Upon my graduation from Concordia College in May 2001, I contemplated my future and a move to Atlanta, GA. Atlanta held the promise of a position with a large auto dealership. In my heart though I felt the Fargo-Moorhead area held more promise for a strong start as an entrepreneur. I worked my way through college with various jobs, including being an account representative for another commercial cleaning business. With the decision to stay in Fargo made and the encouragement of friends, I incorporated Ambassador Cleaning as a start-up commercial cleaning company.
I beat the streets with a relentless determination, attested to by many, to land accounts that would help build my business into a growth vehicle for my future. My early accounts included Timber Lodge Steakhouse, Applebee’s, Alerus Financial (Fargo locations), and Medical Associates P.A. Most of these accounts are still our clients and have helped immensely in offering referrals. Through their recommendations, Ambassador Cleaning has grown quickly now employing 60 team members. I am proud of what my wife and I have accomplished in such a short time.
By offering a great level of service for a price most have said is very good value, we continue to build a company that not only serves the needs of many families, including my own, but also serves the needs of our community. We have created something from nothing and have helped employ a number of those from my own war-torn home country of Bosnia. We are proof that the American Dream is alive and well. As the old adage goes, the harder one works, the luckier you get. May our luck only continue.
Read more below about the owner, Ned Halilovic.
Persistence Pays Off
Nedzad Halilovic starts each day with a strong shot of Turkish coffee.
“You drink that with a cube of sugar, and then you go to work,” he says. The owner of Ambassador Cleaning took a part of the day off on Monday, so he and his wife, Mirela, could move into their new home in West Fargo. Eight years after escaping the war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina, Halilovic is living the American Dream. In his short time here, the 25-year-old has learned English, earned a college degree, gained U.S. citizenship, started a business, and bought his own home.
“He’s very entrepreneurial, very hard working,” says Dick Solberg, President of State Bank & Trust of Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. Solberg became acquainted with Halilovic in their Kiwanis Club. He helped Halilovic with his business plan and helped Nedzad and Mirela with their mortgage. “They are very fun to work with,” Solberg said. “They are doing well and they will do even better in the future.” Halilovic, a Bosnian Muslim, grew up in Srebrenica, a city of about 50,000 where an estimated 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men were executed in 1995.
Three close friends were among the dead and his sister among the wounded when a Serbian rocket exploded in the streets of Tuzla, where his family had fled that same year. Halilovic’s eyes and ears were injured in the blast. In 1996, at 17 years of age, he made the decision to leave his country along with his family. “I saw too much. I was too young to die. And I had lost my best friends,” he says. When he reached safety in Croatia, he learned of a program under which refugees could seek asylum in the United States. When he reached New York, they asked him where he wanted to go. He said, “Someplace not too big, not much crime.” And they gave him Fargo. He spent his first year here with the Mike Christl family in West Fargo, and attended West Fargo High School. “I studied 20 words a day when I first came here,” Halilovic says of the challenge of learning English.
He learned English well enough to gain admittance to Concordia College, where he earned a degree in political science. To help pay his way through school, he worked for a cleaning service. When he graduated in 2001, he paid $500 — the only money he had — to an attorney to draw up legal papers establishing Ambassador Cleaning. “I had an idea about this, and I wanted to be on my own,” he says of his decision to start a business. Ambassador “is a strong name,” says Halilovic . His father, Dzevad, who came here to see him graduate, sold Ambassador-brand blankets when he owned a shop in Bosnia, says Halilovic. Timber Lodge, a new restaurant that year, was his first account. Today he has 15 restaurant accounts. “All the major restaurants in town,” says Halilovic.
He has a pickup truck, 15 employees, and at least that many vacuums. Some of his employees are Bosnian. “It’s easy for them to work with me. We make a good team,” he says. Those who work full time receive health insurance as a benefit. “Some of my employees have been with me from the beginning,” says Halilovic. “My goal is to pay my very good employees. The money is not just for me. I look forward to paying people. And I don’t want someone to leave me just because of $1.” Mirela, who he met on a visit back to Bosnia during Ramadan, helps schedule Ambassador Cleaning jobs. Halilovic takes on a job or two himself each morning, then calls on his customers and visits the prospective clients.
He recently bought a carpet cleaning machine and plans to branch out into home cleaning. Halilovic only recently landed an account with Seasons at Rose Creek in South Fargo. “He had been after me for a long time,” says restaurant owner Earlyne Hector. “He’s a neat young man, and he and his wife are very hard workers.” Fred Skoda, who is in the property management field, met Halilovic shortly after Ambassador Cleaning was founded.
“The kid’s persistence just blew me away. He was relentless,” Skoda says. “Five years ago the kid could hardly speak English. Look at him now. He has a work ethic that very few people have today.”