LEHIGH ACRES, Fla — There are a number of things that drove sisters, Winnifer Cofield and Elizabeth Puckett, to the point where they decided it was time to start their own business. The pandemic was one reason. Their faith was a larger reason. And their family was the most important.
Their story is episode five of our series, SWFL Reinvented: Moving Forward. Every week we profile someone in Southwest Florida who has changed their life, taken a risk, and started their own business. Once we tell you their backstory, we follow the business owner as they work to get their dream off the ground.
Winnifer and Elizabeth will tell you their story begins in the Fort Myers neighborhood where they grew up.
“Being raised in Harlem Lakes, a lot of people see it as just a bad area,” Cofield says. "But there’s a lot of people that came from that neighborhood that are now successful. And I want other people to know, and other kids to know that you can do it. Whatever you put your mind to, you can do it.”
It's an outlook they inherited from their parents.
James Parson was the son of a South Carolina sharecropper. He had no education when he moved to Florida, but he still built a concrete finishing business. Their mother, Susie Brown, raised seven children in that Harlem Lakes house and then decided to start her own business.
“My mom, went to school when she was 40 years old, cosmetology. She was the top in her class,” Puckett says.
“They taught us the foundation of hard work,” Cofield says. “Growing up, my mom, her favorite slogan was ’nothing comes to a sleeper but a dream.’ So whatever you want, you gotta get up and get it.”
It makes sense then, that not even 2020 could knock this family down. When the year started, Winnifer was in Fort Myers with her husband and family. And Elizabeth was in Columbus, Georgia with her family. At the beginning of the pandemic, Elizabeth lost her job. And it became clear to the entire family that their mother, who is now a widow living with severe dementia, was not safe in a nursing home.
“It was rapid,” Cofield says. "Covid was all in the nursing home. So we were like ‘we don’t know how we’re going to do it, but we’re going to figure it out.”
The siblings took Brown out of the nursing home and began taking care of her full time. Elizabeth moved back home so she could help out.
“And it gets hard sometimes. But we still stand strong,” she says.
Elizabeth worked for a cleaning company for about a decade before she left Georgia. Late last year, at a crossroads in her life, she decided to follow her mother’s advice. Get up and get it. But if she started a business, she wanted her sister Winnifer to be part of it too.
“And she was like, ‘hey, let’s do it. I’m on board. Let’s go for it.’”
In January, they started Maids on the Move cleaning service. The freedom of having their own business gives them time to care for their mother. And hopefully, it will be something they can build, in her honor.