Women in Business: Q&A with Adora Cheung, CEO and Co-Founder of Homejoy

Founded by sister and brother Adora and Aaron Cheung in July 2012, Homejoy started because the duo was unable to find a convenient and affordable cleaning service for their own home. Headquartered in San Francisco, CA, Homejoy has now grown to over 30 cities across the US and Canada.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
When growing up, a number of events resulted in me being very accustomed to transition and figuring out things on my own. This has helped me get to where I am today and it's something I try to empower others with. I trust others and their abilities to the point that I'm incredibly hands-off. A motivated person is most capable when left to their own devices. That said, the most important part of my job is to motivate and up-level people -- to teach them something new or provide them the resources to help them do their job better and advance to the next level.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as the CEO and Co-Founder of Homejoy?
I haven't been employed at too many places but three experiences have helped me today. First is grad school. I would eventually quit my econ PhD program for a startup but this is where I really learned how to be approach problems in a structural way and think differently. Second is Slide (a startup founded by Max Levchin). Here I learned how to be data-driven. Not every decision has to be based off of metrics, but it's definitely a reason why we've done well so far at Homejoy. And third is working as a cleaner. This really taught me a lot about the industry and the challenges fellow cleaners face.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
These two terms needn't be so mutually exclusive. Work takes up a large percentage of anyone's life, so if you're not passionate about what you're doing at work, your life probably sucks more than it should. As a result, everybody has a different definition of work/life balance. In my opinion, if you focus on what you like and what's important to your values, you'll naturally find the right balance. For me, Homejoy is my life, so I spend a lot of my time thinking about it. That said, when I need to recharge, I used to skydive a lot but lately have taken the safer option of just biking.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Homejoy?
The biggest highlight is being able to meet, hire and work with so many great folks. I'm really grateful for the team we've gathered over the past year. In terms of challenges, scaling a business and bettering the customer experience at the same time will always be a challenge.

What advice can you offer individuals who are seeking to establish their own business?
Start now. Whether your dream is a beer bar, fashion line, or tech startup, don't wait for tomorrow. It's very rare to find product-market fit with your first few ideas or iterations, so time is not on your side. That said, you better be tenacious because the setbacks you'll face will be very unexpected and at times tough to overcome.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I believe that women face issues in the workplace and things like harassment and bullying need to be addressed. However, I don't think women should blame gender stereotyping or what they don't have on their failures. There are many women who have shown us that it is possible to succeed. If getting to that point is important to you, set your mind to it, power through and you'll get there.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
I honestly haven't read the book yet. However, I appreciate that this movement exists based on what women have experienced in the past and believe what Sheryl Sandberg is doing is important.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I don't have a rolodex of people I always call up for pearls of wisdom. However, I've been very fortunate to have met many smart and wise people who I can seek advice from when I find myself stuck. Usually these are inflection points in my life, where extra opinions help me validate options I may be facing.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I love stories where the character has to defy odds set by the majority. For example, female computer scientists from the 40s and 50s such as Grace Hopper. At the time these women were clearly in a field "meant" just for men. They had to do an extraordinary amount of learning by themselves and pushing through barriers.

What are your hopes for the future of Homejoy?
Homejoy's mission is to make homes happier. The main way we are doing this right now is by creating a tech platform to connect people with home service providers, and we've started with home cleaning. Our long term goal is to be the 'get help' button for all home care needs so that people can spend more time on the things they love.