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Shena Penn

Achieving certain milestones tend to take over a person's life. Going to college. Raising a family. Working a demanding job. Starting a business. Shena Penn managed to balance all four of those things at the same time.

The resident of Detroit’s Cody Rouge neighborhood was in the process of graduating from Wayne State University when she decided to start her own business two years ago. That business turned out to be Pure Decontamination, a crime-scene cleanup company. The 20-something was also a single-mom and working a job that required her to wake up each day at 3 a.m.

"It's been a really long journey as a single mom and going to school," Penn says. "It was an interesting time."

Penn had her daughter when she was 17-years-old. She still found time to graduate from Wayne State University with a bachelors degree in journalism while raising her young child in the midst of the Great Recession. Penn always had an affinity for cleaning so she launched Pure Decontamination in 2012 with the help of local entrepreneurship programs like ProsperUS Detroit.

Pure Decontamination handles the really messy jobs, such as crime scene cleanups or sanitizing a overly cluttered house after a shut-in person finally leaves. In a way, Penn is like Amy Adams character from the movie "Sunshine Cleaning" where Penn is the entrepreneurial hero who helps people during the most profound and often saddest experiences of their lives.

Building that business while balancing the rest of life was no easy juggling act. Penn took a job with Quicken Loans, which paid more but demanded more of her life. Between building up Pure Decontamination, raising her family, getting married, and working a job, Penn didn't have much in the way of spare time or money.

"Quicken Loans paid more and required more house, but I put that extra money into the business," Penn says.

Until this year. The newly married Penn left her job earlier this year to focus on Pure Decontamination and her young family. This was the year she knew something had to give because juggling all of the demands wasn't a sustainable situation.

"I was almost in denial," Penn says. "I was trying to do a lot of things at the same time. You can only juggle five or 10 balls at the same time before one of them drops."

Penn decided to hold onto her family and her business. Doing everything at once is a path she is glad she followed for a time, but the budding entrepreneur knows she needs to focus on her business if she wants it to become everything it can be.

"I was trying to be superwoman and do everything," Penn says. "I had to choose to do this and not to do this." She adds, "this things in my like I am inviting them in. I am not at work and people are dumping them on my plate."

- Written by Jon Zemke

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