Three years ago, former Citibanker Mike Russell turned to his friend at Bank of America, Mike Scharf, with a business idea.
The New Yorkers had busy lives and thus, messy apartments. They also had disposable incomes. But when you live in a non-doorman building with no cleaning service readily available, getting your home cleaned can be tough.
Cleaning services are largely found via word of mouth or direct mail advertisements. A reliable, easy to peruse database of cleaning people online didn’t exist.
The pair bootstrapped MyClean with the help of a $267,000 friends and family round of financing. The site makes finding and ordering a cleaning service in the New York City area as easy as ordering food on Seamless or GrubHub.
Scharf and Russell had to overcome a lot to make the business work. They scrapped the original idea to outsource cleaners after clients received disappointing results and left scathing Yelp reviews. Problems with the site were tough to fix; neither Scharf nor Russell are technical. But now Scharf and Russell have created a business that sustains more than just themselves.
MyClean now oversees every part of the cleaning cycle, from managing site orders to dispatching its workers to various locations on the fly. Scharf, the company’s CEO, works with government sponsored agencies to find people who are looking for a steady paycheck, gives them training, and hires them as full-time cleaners working six days per week. MyClean now employees 125 cleaners in addition to the dozen people who oversee the entire operation.
Scharf estimates his staff cleans 1,000 homes and businesses each each week. Users are loyal; 80% buy into MyClean’s subscription model, which allows them to book cleaners consistently every week, two weeks or month. There’s a 5-15% discount given to subscribers, who can also pick how thoroughly they want their residences cleaned.
To tidy up a one bedroom, one bath in Manhattan, the going rate is $84. To get it really clean, it’s $135. If your house is in really bad shape, MyClean’s team will give it a deep clean, which includes a complete wipe down of the oven, cabinet shelves and more for a little over $200. Tip is not included. Cleaners can be dispatched the same day you order the service, as long as the request is in before 4:00 PM.
At $135 for a thorough clean, it’s more expensive than a cleaning service you could find yourself. But MyClean makes it so easy to find and book a cleaning online, many people don’t mind paying a little extra.
MyClean isn’t profitable yet but it’s breaking even. And as the cleaning startup space heats up (venture-backed startups Exec have launched competitive businesses on the west coast), MyClean’s business is too.
Under the leadership of Ken Schultz, a former lawyer who is MyClean’s VP of Operations, MyClean is generating $4-5 million annually. It’s raking in $400,000 per month, up from $15,000 a few years ago.
To continue growing the business, MyClean will be launching a mobile app and expanding to more cities. Currently, the service only operates in Manhattan, Queens, Bronx and Brooklyn. Scharf’s team is eying New Jersey cities where many New York City commuters live.
For Scharf, a first-time entrepreneur, growing a multi-million-dollar business hasn’t been predictable. When asked what’s surprised him most about running a startup he replied, “You have to be willing to do everything yourself and follow through.”
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