Cleaning Products You Can Drink!

Posted by Pete Gilfillan and Nat Truitt on May 19, 2021 12:49:00 PM

We all clean–or we hire someone to do it. Not all services are the same though. Ecomaids offers a very unique service of eco-friendly cleaning. No harsh chemicals are used, but a proprietary, all-natural product and skill are used to make sure your house it germ free.

Sharon Cupach from ecomaids comes onto the show to talk about the awesome services the franchisor provides, including the marketing (corporate finds leads for you), hiring (corporate sends you resumes of people in your area), and training (cleaning isn't just about the spray, it's also about the process).

Take a listen as Pete and Nat learn a thing or two about how to make sure their counters stay COVID-free.


Pete:                Well, Nat, welcome to the podcast. How are you, man?


Nat:                  I am doing awesome, glad to get another week under my belt. Kids are headed for fall break, so I'm kind of like, how do you have fall break, when it's like school hasn't, like have you really been doing school? Like what's going on?


Pete:                Yes. I mean, my kids are online, so really, the break is nothing, right? And we would normally go visit colleges during this time period, but we can't do that, right? So it's kind of a dead time for some point.


Nat:                  Are they doing a virtual college tour? Like what exactly? My kids aren't that old yet.


Pete:                Yes, virtual college tours. My daughter's been going through a bunch of them. But it's not the same feel, right? You can't figure out the kind of the feel, the vibe when you walk through the campus, and that's so important. But unfortunately, that's the reality of today is everything is online.


Nat:                  I drive by one of the local colleges, and I see, they actually, it's kind of like been a disruptive year. They've got like the school, or somebody must have provided like kind of these fire like burning pits or fire pits.

And so they have like, you'll see like 10 or 12 chairs set up in a circle and then like a fire pit. So I don't know how much learning's going on these days.


Pete:                Well, I think it's just get them out where they're safely distancing and stuff like that. So I would have never thought the colleges were going to get opened and keep the kids there, but I think they're doing a great job with it.


Nat:                  Yes. So are you having enough bandwidth at your home office for with the zooms going on?


Pete:                Yes, we've got a ton of zooms, right? So there's five of us on zooms every day. So a lot of bandwidth is being used. I think about this pandemic Nat, and this has been a big deal as COVID-19 seven months in or so. But I think there's something even worse that's happening, right?


Nat:                  What could be worse?


Pete:                I think people are getting, and I love zoom, but I think they're getting zoomed to death. Really, I think this zooming, my poor daughter right she's in high school, it's her senior year, they do seven hours of zooming.

And she said the other night; she goes, dad, I can't concentrate after like five hours of this, I can't take it. She goes, but the school is being very good; they're saying, listen, you guys just need to get better and focus more and just look out the window for three seconds it'll make it all better.

But it's like zoom is now our life, right? So like we did the holidays. We did like Easter; we zoomed it, right? We get together with friends with zooming; everything is zooming now.


Nat:                  We're zooming it in.


Pete:                So our kids like three years from now, when they're going and getting therapy, they're going to say I had this zoom thing, right? It killed me. So are you seeing the same thing with your kids?


Nat:                  Yes, they're doing quite a bit of zoom. I think it's driving them a little crazy. Like my 16-year-old doesn't even play an Xbox anymore, I think he's just screened out by the end of the day. Just wants to go lift weights or do something more active.

So I think it's good; I mean, as an entrepreneurial family, you just kind of have to roll with the punches and try to teach your kids to go with that, right?


Pete:                Yes, absolutely. I think we're all trying to just do our very best, we have our home offices, and we're getting by it. But I think we're kind of losing that touch because we want to be around people and zoom, it's hard to. You can't hug people on zoom, and I guess you can't hug anybody now anyways.

But I think this idea it's crazy. But I think the long-term impact; I was just reading something where they're saying that it's going to be more important to get these kids back to school, the damage of not being there is worse than actually going to the schools, and I believe that.


Nat:                  Yes. The kids are so social, right? Half of going to school is just goofing off with your buddies.


Pete:                Yes, absolutely. And it's a social like. I mean, can you imagine if you had a first grader and third grader doing zooms all day long from your house?


Nat:                  Yes. That's a good point. Our kids are all a little bit older, so they're a little bit more self-sufficient. But that would be, yes, I don't even want to think about that. Who do we have today, Pete?


