When MyClean started 3 years ago, we did everything the hard way. The founders of our company are all non-technical – our CEO is a former derivatives salesman – and other founders had backgrounds in marketing and finance. We outsourced design and development for a cleaning website that allows customers to book appointments online, semi-automates scheduling, and emails cleaners their schedule. Until we hired a product manager a few months ago, there wasn’t a single full-time employee or founder who knew how to write HTML or open a .PSD. Using this simple platform from 3 years ago – the design hasn’t even been changed since then – we’ve bootstrapped our business into something to be proud of. Long story short – we hustled, cleaned and persevered.
Things were never easy. When our server crashed, we called our out-sourced developer in Canada and prayed he wasn’t at the movies with his girlfriend. When we needed to offer customers gift cards and keep up with the competition, we stuck some text in a random corner of our site. Though our site definitely never won a Webby award, it still brought in traffic from Google and converted ~ 7% of visitors into customers. Before the cleaning space was crowded and other competitors arrived with millions in VC money – MyClean managed to bootstrap a successful online cleaning business through sheer grit and integrity, focusing on excellent customer service and properly training our cleaners/employees.
That being said, we definitely iterated with our model before getting it right. Originally we tried an “uber” model and outsourced customer appointments to 3rd party cleaning agencies. The results were what you’d expect (almost all of our 1 star Yelp reviews are from those days). After trying that, we went back to the drawing board and decided to in-house all cleaners. We brought on a stellar VP of Operations, Ken Schultz. He shocked his in-laws when he told them he wanted to put his Ivy League education and law degree to work as the first executive hire at a cleaning company (without telling them he worked for pure sweat equity for 6 months because there was no money to pay him). While he fine-tuned the operations, our CEO Mike Scharf pounded the pavement and built the commercial side of the business through door-to-door sales. Meanwhile, our amazing customer service reps worked 6 day weeks to handle residential clients continuing to come in from our website. The stage was set for a real business to take off.
In less than three years, from September 2010 to April 2013, we’ve grown monthly revenue from $15,000 to more than $300,000 – 2000% growth! Though we may have possessed a website that looked like it was from 1998, we sure as heck could clean homes and offices! MyClean now employs ~100 cleaners and is on track to reach $4,000,000 in revenue this year. Years of doing things the hard way have forced us to focus on our main product – the clean. We’ve thrilled thousands of happy customers at their homes and offices, and it’s for that reason alone that we’ve been a successful company. However, we’re now at the point where we can truly invest in our technology, and we’ve hired a full-time product manager/dev team to launch a brand new site for us this month (more coming soon next week)!
As we continue to grow, we’re turning into more of a tech-oriented culture of conversion rates, page-load speeds, cohorts, and metrics, but we’ll never forget the foundation of our startup’s success: pure hustle, happy cleaners, and thrilled customers. Next time someone tells you that you can’t start a successful online startup without a technical co-founder on-board, order him or her a maid on MyClean.com. Just be prepared to do things the hard way.
Pick a big market. Choosing a proven $65B/year home cleaning market provided a lot of margin for error while growing revenues. In new or unproven markets, you can strike out much faster – think of the difference between Color vs. Instagram in finding product/market fit – despite the funding.
Turn hard things into easy things. Hiring a house cleaner is not rocket science, but it’s not as easy as ordering a book on Amazon. Building a platform that made the process easier was an opportunity hidden in plain site.
Focus on your strengths. Our founders weren’t technical, but they had backgrounds in sales, finance, marketing, and operations. As non-technical founders, choosing to focus on their strengths instead of role-playing Steve Jobs paid off.
Don’t focus on what’s sexy – focus on what’s profitable. Starting an online cleaning company 3 years didn’t sound sexy – but nowadays there’s no less than two Y-Combinator companies and many other venture backed startups in this space.
See how we became the best cleaning service in NYC on Yelp!