Aricelma Lima Zaleski came to the U.S. from Brazil in October 2015. She came here by herself with very little money to start her new life.
Now she owns a reputable cleaning service that she runs with her husband Thomas Zaleski and daughter Victoria Lima called Lima’s Cleaning Service.
In Brazil, Zaleski struggled to make enough money to survive. “It was very hard at that time,” Zaleski said. “It’s still hard right now, there were not too many jobs that pay very well, so you can’t have the same life [as in the U.S.].”
One of her cousins let her stay with her in Exton. Zaleski decided she would rather be in Philadelphia. “There were more job opportunities, and they pay better,” Zaleski said.
Zaleski didn’t speak English when she got here; she learned from listening to people talk and diving headfirst into American culture.
She relocated to the Northeast because the Brazilian community is prominent here, compared to other parts of the city. She rented a room with people she didn’t know, a situation she described as a little strange, and secured a job cleaning with her cousin.
“It was the only job I found where I could make money fast,” Zaleski said.
But Zaleski is a hard worker and was determined to make a better life for herself and her daughter.
“I decided to do open up my own business,” Zaleski said. “I was doing business cards and doing online stuff.”
Zaleski explained that it was hard, and business was slow at first. But her second client helped her grow tremendously by using word of mouth and giving Zaleski’s phone number to her friends. This client owns a few yoga studios in Center City, which is where Zaleski cleaned for her. The client even started spreading the word about Lima’s Cleaning Service via social media.
Along this journey, she met her husband, Thomas. He describes it as the best decision he ever made. Thomas is dedicated to both his wife and the business, which is now a family affair as her daughter, Victoria, a 19-year-old who works for the company, along with her establishing her modeling career.
“I’m the vacuum repairman, and I buy all the supplies,” Thomas said.
Zaleski described the growth of her business as scary because it’s not just her anymore. “I need to hire people and care about the people that I hired,” Zaleski said. She described how it’s about her employees and customer satisfaction that’s in her hands.
Problem-solving in a new country was also difficult for her, but she took it one step at a time, and now she can run this business with her eyes closed practically.
Zaleski elaborated how not everyone who comes to the U.S. is as lucky as she is; she’s known people who have been here 15 years and don’t speak English. But what is different for her is her ability to jump headfirst into American culture and to learn the language.
“I was curious,” Zaleski said. “And I never give up.” ••