Pete:                Oh, we have Sharon Cupach from Ecomaids. Sharon, welcome.


Nat:                  Hey Sharon.


Sharon C:          Hi Pete, hi Nat, how are you?


Pete:                Well, welcome to the hire yourself podcast, it's great to have you here today. We've been trying to get you on here; I know you're very busy, lots of great things going on at ecomaids, lots of wonderful momentum. And so I know Sharon, you are an industry expert. You've been in franchising; how long have you been in franchising? I know you got a great career.


Sharon C:          Geez, I just had a big milestone birthday. And I hate to even date myself because it's a weird birthday. But it's been 24 years in franchising, and really exciting. I mean we're all in franchising, so it's not like we woke up in the morning when we graduated college and said, oh, let's get into franchising. You fall in, and you never leave.


Pete:                Yes, absolutely. So with ecomaids, how long have you been with ecomaids?


Sharon C:          So I started with the ecomaids when happiness, which is our parent company, acquired the brand, so it's been since May of last year.


Pete:                Okay, good. And ecomaid's a very cool concept, you and I have talked about it before. But tell me, when was it started? How long has it been around?


Sharon C:          Yes. So it's got an interesting background, it actually started back in the 90s when eco-friendly and green wasn't cool; nobody cared about it back then.

And it really didn't take off. However, one of the franchisees that came aboard way back then, about 10, 11 years ago, is our CEO Lindsey Delasaga. So fast forward to last May, Happiness acquired ecomaids, we raised Lindsay up to be our CEO, and we're starting history-making right now.


Pete:                Oh, that's awesome. So how many franchisees do you have?


Sharon C:          We have 26 franchises, 48 units. So we are just shy. Basically, this growth has happened in the last six months. So we're just shy of 50 units in six months, it's crazy.


Pete:                Wow. Now you guys are playing in a space, there's a lot of competition in kind of the residential cleaning. And so tell me a little bit how you guys go to market. How you separate yourselves from everybody else? So kind of give me the three or four things, your secret recipe. What makes you guys so special?


Sharon C:          So honestly, Pete, I don't think so much about the competition, it's out there, but it's pretty tired. Most of the residential cleaning space is already grown, and they're legacy brands.

So we've come in and just sort of shook up and disrupted this whole space with our entirely green eco-friendly, more importantly, science-based cleaning. So it's a whole different level of taking care of clients in residential and light commercial properties.


Pete:                Okay. So why don't you tell us what is the science behind it? What makes it so special, so green?


Sharon C:          That's a great question. When I joined ecomaids, I clean like my mom; we all clean like our mom. I never once thought of the science behind the protocols, it's the methods in which any ingredients that you use that gets the results that you're looking for. So, Lindsay, our CEO, has her degree in science and her master's in sustainable business.

So this is right up her alley, she's run her successful franchise for over ten years now. And what she put together was a system where using natural products, and I'm not talking about household natural products.

But natural products, the way that you use them is what gives you the result that you're looking for. So it's completely different, so even with our employees, they're not maids, they're not cleaners, they literally are science technicians.


Pete:                Wow, that's very cool.


Sharon C:          It's very cool.


Pete:                All right, so you got to slow down with me because I'm slow here. So first, let's start with the product, right? So you say it's a natural ingredient, so what does that mean natural ingredients? Am I using lemons, or what am I using?


Sharon C:          Not at all. So we have a formula proprietary formula that's made in a lab in the United States, so easily accessible ingredients. And for example, instead of using a phosphoric acid, which is a full-on chemical acid, we use a natural salt base mercuric acid, which is derived from natural ingredients.

So what we're doing is substituting the chemicals for a natural version of that chemical. One of the ways, here's an another interesting fact, one of the ways that we kill viruses which we've always killed flu viruses and now, of course, COVID, is using a commercial-grade, plant-based, non-toxic, really strong peroxide.

But here comes the science lesson, it's how you apply, it's the protocol, the method in which you use the ingredient that actually kills the virus. The ingredient itself won't kill it unless you use it the right way.


Pete:                Well, so your products are used, don't leave any kind of residue. So my kids are safe, right? If they put it on the counter, the counters doesn't have any kind of toxins left over when it's been cleaned?


