Originally I’m from London but have been homeless for two years in Silicon Valley. Previously I had an educational games startup that I had launched from Louisville KY after outsourcing the work online. The code came back 1yr late and too buggy to use. I decided to come west and try to build a team to make it happen. During this period I fell into poverty and had no support to get me out of it. I was living in my car with two big dogs.
Six months ago, after 8 months of volunteer cleaning at Hacker Dojo I finally acted on the encouragement of HackerDojo members to start my own cleaning business. I looked into the market and saw opportunity right away. I’ve assembled a team who are building a data driven system that will get customers their price instantly without having to wait one week following a high pressure sales pitch walk-around. Additionally the industry is renowned for treating its people poorly. We’re changing that, and in doing so are ‘Cleaning up the Cleaning Industry’
Without doing any marketing yet we’ve earned enough revenue to justify taking on our own Palo Alto office. We now have 5 office based people, 6 cleaners, and one advisor for green cleaning. Only the cleaners are currently getting paid.
If you scroll around 2/3rds down the page in following Guardian link you can see more about my homeless plight and a picture with me and my two dogs (they both died recently a month apart from each other) http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/may/12/silicon-valley-geeks-coders-programmers
Squiffy Clean are an earth friendly and high attention to detail altruistic data driven office cleaning company. We offer green cleaning, cleaning for health, and supplies. Just recently we were approved distributers for Philz Coffee. We’re developing a system thats scales the business nationwide and easily takes into account local pricing adjustments.
It’s our mission to ‘Clean up the Cleaning Industry’. That starts with paying our cleaning staff well. They earn $17 per hour, the highest in the industry, and are treated like friends instead of being subjected to the industry standard ‘culture of fear’ in the workplace. We’re also giving our first 25 cleaners equity in the business too.
I started this business six months ago with not a cent in my pocket by persuading a customer to pay ahead of service. They did, and I was able to buy enough equipment and supplies to get started. Six months later we’re a team of 12 in our own office.
Our growth has intentionally been held back to protect our service standards while we fine tune our operational procedures and build our technology out. Our current customers include Singularity University. We’ve grown from $0 to $12k per month in only six months without doing any marketing at all.
The biggest challenge is working capital. Pretty much everything that comes in goes straight back out on wages, rent, and other operational costs. It’s embarrassing that every two weeks I have to pressure our clients to pay the bill so I can pay the workers.
I could pay for some printing and do some local street level marketing, employ more cleaners, and buy more equipment allowing me to service more customers. Having the working capital also removes the constant stress of paying our staff on time without having to go tell our customers we need paying that same day.
$500 Recruiting – Covers Ad placement and background checks
$2,000 Equipment – We could use some more equipment to help service current customers but also taking on new business requires another equipment capital outlay
$7,000 Working Capital – This has been our biggest problem. Without WC every time a customer order supplies from us it hurts us as it wipes us out. That leaves us not able to pay our own bills on time as our money got tied up in customer supplies. A sale should be a good thing for a business, for us it creates problems instead of joy. Additionally we have cleaner wages to cover every two weeks but typically customers pay us every 30 days. Stressing customers for immediate supplies payment before delivery would result in them buying their supplies somewhere else and weaken our relationship with them.