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By Nicole Foster (Times Union)
November 28, 2015
Imagine coming home from work, unlocking the front door, and being greeted by the gentle scent of lavender.  The floors are mopped.  The carpets are vacuumed.  The kitchen counters are spotless and even the marinara sauce plastered inside the microwave has vanished.  A luminous bathtub seems to whisper, “Welcome home.  Please, let me hold you.”  This isn’t the scene of a miracle; Michelle Boyle and her team of Green Genies has visited.

Boyle, 27, is the founder of Green Genies.  The title serves as both the name of the company and the term the crew playfully refer to themselves as.  Their task?  To clean homes thoroughly using only natural products; harsh chemicals and artificial fragrances don’t exist in their world.  Scents such as sage, citrus, thyme and lavender subtly float in the air in the Genies’ wake and are derived from 100 percent natural essential oils, not aerosol sprays.

The Green Genies travel throughout the area to visit clients’ houses, apartments, and businesses.  They meet each morning at their home base in Loudonville and pack a full arsenal before heading out: vacuums, mops, dozens of micro-fiber cloths, essential oils, and endless bottles of vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda.  The Pine Hills is always a favorite stop.

“Our Pine Hills clients are really cool, creative, interesting people,” said Boyle.

Client Kimberly Eck bought her home in the Pine Hills in 2011 and quickly sought someone to help take over some of her new found responsibilities as a homeowner.  Being one of the neighborhood’s “informed, conscientious citizens,” Eck was drawn toward Boyle’s green enterprise.

“I trusted Michelle instantly,” she said.  “I wanted to work with a green cleaning company in order to reduce my family’s exposure to chemicals.  Michelle is really filling a need in this community.”

Another convert is Megan Prokorym, who grew up in the Pine Hills and now owns a home in the Helderberg neighborhood.

“After our first cleaning the house looked and smelled so good,” said Prokorym.  “It actually smelled healthy, inviting deep breaths, a stark contrast to cleaning products that warn you not to inhale after use.”

Plant-based cleansers haven’t always been a priority for Boyle. Her supply bag used to consist of big-name brands like Clorox and Lysol.  The philosophy for her life and her emerging cleaning company became eco-driven after her grandmother passed away in 2002 from cancer.  As she began to recognize links between toxins and disease, Boyle started researching what the products she used were doing to her own body.

“I made the green transition in 2008,” said Boyle.  “I became more aware of chemicals in products and the effects they had on my health.”

At the age of 12, long before she considered the importance of product quality, Boyle began cleaning homes of neighbors and family friends on the weekends to earn spending money.  By the time she graduated from high school, her side job had become a full time business and before she was old enough to order a Nine Pin, she was hiring staff.

“I hired my first employee when I was 18,” said Boyle.  “Coming in to a management role for the first time was uncomfortable. It was very awkward because she was 25 years older than me.”

Though Boyle didn’t elaborate on the difficulties of being a first time boss to someone more than twice her age, she did say it was a huge learning experience and her hiring tactics changed by the time she was ready to find her third employee.

“One of the biggest lessons I learned from that was to look for employees who would not only do a good job cleaning, but would also fit into the company culture,” said Boyle.

Early team members didn’t share the ideology of green living.  As the business was growing, Boyle needed to find people who appreciated and understood the importance of non-toxic cleansers.  The mother of Green Genies adopted two new strategies.  She began nonchalantly pursuing employees in establishments she herself enjoyed visiting, such as Honest Weight Food Co-op and vegan cafes, with hopes of recruitment and simultaneously posted ads rather than hire friends of friends who needed extra work.

“I posted an ad and was very specific with the job description,” recounted Boyle.  “I started to ask people who applied to tell me what green living meant to them so I could get a sense that it was something they cared about.  That was when the right employees started to fall into place.”

Erica Sparrow, 37, has worked as a Green Genie for three years.  She was drawn to the opportunity to provide a service that kept everyone’s well being in mind while having fun.

“Michelle is very careful about the people that she hires, both for the security of the clients and for the cohesiveness of the cleaning team,” said Sparrow.  “And it is very much a team. I enjoy so much the people that I work with, and we have a great time together. Even when cleaning toilets. And that says something.”

Boyle making candles in her home workshop/Nicole Foster

Boyle making candles in her home workshop/Nicole Foster

In addition to Green Genies, Boyle runs a sister company selling her own line of cleaning products, Tidy Thyme. As she transitioned away from traditional cleaners in 2008, Boyle realized how many chemicals were still in products that claimed to be environmentally friendly.

“I started to dig a little deeper and realized how much green washing there was in the market,” said Boyle.  “I decided to take matters in to my own hands and began to experiment with plant based ingredients.  The results were surprisingly effective and I started to use them in our services and continued to tweak things as I went.”

Tweaking eventually led to an entire line of merchandise.  Boyle researched and tested her own concoctions, not stopping until she created something both pure and effective.  At the urging of her husband, Mark, she launched her Tidy Thyme line last year.  She introduced the first product, the multi-purpose cleaner, in January 2014 at Honest Weight Food Co – op.

“With that launch I did a workshop on green cleaning and we made the multi- purpose product in that class,” said Boyle as her smile grew wide.  “The number one rule in business is do not give away your recipe, but it was something I was so passionate about sharing with people, I wanted it to be accessible to anybody.”

Philip Pascuzzo and his wife, Laura, live in the Pine Hills and not only rely on the Green Genies to keep their home in order, but Phil designed the packaging for Boyle’s products.  He has witnessed an increase in his neighborhood’s awareness of eco-friendly lifestyles.

“I think there is definitely an uptick of buzz about green living,” said Pascuzzo.  “It’s safer and healthier. Among my community of peers and friends I definitely see an interest in leading a greener lifestyle, from the food we eat to the products we clean our homes with.”

Green Genies are multi-talented and team member Sparrow also helps with the manufacturing of Tidy Thyme products at Boyle’s home in Altamont.

“If you believe that the energy put into making something affects the end result,” Sparrow said, “then Tidy Thyme is full of good vibes, as these products are typically made with a soundtrack of 80s dance music fueling the fun.”

Now that the line has blossomed in to several products, nine area shops have added the label to their shelves.  Petra Jancovicova owns Anchor No. 5 Boutique in Troy and always keeps the cleansers, candles and linen sprays in stock.

“The popularity of the Tidy Thyme collection has continued to grow monthly for the last year and a half that I’ve

Rows of Tidy Thyme products/Nicole Foster

Rows of Tidy Thyme products/Nicole Foster

carried it,” said Jancovicova.  “It is so great to see a customer come back for more and become a client. I use the entire line at home and at the shop.”

For those who are certain only products that come in the form of blue liquid, flower scented ammonia, or bleach can get their homes clean, Boyle offered a friendly challenge.

“As you’re doing seasonal cleaning and washing windows, instead of reaching for Windex, try clear, white vinegar in a spray bottle with some water. Or,” she added with a laugh, “just use Tidy Thyme’s magical Glass and Stainless Steel Cleaner.”