Sharon C:          That's correct. To the point that you literally can take a swig out of our ingredients. And I know this because I did it.


Pete:                Oh, no way. Seriously, you did?


Sharon C:          Yes. When we first acquired ecomaids, a small group of us went out to Portland to spend a week with Lindsay, and she was explaining the ingredients. And she goes, these are adjustable; I mean, do you want to ingest it?

Probably not. But they're injestable, and I said okay, let's do it. And I took a swig of it, and it tasted awful. But I lived, there was no damage done, so you're absolutely Pete.


Pete:                So as part of becoming a franchisee, do you have to drink the, you notice I drink the Kool-Aid. But do you have to drink the cleaning stuff to become a franchisee?


Sharon C:          Maybe we should require that during training when we get through virtual training.


Pete:                Well, I guess it would be a great thing to prove to your customers, right? Okay. So the product separates himself, healthy, safe from that standpoint, really cool.

Now tell us a little bit, if you can, we don't want you to give away any of the secrets. But when we talk about the second thing for you, it's the way in which the stuff is applied, right? So tell us a little bit about that.


Sharon C:          Yes. So let me give you an example of one, so our glass and window cleaner, just you would think it'd be normal. Most cleaners like Windex have ammonia, which can be very dangerous, of course, an alcohol base in them. So you spray it on your mirror, and you wipe it off, and you're good to go, you think.

Ours has no ammonia, no alcohol in it. So when I first heard that, and I'm sure you guys have done this at home, you take your Windex, you spray your mirror, start wiping, and what happens? It goes away, right? So what do you? You stop wiping.

In fact, all it did was evaporate because it's made of alcohol. So you're not really even cleaning. So there comes the protocol of using the right ingredient, but you actually have to use a little bit of elbow grease in there. And actually clean whatever surface you're using.


Pete:                Holy cow, you actually have to clean. I want to make sure, all right. So the technique is it's a way in which the product, and it's the way in which you work the product or clean it, right? So if I'm cleaning a bathtub or something like that, again, it's about leveraging; you have to work a little bit harder to clean, or what does that mean?


Sharon C:          Yes. Not necessarily on all surfaces, let me try to give you another example, the peroxide that kills the viruses. When you use Clorox wipes, and you go around your house, and you're wiping surfaces, everybody's super nervous about COVID germs in their home, so you go, and you wipe it.

Actually, what that's doing is getting rid of germs, bacteria, and dirt, but not even touching the virus. So the protocol in which you, the method in which you get rid of a virus is you spray, in our case, we're using peroxide, and you let it dwell for a period of time.

And it depends on the surface, so you let it sit. And then you go back, and you wipe it off, and it's given time to eat the virus, versus spray and wipe.


Pete:                Okay, got it. So you got to give the product some time to work; that makes a lot of sense to me. All right, so superior product everybody else, right? I can feel safe in my house, a superior way in which you apply the product, right?

So it takes time or a little bit more energy from that standpoint. Now tell us a little bit about kind of how ecomaids finds customers. So I mean again, a very crowded space. A lot of people in there, mature brands. So how do you help the franchisees find customers?


Sharon C:          This is, I think, where we really shine; we're part of the happiness family. So happiness is our parent company, which also owns lawn doctor, mosquito hunters, really solid, really aggressive brands. And all of the support is centralized through happiness. So the marketing is one big centralization.

So we actually create the franchisees demand digitally. So through our digital efforts, we create their demand on a local level. And then all they have to do is back it up with people seeing the brand on the street.

So they're not the ones that are going out finding their customers; we are actually attracting people to them, to their site so that they get the quotes.


Pete:                And they go to the house and provide a quote. Do you guys have special vehicles, branded vehicles that your team members show up in? Or is there anything special about how you brand yourself as you go to people's homes?


Sharon C:          So that's in two-part. So the franchisees do not actually go to somebody's home and do a quote. I mean, they could, but we have a sales center that does all the selling for them.


Pete:                Really? You got to tell us about that, that's so cool. Tell me about it.


Sharon C:          So actually what happens is when the demand is created, somebody might see our really cool Eco mobile out on the road, the fiat 500Ls, and they will go online and request a quote, or they'll call into the sales center, which is based out of, it's our employees based on a happiness office in New Jersey.

