Sandy Hernandez, Ocean Express Carpet Cleaning

What made you decide to start Ocean Express Cleaners?


The Dry Cleaners was started by my Mother who Migrated to U.S.  from El Salvador, back in the early 90’s. She came to the US at 19 or so, in search of better opportunities after El Salvador’s bloody civil war and the early death of her parents… Once she arrived in the US, she found odd jobs for a couple years- dog walker, pet sitter and dish washer at Carls Jrs. Eventually, she ended up working at a Dry Cleaners in Hollywood and because she had an 8thgrade education, no formal skills or knowledge of any trades, she could only think of dreaming of opening up her own dry cleaning shop one day.

After saving and having worked at the Dry Cleaners for several years, she convinced her two sisters whom also had previously worked at other Dry Cleaners, to leave their jobs and partner up with her to open up a shop. She decided to open it in the most affluent area that she knew at the time, Santa Monica, CA.

Using each of their savings and credit cards, they managed to lease and piece together a small shop right off the corner, of one of the best areas of Santa Monica. Her two sisters bailed on her after two months, saying that they needed to go back to their old cleaners to work, since they literally had 0 – 3 customers a week and neither could survive with that income.

Because competitors were in every corner and they lacked the proper finances, experience, knowledge and even English language, their shop had a very rough start.

Yet, my mother knew that the shop was in a great location and figured that one day it had to give! She has always been someone who is extremely hard working, dedicated, naturally a perfectionist, whom is stubborn, unrelenting and who succeeds at anything she puts her mind to.

She decided she needed to make that shop work and decided to stay put. Turns out she ended up putting her whole life and soul into that place. All of my life (now 28 yrs old) she has worked 12- 14 hours per day, 6 days a week, closing very few holidays of the year.

She did the best she could to balance work and raising me as a single mother, but her life is that shop! It was established in 1992 and has been singlehandedly operated by her since then. She has had a couple of part time employees, but it never seems to last. She cannot find someone that meets her expectations. Work in progress!


OCEAN EXPRESS CARPET CLEANING-Growing up with a single mother, microscopic extended family and without any siblings, I have always had a close relationship with my mother. Therefore naturally, I grew up in her business.  Because of her lack of formal education, language barriers, and “old school” ways, I found myself having to help with a variety of aspects of her dry cleaning business.

After having completed an Internship with the Sheriffs Dept and graduating with a BS in Criminal Justice, I decided that what I really wanted was to not live from pay check to pay check and not risk my life for a starting salary of 50k per year. I jumped into a few real estate investment companies doing a variety of roles. I knew I wanted to pursue real estate sales one day, but I felt it was important to start the process of building my own business besides real estate, for more financial stability and to use more like a side hustle. My goal was to have a stable part time job at an investment firm, start in RE Sales and have some cash flow from a business of my own as well. So, I was in search of a side business, but I felt I had no business passion, skillset (cooking, baking, make up, etc) or trade, so I was stumped!

During the course of helping my mother with her business, I accidently left some keywords on Google PPC and categories on Yelp for the dry cleaners, for Carpet Cleaning Services. We started receiving calls and inquiries for carpet cleaning related services, and after about the 15thcall/inquiry I decided I found the side hustle I was looking for!

I had no experience obviously and knew I could not do it myself, so I pitched the idea to my boyfriend, father of my kids. He was all for it and we now juggle our part time jobs with RE developers, two kids, carpet cleaning company and soon to be real estate sales and maid service.

As a mom, how do you prioritize your day?

I live off of My Google Calender and Programs like Todoist. I literally set a reminder for almost everything! Appointments- doctors, hair, nails, dentist (etc), grocery lists, bills, shopping, dog walking, dog baths, Son’s appts- soccer,  Brazilian ji jitsu, my gym, etc.   you name it… it is on my calendar!

I look thru my to-dos at the start of my day, mid day and end of my day. I check off/delete all that I have accomplished and move what I could not accomplish for another day. I keep doing this until I have accomplished all that I have on my list, but it seems there is never an end. List grows daily and I get some done, but there is always more to do.

Because I grew up with a busy mother who was absent from my upbringing by default, I found myself having a lot of time and opportunity on my hands to get into a lot of trouble growing up. Now as a parent myself, I know how important to be able to prioritize my children and  work towards being able to balance work and kids carefully.

I now know that spending time with your kids is a luxury, that not all moms get to have, but I also knew it was something that I needed to make happen one way or another. I know the importance and the impact it makes in a childs life to have a Mother ( and hopefully a father), who is a part of their life from the start.

I knew I wanted to be the Mom that my Mother could not be. So, I have looked for flexible part time jobs with decent pay, that allow me to be around my children. I’ve looked for businesses that do not require me to be at a storefront 12 -14 hours per day. I have decided to immerse myself in real estate, an industry that allows you to be your own boss, one that allows you to control the amount of money you want to make and the amount of hours you want to work.

I now am able to still take my 3 year old to his soccer and Ji-jitsu classes regularly and my youngest (18 month old) to music & dance classes and art class. I will be enrolling both at a parent participation nursery school, where I have a chance to be a part of their formal learning experience and can see them grow. And, I intend on being that soccor, PTA joining, cookie baking, RV trip taking, mother for as long as I can! No matter where my career or businesses take me, my goal is to always be able to be a big part of my children’s lives.

Who are your biggest influences?

The biggest influence in my life continues to be My mother. I have yet to meet anyone like her. She is the most genuine, self-less, motivated, goal driven, strong, loving & caring,independent, business woman I have ever met.

I feel that if she could be successful as a single mother, having come  from her background-young immigrant, without a cent in her pocket, with an eight grade education, no skill, trade nor a single English word, and still is able to make 350k per year, there is no excuse why I cannot accomplish what she has and even more.

She gave her life, to be able to provide a different life for me. She has always been extremely loving and caring. Taught me morals and principals.  Has always engraved the words the “sky is the limit” in my mind, she has motivated me to seek for more and not settle for less. She has always been there emotionally and financially for me when needed, she made it easy for me to be able to go to college full time, helped me through all school and continues to offer to help me in any way that I could possibly imagine.  

Second biggest influence, is my one and only older Brother. When my parents split up at the age of 2, my father took my Brother to live with him back to El Salvador. Then came back to the U.S. sometime later, but still lived with my Father, while I lived with my Mother.

Without going into much details, I can say that he had a rough upbringing living with my Father and his side of the family. At his low point, he sold drugs, had legal problems and hung out with gang members. Yet, since he was a child he said he one day was going to be a millionaire and despite being in his low points at his youth/teens, he kept that in mind. He eventually straightened up on his own and became a successful stock broker and dived into the gold business & real estate. He is now is a self-made millionaire. Very humble, hard working, man who happens to be one of the best fathers I know. Because I know his upbringing, his story and know that he got the shorter end of the stick (my father J), I admire the work he put in to achieve his dreams.

What advice would you give moms who work from home? 

Prioritize your day. Have a schedule. Hold yourself accountable. Keep track of all personal and business related tasks. Have a place in your home, where you can be free of distractions.

What advice would you give moms who are working to start or build their business?

Have a business plan. Set personal and business goals, which are at the center of your daily life. Keep at it. All will all pay off one day. Rome was not built in a day, so do not get down on yourself if your business is not growing at the pace you would have hoped. Stay optimistic and focused.  Read and keep informed with the latest marketing strategies. Become friends with others in your industry to see what works and what doesn’t. Be the best you could be in your industry. Love what you do.

What one word would you choose to describe yourself?