Insights

In 2003, recent college graduates Charles Edison and Sam Ward were budding entrepreneurs. They were in their early 20s, focused, driven and ambitious. 

An understatement, to be sure.

Still, while their goals were big, their experience was limited. With some janitorial work in their background, the industry choice for their company was somewhat easy: Ward-Edison's Professional Cleaning Services was founded in a garage that same year. 

But they’d still need guidance and some good advice—plus a little luck—if they were going to become successful business owners.

“When we first got started, we realized we didn’t know everything,” Charles says, noting that he’d advise young entrepreneurs to look for—and ask for—help. “Luckily, we had a mentor.”

Their mentor, a business owner in the construction-management field, helped to guide them as they started their company, providing valuable insight that can only come from owning your own business, the pair says. He also introduced them to Tommy Elliott, Executive Business Development Officer at Old National, right at a time when the bank was looking for a company that would provide clean-up after a construction project.

It was all falling into place for Charles and Sam. Ward-Edison took on that two-week clean-up as a one-time job. But soon they were given the opportunity to bid on future—and recurring—jobs for Old National, too.

“They were smart. They were great guys and always put themselves in the right places,” Tommy says, acknowledging that their hard work and logical approach to business put them ahead of others.

The partnership also was part of the commitment Old National has to supporting companies that are representative of the communities it serves, with diversity and equity as an important component. 

Charles and Sam were like many first-time business owners—interested in getting their company started and not focused on things like minority-owned certification. But when others encouraged them to pursue that certification, they started to realize its importance. 

“It’s definitely important,” Sam says. “It’s a way to try to level the playing field.”

Old National continues to count diverse suppliers among its partners, with certified minority-, women-, veteran-owned businesses, and well as those owned by individuals with disabilities. 

Today, Ward-Edison janitorial has about 100 employees and serves about 20 clients—including one of their first: Old National.

“We couldn’t have gotten a better start,” Charles says. “It’s a unique relationship with Old National. We know we can always reach out to them. It’s not all about cleaning, it’s about growing as businessmen.”

“It’s great to have someone you can call and bounce ideas off of,” Sam adds.

And even after 18 years, they still recognize the importance of having guidance and good advice to help them move forward. Especially now, as they grow into a larger business and look for larger projects to take on.

“They’ve been instrumental in our growth. They’ve gone to bat for us and have been there to help us along the way,” Charles says.

“They weren’t naïve; they used their banker in a consultive way. They didn’t come to you and say ‘we need this,’ it was ‘here’s what we’re thinking about,’” Tommy says. He adds that it has been encouraging to see them grow into a larger, successful business. “We’re proud of them.”

Interested in partnering with Old National?

If you are a certified minority-, women-, disabled- or veteran-owned business or small business interested in partnering with us, please submit our diverse supplier form.