Jabre Dutton, 11, washes the windows of a client's car

💌 Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn email newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.

Jabre Dutton’s favorite thing about his car cleaning business is seeing customer reactions. The 11-year-old Germantown native remembers one car that looked like it served as repository for anything and everything, with bits and pieces of toys and debris scattered all around the seats and floor.

After the rising 7th grader transformed the interior, the owners were thrilled. “They loved it so much,” he said. “When his wife came down, I could see it in their eyes that they were very, very happy.”

When the couple told him, “It looks so perfect!” Jabre also felt happy: “It really cheered me up.”

Achieving that satisfaction — for the customer and for himself — is a driving goal for the young entrepreneur. He cleaned one heavily-stained minivan for nearly three hours, until even his mother, Sabrina Dutton, tried to get him to give it a rest. That was his proudest moment, he said.

“Me, I just want everything to be perfect,” Jabre said. “I love things to be perfect, for some reason.”

Though he’s running his own business before even entering high school, the Wissahickon Charter School student said he’s not motivated by money. His first car cleaning job paid in video game bucks, which he excitedly spent within the uber-popular Roblox game.

That’s when mom Sabrina explained he could probably make actual cash if he tried. “My mom was like, ‘You can actually earn real money instead of using it for Roblox,’” Jabre recalled.

At the beginning of August, he launched Jabre’s Car Cleaning Service, which specializes in vehicle interiors.

Dutton removes trash from a vehicle Credit: Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Inspired by the story of Tulsa’s ‘Black Wall Street’

Sabrina first noticed her son’s knack for neatening when he’d help her clean their home. The opportunity to flex those skills further came when Sabrina’s friend allowed Jabre to tidy up the interior of their car.

“He normally cleans the house better than me,” she said.

From there, the 29-year-old mother set off to help her son launch his enterprise and learn the value of the dollar. At 11, Jabree said he now knows about credit scores and savings accounts. Instead of spending his earnings on more Roblox perks, he’s been saving up to buy his first ever iPhone. This winter, he said, he might flip his car cleaning service into a snow clearing one.

Sabrina told her son about “Black Wall Street,” the Tulsa, Okla., community of entrepreneurs that thrived during segregation. The story inspired Jabre, he said, to want to be a part of an elite group of Black business owners.

Self-proclaimed “Momager” Sabrina drives Jabre to his appointments after she gets off work as a research medical assistant at CHOP.

“I am working seven days a week,” Sabrina said in a phone interview, cheerily explaining that going above and beyond for her child is just another part of the mommy gig.

Dutton makes sure he has plenty of supplies Credit: Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Since launching, Jabre’s received an outpouring of support from his Uptown community. One organization, I Love Thy Hood, awarded Jabre a $100 donation after he cleaned their vehicle. Jabre was also gifted a vacuum. He’s set up meetings with other nearby Black businesses like Hafiz Sisters Beauty Supply, so he can glean entrepreneurial advice.

He recalled an awesome moment when, while cleaning, a car drove by and yelled, “JCCS!” the abbreviation for Jabre’s Car Cleaning Service.

“And that really made me happy,” Jabre said. “People actually screaming my name out like that, like I’m a famous person? That means that I’m very known and I could clean more people’s cars, and I could get more reactions.”

Customers can hire Jabre using the booksy app, where options include car or SUV cleaning, priced between $30 and $45. He’s open for business in the evening from Wednesday to Friday, and the morning and afternoon on the weekends.

When he’s not vacuuming and polishing and treating stains well enough to suit his perfectionist nature, Jabre’s an aspiring YouTuber who’s really into video games.

At his school, learning will be virtual this fall because of the pandemic. Remote learning is easy for Jabre, he said. It gives him more free time and less distractions. It’s the social interaction with friends and teachers he’s missing. Talking with customers through his car cleaning service helps fill that void.

“I really like to meet new people,” Jabre said.

Sabrina Dutton said that’s just the kind of person her son is. “He’s not really about the money. He’s really about just making people happy.”

Layla A. Jones (she/her) was a general assignment reporter for Billy Penn from 2019 to 2021. Her work has helped underserved community organizations, earned free repairs for property owners who sustained...