Who then will do a quote based on information that's provided, and get the credit card information, send that information, that information is logged into our technology? And then, the franchisee goes ahead and schedules them and routes them for services.

So the franchisee is actually not selling, which is pretty attractive to a lot of candidates, that they don't have to go hit the pavement, knock on doors. Hey, can I clean your house? They're not doing that.


Pete:                Okay, so I find you digitally, and I say hey, I'm interested. Ecomaids processes it, they do an estimate, and they say, Pete, it's going to cost $150 to do your house, whatever the number is.

And so then they schedule it, and the team shows up, is that right? Is it two or three people showing up to a house? Tell me about that.


Sharon C:          Yes. So the sales center sells it, the franchisee schedules it, routes it, and then a typical team would be two people that show up in a vehicle branded with ecomaids.


Pete:                Okay. So does the franchisee have to buy all those vehicles then? So do I have to have a fleet as I grow? I got to go one, two, three, four vehicles. I've just got to keep adding vehicles as I had teams?


Sharon C:          Yes. So they actually lease them through a leasing relationship we have with all of our brands under happiness, so they get a great deal. A good thing you brought that out because this, to me, is a really exciting and smart way to scale a business.

So we talked to our candidates about the fact that you don't have to necessarily add a location or add more turf to grow your business; you add a vehicle and two more employees. So when the first vehicle gets to a breakpoint, where they've done so many services a day, so many days a week.

As that demand is increasing, you add one more lease payment which is not that high, with two more staff, and off you go, and you grow. So to do a, like a million-dollar business, for example, they'll have seven or eight vehicles, and we give a marketing consideration off of certain vehicles.

So local ground game marketing consideration we take away because those vehicles will get them business all day long.


Pete:                So they're driving billboards for lack of better terms, okay. So tell us what makes you guy's special in regards to training the franchisee. So what's special about how you train your franchisees to be?


Sharon C:          So I think what's really special is it's actually our CEO that's been there, done it, that does all the training. It's her system it's what she built, so you're getting it from the best. Lindsay says, our CEO says I took the stairs so our franchisees could take the elevator, which to me just sort of, I sat back and thought that's an amazing line.

She did all the hard knocks, so she can impart that, and they can get up easier. So not only Lindsay does training, but all of our marketing subject matter experts and technology experts, and then there's ongoing obviously and being an emerging brand, franchisees get a tremendous amount of love.


Pete:                Oh, that's great. It's nice to have a CEO that's done it, right? And so kind of leads by example. How do you help the franchisees find the cleaners? The people that are doing the, we'll call it, what did you call them scientists?


Sharon C:          Science technicians.


Pete:                Science technicians, thank you. How do you find them?


Sharon C:          Yes. So that's also a little bit more of a unique process for us. So we actually help find their eco techs for them. By doing what's called geofencing, where we take our marketing efforts, we go into their backyard digitally, through social media. And we look for people that have been in the cleaning space, and then we directly market to their feeds and say, hey, do you want to work in a safe environment?

Something that you have the room for advancement because that's another unique feature of ecomaids is the room to grow up within the organization. And then do you want to make more money. And they click on the ad; they fill out the information. It takes them through a digital interview process, gets down to the point, sort of weeds out people that don't meet the criteria.

Gets down to a point where the franchisee will get resumes; they select who they want to interview and who they want to hire. And it's been an amazing effort on behalf of the marketing department. Our franchisees right now, one day of advertising, they're seeing over 50 applicants, one day.


Pete:                How are they able to provide advancement opportunities as well? It sounds like better pay than the other companies. So how are they able to do that?


Sharon C:          So that's the culture of ecomaids, that's a huge differentiator. One we start them higher, we budget in, we start them at a higher rate of pay to be more competitive, but we're also hiring up or hiring technicians; we're hiring people that want to go somewhere with their career.

And then we offer them room for advancements, there's different levels of responsibility within the organization that they can take on to earn more, and then on top of that, we do a pay per performance program, which gives them opportunity to earn more income and help support their families.

But then we even take it one step further, and once they let's say that for two months they did exactly what they should be doing, and they are up for a pay raise as a result of the activity, it's a point system. At that point, then, Lindsay's system has allowed them to decide how to spend that what they earned.

