When Michael Brown discussed the $300,000 in funding that cleaning company Clean Simple is closing, he wanted to highlight that part of the investment came from the parents of one of his cleaners.
“We thought it was fantastic,” the CEO said in an interview Tuesday. “Our slogan is that we focus on our cleaners so they can focus on you, and this speaks volumes for the relationship we have.”
The Halifax company started last year when Brown and co-founder Matt Cooper devised the theory that homeowners would book cleaners and pay for them online if the service was good enough. They’ve proven the concept works in Halifax. Next month, armed with new funding, a bigger team and new technology, they’re expanding into Ottawa.
“We selected Ottawa because we wanted a city that was larger than Halifax but one that doesn’t have the logistical issues of a city the size of Toronto,” said Brown.
The original idea was to use technology to improve the standard manual business of cleaning services.
People could book and pay for a cleaner online. With the cheaper administrative process, Clean Simple could afford to pay its cleaners more and retain them to ensure the highest quality of service. In 14 months of operation, it has only let one cleaner go.
The model worked in the residential market, but the business really grew when Clean Simple moved into the commercial market and adopted new technology. For example, the mobile platform its cleaners use allows them to communicate with the office manager, leaving notes on the cleaning job or asking questions at any hour.
That innovation is one reason the commercial business, which launched last autumn, has taken off. Clean Simple’s revenue increased 540 per cent between August and December.
Then one cleaner came up with an idea: It would help if management could use photos to explain the cleaning instructions. Done.
If Brown is meeting with clients, he takes photos of the site, draws instructions on the photos and sends them to the cleaners through the communication platform. He and Cooper are planning to add video soon.
Brown and Cooper have been raising capital and managed to secure $100,000 in equity funding, which they are supplementing with about $200,000 in debt and grants. The funding should close soon. One of the direct investors is Chris Harker, who recently sold his company Massage Addict and will be joining the team at Clean Simple.
Brown said he has also approached potential investors in Ontario. The feedback was encouraging. They liked the business plan and communications system, but one potential funder said the company should be going into more cities and raising more equity capital than $100,000.
The addition of Harker is part of an expansion wave under which the management team will grow to six people, including one in Ottawa. They plan to develop the business in Ottawa over the summer and consider expansion into other cities later in the year.
And they also plan to continue to recruit the highest quality of cleaner they can find.
“Our goal is to give them all the tools they need to be successful,” said Cooper. “They’re appreciative of the fact that we’re talking all the time to help them do their job well.”