couldn’t even take care of your kid?

Loren: Basically, yes.

Small business coach, scholarships and business degree online

Emma: Okay. So you have this transitional housing. We’re talking on video and it looks nice. And you also have a support. There are services that come with that. Tell me about the business incubator? What do you get out of these? You have a number of sellerships, you have a small business coach through a small business development center, and you’re getting matching scholarships for your schooling, you’re getting a business degree online. You’re a hustler. That’s what I see in you. When you were down and out, you hustled up a place to stay. You were broke, you hustled up income. You are starting a business and you’re hustling it up. I tell you what, I see it in women.

I see it in a lot of women I know who are married to guys who make really good money. They want to work, they’re educated, they know that they should work, but they don’t have a motivation. So, they just do these half-ass projects, and they don’t ever get off the ground because they don’t have to. It sounds nice, it sounds pretty luxurious. Just do creative projects that you want, or start a little business that sounds fun, or volunteer or whatever, but so what? If you don’t have to do it, shit does not get done. And you are getting shit done.

Loren: Yeah. And I don’t have that luxury.

Emma: It’s a gift though. People don’t often see that until they live it.

What is up for you for the next year for First Stream Cleaning?

First Stream Cleaning

Loren: By the end of the year I want to be out of the field, away from the cleaning completely, and just working on my business and running it. I want to, in the next year or two, just be completely the owner, maybe have an office manager running things. I’ve always wanted to be a serial entrepreneur. So, I’ll be pretty much onto my next business basically.

Emma: You have vision, right? And you’re working with other serial entrepreneurs that have done it and know how to do this. They keep you on track, right?

Loren: Yes.

Emma: I love it.

Loren: Someone has always done it before you, so there’s always a blueprint to follow. You just have to find it.

Find your community, ask for help

Emma: I love it. And ask. Ask for the help.

Loren: Ask, exactly.

Emma: And people will help you. I love helping people. If you’re smart, you’re humble, you come to me, and you’re not annoying, then I will help you. I will help you all the time. Right? Like, people who are like, “Oh Emma, can I take you out and pick your brain?” No. My brain is valuable, but I will help you if you want something I can do for you.

And your village? You mentioned that you have this village. What is your village and what do they do for you?

Loren: I have my two best friends here, Vee and Brittany. They are my family, they are amazing, they are my sisters. They will go to the ends of the earth for me, literally. I have some of my neighbors here where I live, we help each other out with the kids. I have friends who are single mom friends who I have met in professional organization who I can call and say, “Hey, I need a break.” Or they can call me and say, “Hey, I have this to do. I need a break. I have homework, can you keep the kids?” It’s like, yeah bring them over. Do you need me to pick them up? Is it one of those days where you just don’t feel like moving right now or driving through traffic and I can do it. So, I’ll come and pick them up, and our kids are all friends.

Emma: And you ask because you’ve been there, you give, but you ask each other. You’ve chosen to move to another city, didn’t know anyone, you had bad times and you made yourself vulnerable. You ask for help and you give help.

Loren: Yes.

Emma: Everybody can do that. Everybody needs a village, and everybody has the power to create one.

Loren: And a lot of my friend also are transplants. Dallas has a lot of transplants. Like you were saying, so many of us have the same struggle. So, one hand washes the other, like my grandmother would say.

Emma: It’s so true. And it comes around. It always comes around again. Maybe that friend is not going to reciprocate but then you’re going to get help out of nowhere that you didn’t expect. Karma, the dynamics of the universe, whatever resonates with your spiritual self, it always comes back around.

Loren: It does. There’s a book called Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, have you read that one?

Emma: No, I haven’t. Tell it.

Trust the universe, karma

Loren: In there she says, when you move, the universe moves with you. If you don’t know what your next step is or you don’t know what to do, just make a move and things will happen. I believe things will happen. If they’re not happening quick enough, once you make that move, it will make a fire under you to move some more, and you make it happen. Sometimes you have to be your own net.

Emma: Yep. If something’s not working, do something different.

Loren: Exactly.

Emma: Loren Guillory, check out her business, just look at her good-looking website and it will just inspire you,

What you are doing is activism. You are being successful, you’re raising a son that’s watching you be successful, you’re surrounding yourself with women who are also watching you, there’s women at your kid’s school that you don’t even know exist that are watching you. You are changing people’s lives, and that is activism just by being your own best self and thank you for that.

Loren: Absolutely. I get a lot of inboxes from different women on Facebook, like you were saying about helping people, I like to help people too and I don’t think it matters where you are in life, there is always something that you have to offer someone else. I help women all the time just by pointing them to resources because now I know where they are.

Emma: Yes! People don’t even realize, you know so much, just by telling other people about what you know can be 90 percent of it.

Helping other single moms find opportunity

Loren: And I can connect them to other people. I have women who call me all the time like, “Do you know somebody who does this?” I do have a big network and I was very intentional about that before I moved to Dallas. I started searching out the people in Dallas who I needed to know and connecting with them on Facebook. When I got here I started going out and meeting them. When they said, “I’m going to be here doing this event.” I got dressed, go out of the house, and showed up and said, “Hey, we’re Facebook friends.”

Emma: The technology connects us all. It’s out there.

Thank you for being such a great example. Loren Guillory, First Stream Cleaning, Dallas mom, single mom, and Kickass Single Mom Grant winner. Keep it up.

Loren: Thank you so much, Emma. It was very nice talking to you and seeing your face. I love it.

Past Beautiful Kickass Single Mom Grant Winners!

loren guillory

Loren Guillory

 From homeless in a new city to ambitious owner of First Stream Cleaning, helping other single moms find opportunity.

respite care for special needs families

Jeannine Hamilton

Founder of WE-CARE, an organization that gives special-needs families free respite care and access to resources.

Dr. Susan O'Malley

Susan O'Malley

At age 35, single and six months pregnant, she enrolled in medical school to follow her dreams of becoming a physician.

single mom entrepreneur

Teri Teves

This single mom of one switched careers from advertising to cosmetology and along the way found her passion for making women feel beautiful.

molly ward affluent women

Molly Ward

She’s a passionate divorced mom of three whose practice helps affluent women overcome their money fears.

Engendered gender equality

Erin Williamson

She's an entrepreneur who works for global gender equity.

single mom grant doula

Tiara Caldwell

A doula for low-income new mothers: “I wasn’t going to let a corporation tell me what my dream was.”

sheri black san diego single mom grant

Sheri Hopkins

Started Black San Diego: “I wanted my daughters to grow up seeing strong leaders who looked like them."

loren guillory

Loren Guillory

 From homeless in a new city to ambitious owner of First Stream Cleaning, helping other single moms find opportunity.


Every month I give $1,000 to a single mom committed to building a positive life for herself, her family and contributing to the world in a productive way.

The Kickass Single Mom Grant supports endeavors that show promise for success — whether it is a career, business, nonprofit, charitable, creative or family project that is already underway and could use a financial boost.

This might include paying for formal education that will advance your career (or launch a new career!) that makes you happy and proud, propels you to financial independence and makes you a great role model for your children and others whose lives you touch.

You might seek to use this money to build your dream business — one that lights your passion, contributes to the world in a positive way.

Maybe you have a volunteer or nonprofit project that is blossoming.

Perhaps it is a personal project that you want to describe to me.

One part of this grant is to support incredible single women doing amazing things.

The other part is to highlight incredible single moms to inspire and uplift others who may not see in themselves what is possible.

No income maximum (or requirement). All nationalities welcome. Winners are announced the first of every month.

Apply now! 

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

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