In college, Jason Garland spent his summers cleaning grout at large commercial businesses for his best friend’s dad. A St. Louis native, Garland played football at Benedictine College in Atchison and didn’t have time to find a typical job during summer break. It was during this time that he fell in love with the “art of cleaning.” There was something satisfying in figuring out the exact chemicals or pads for each floor and making it look brand new when finished. He also enjoyed the relationships formed between the cleaner and the client--"there is something special about fixing a need that the customer has."
After graduating with a bachelor’s in business and working his way up in the corporate world as a production manager, Garland decided he needed a change. An entrepreneurial spirit ran through his blood (both his parents owned several of their own businesses), so he chose to go back to his roots and open his own cleaning business in Topeka. That’s when Unique Solution Services was born. Garland credits the success of his business to his consistency, character, and integrity. He also relates having a successful business to being successful in football. “You can talk all you want,” he said, “but once you get hit, everyone sees what you’re made of.”
While attending a meeting for The Topeka Generosity Network, someone told Garland about 712 Innovations--a local work incubator that’s open twenty-four hours a day in downtown Topeka. After checking it out, he signed up for a membership immediately. A year later, 712 Innovations has proven to be exactly what Unique Solution Services needed to expand even further.
Since Garland does most of his work from home, he was tired of constantly having to set up interviews and other meetings at local coffee shops. Now he can conduct everything, including larger meetings, at 712 Innovations in one of their private offices or conference rooms. “Simply having a space like this gives my business a more professional standing.” Through his membership, Garland has also benefited from 1 Million Cups, which is an event that takes place on the first Wednesday of every month and allows local entrepreneurs to present their ideas. He is also starting the Wheelhouse Incubator in March. This is a 12-week program for entrepreneurs to learn how to scale up their business.
Garland’s favorite part about being a member of 712 Innovations, though, is the connections he makes with other members. “Everyone is there for the same reason,” he said. “Most of the conversations revolve around business. People are constantly giving advice, encouragement, and offering connections. But it goes way beyond business--it’s like a family atmosphere. I’ve built so many great relationships through being at 712.”
Being an “outsider” from St. Louis, Garland is impressed with how well his business has done here in just a few years, considering he had few local connections at the time. He credits this to the atmosphere that Topeka, and the Greater Topeka Partnership have strived to make for local entrepreneurs. “It’s obvious that Topeka set a goal to change the culture, and they’re doing it. Entrepreneurs and small business owners have been a priority, and we can feel it. That’s the best way to invest in your community because when you invest in people, you’re going to see positive results.”