So they can take it in their paycheck, they can take a day at a spa, they can take a day off. They can gift it to an employee, a colleague of theirs that maybe needs a day off, that can't afford the day off. So it's all about respect and accountability and giving people the opportunity to be more than just a maid.


Pete:                It sounds like an amazing culture.


Sharon C:          It really is.


Pete:                I hope they have an opening for me here in Illinois. So here's the big question, we've been through a really tough seven months here with this COVID-19. Can you tell us a little bit of how it's impacted, or how the leadership team or how your franchisees are working through dealing with COVID-19?

Because you're going into people's homes, right? People are a little worried about having people come into their home. So tell us a little bit about how you guys had to address the COVID-19.


Sharon C:          Sure, great question. So middle of March, everything COVID hit. What we did was because residents in residential properties sort of freaked out; they either went more aggressive, wanted more services or less services. Or they just stopped. And we were allowed because we're an essential needed service to work in all states.

We pivoted really quickly in the middle of March, and we started capturing that demand for disinfecting more than anything. So we've always had educational messaging; we're a culture of improvement with the science behind our products and our protocols. But we took that, and we completely pivoted how we went about business.

And we went after the disinfecting side and started marketing to light commercial to keep businesses open. We added an electrostatic mister, so it's a handheld mister that you missed a non-toxic mist over top surfaces to protect from COVID. We went from doing light commercial properties once a week to every day, multiple services a day, high-profit margin.

But in the meantime, when May came, the beginning of May, and things started opening back up, we saw this huge jump in residential service because people were just over it. They were sick and tired of being in their home. They knew why they didn't want to clean, to begin with, now they really didn't want to clean.

It took even one step further. There's international and national cleaning associations that conducted all types of surveys from users, people that had cleaning services. And the biggest thing is this became an emotional buyback actually into services. So it went from I don't want to clean, I can't clean healthy wise, I can't clean, to I need to feel safe, I need reassurance that my home is safe, or my business is safe for my employees, and my patrons.

And that was what the statistics showed us. So we immediately pivoted, prospered, and captured the demand. There was this huge demand for disinfecting, and there was not enough supply to accommodate it. Most of your competition in this space is mom and pops out there. And they weren't in a position to be able, they might be good cleaners, but they're not good marketers.

And secondly, they didn't have product. Chemical-based products are sourced in a different country, China specifically. Hence why you don't see them on store shelves that cleaning companies have the same challenge of getting those chemical-based cleaning products.

So as much as we feel for the COVID environment, we really try to fill that demand, and we were able to capture that. So we have not seen anything Pete negative to do with people not letting us in their homes or their businesses.

We did enhance our protocols, disinfecting the shoes that the ecotechs wear, wearing masks, that type of thing, and that will continue going forward.


Pete:                Wow, that's amazing; I just never knew from that standpoint. Well, it sounds like some great things are happening ecomaids, and you got to be very proud of what you've done so far. So, where do you see it going? I know you guys have got an explosive growth, but where do you see yourself kind of finishing up this year and forward years?


Sharon C:          Yes, great question. We are super excited about the growth, I mean, literally, I feel like we somebody put us in a can and just shook us up and let the lid off, and that's the growth. So I would say by the end of this year, we're budgeting to see close to 100 units, and that's some pretty aggressive growth.

We can handle it being part of happiness and having that infrastructure already in place. I'm comfortable in saying that we're going to take this industry, and we're going to be the leader in the market because we're the first one in that's disrupted with the entirely green, science-based, strong backing, cultural fit business model. So looking forward to it.


Pete:                Yes. And germs aren't going away anytime soon, so you're in business for a long time. Well, Sharon, it has been a pleasure having you here with us today. And we're so excited to watch you have the explosive growth that I think you're going to have.

And I might have to see if you guys can come to our house, lots of teenagers running through my house and I'm thinking there are lots of germs running around, coming into my house, leaving my house and stuff like that.


Sharon C:          We'd be happy to.


Pete:                All right. Well, thank you for being a guest. We'll have you on again sometime soon.


Sharon C:          Thank you so much, have a really great day.


Pete:                All right, thanks so much.


Nat:                  Thanks, Sharon.

Topics: Insider, How To Build Wealth, entrepreneurship, becoming a franchisee, Podcast

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