Stanley Costa: From Brazil to the Bay
By Matt Solis, Editor
PETALUMA – The cultural diversity and temperate weather of the Bay Area make it one of the world’s most popular travel destinations, but when Stanley Costa first arrived from his native Brazil more than 20 years ago, it didn’t take long for Northern California to become more than just a nice place to visit. “I was born in Manaus, which is the capital of Amazonas, and I came to the U.S. in 1990 after graduating from college in Sao Paulo,” he explains. “I went to work for a company in Manchester, Massachusetts, but it was too cold for me! I was about to go back to Brazil, and my friend who was living in San Rafael asked me to come visit first. He actually got me a job, and even though I didn’t have a proper work visa, the company sponsored me and I decided to stay. The weather had a big impact on me. The mountains, the oceans—I fell in love with all of it. I thought I could bring my fiancée here and if she liked it, we could make a living. And that’s exactly what happened.”
Stanley started his professional career in telecommunications, and he enjoyed many years of success before certain events forced him to reconsider his life’s path. “In 2001, I was working for a telecommunications company and we hosted a meeting in Boston…on September 11,” he remembers. “That was a nightmare in many ways, and it took seven days just to get back home. Once I was home and started thinking about it, I realized I didn’t want to travel anymore. My wife was pregnant at the time and I just didn’t want to be away from her so much, so I talked to the company and they agreed to let me go along with 400 people during the small recession that occurred after 9/11/2001.”
Stanley used the severance pay he gained for 12 years of loyal service to revamp his wife’s business: a small house cleaning company with a strong clientele base that would henceforth be known as SonoMarin Cleaning Services. “My wife started the business in 1991, and even though I always participated in the decision-making process, it wasn’t until we restarted the company in 2002 that we began focusing on growing and moving in a more professional direction,” he says. “Our goal was to combine the same high level of quality that my wife had always provided with the skills I developed from years of working in the high-tech and telecommunications industries. After only one year, we had enough customers to pay off the initial investment we made to improve the company.”
Quality service has always been important to Stanley and his wife, and even though recent economic conditions have affected the house cleaning industry in terms of the public’s willingness to pay top dollar, SonoMarin Cleaning Services is still guided by the same philosophies upon which it was founded. “Even when the economy took a big hit in 2006, we never shied away from being a company focused on quality,” affirms Stanley. “We refocused and started making improvements to our internal procedures. I have an MBA in technology management, so I used that knowledge to completely revamp our IT and automate our scheduling system. Those things have been important for maintaining the level of quality our customers have come to expect.”
Stanley considers himself a technophile in all aspects of his life, but even though he spends much of his free time enjoying his home theater system and thinking of new ways to optimize SonoMarin Cleaning Services’ technological support, he still makes time for more traditional activities with his family. “My daughter is 11 and loves to ride bikes, so I try to go biking with her every weekend,” he says. “For the most part, though, I’m a technology-oriented person. Some people tease me for it, but that’s what I’m passionate about.”
Ultimately, Stanley and his wife strive to run their business the same way they live their lives—by working hard and approaching everything they do with honesty. “Whenever I hire someone, I tell them two things: do your best and always tell the truth,” he says. “I believe honest, hard work is the key to success, and all our employees share the same values.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: What country would you most like to visit and why?
A: I’m currently planning to visit Europe, actually. My family immigrated to Brazil from Spain, Portugal and England, so I’m looking forward to seeing those countries.
Q: What’s your favorite sport?
A: I’m a soccer fan, but I’m not a fanatic. I’ve been learning to appreciate American sports with my daughter. Since I wasn’t born and raised here, the sports culture has never really appealed to me, but nowadays I find myself watching American football on TV and trying to follow.
Q: What’s your favorite band/musician?
A: My favorite bands are The Rolling Stones, The Eagles and The Beatles. For contemporary music, Maroon 5 is one of my favorites. I also go back to classical music like Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban. I like music in general. If it’s good, I’ll listen.
Q: Do you have a favorite restaurant?
A: For seafood, I like McCormick & Kuleto’s in San Francisco. There’s a small Italian restaurant by the Marin Civic Center called La Toscana that I like very much. In Sonoma County, there’s a sushi restaurant in Petaluma called Fuji that’s excellent. I tend to like restaurants that are family-owned because they keep the food the same.
Q: Dogs or cats?
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A: Dogs. I have nothing against cats, but I love dogs. We have a five-year-old Miniature Schnauzer named James. He’s a smart little guy; I talk to him and I swear he understands me.