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Interview with a Successful Startup Founder

Transitioning from Desk Job to Building a $60k/mo Cleaning Business

Finn Pegler
Finn Pegler
February 24, 2021
Category of startup
Services
Country of startup
United States
Revenue of startups
$25k-$100k/mo
Interview with a Failed Startup Founder

Transitioning from Desk Job to Building a $60k/mo Cleaning Business

Finn Pegler
Finn Pegler
February 24, 2021
Category of startup
Services
Country of startup
United States
Cause of failure of the startup

Finn had a typical engineer job.. but he hated it. One day, he found a Reddit post on how to start a local service business and decided to give it a try. He launched in 27 days and got his first customer in 45. Nowadays, they’re making $60k/mo and plans to extend to other cities.

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Hi Finn! Who are you and what are you currently working on?

My name is Finn Pegler and I run a local cleaning company in Indianapolis called DeluxeMaid. I am 31 years old and run the entire business remotely from London, England.

The main difference between my cleaning company and others is that everything can be booked online in just 60 seconds. Pricing is intuitive and based on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms so there is no need for us to visit every house to quote, which would of course be difficult all the way from England! We do have management teams in Indianapolis but they do not visit homes to quote either.

I work with a fantastic team of VAs from around the world who handle all day to day operations while I focus on more of the big picture stuff and help to refine company policies on a daily basis.

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Before setting up DeluxeMaid, I was part of the ESTEEM graduate program at the university of Notre Dame. The program focussed on bootstrapping businesses and removed obstacles I previously thought would be impossible to overcome when setting up a business. I previously thought substantial investment would be required to even get the business off the ground but the ESTEEM program taught how much easier it was to just set something up to see if it stuck.

Interestingly, I didn’t go straight from ESTEEM to running DeluxeMaid and initially worked as an engineer at a large motor company. I left the job after less than a year; just a few months after setting up DeluxeMaid. The company was only generating around $1k monthly revenues at the time but I was determined to make a real go of it and give it my full attention.

I pretty much hated my engineering job and I figured it was better to be at the bottom of a ladder I wanted to climb rather than be halfway up a ladder I had no interest in.

How did you go from idea to product?

The idea came from a Reddit thread by Rohan Gilkes which explained step by step how to set up a local service company. The beauty of it was how quickly everything could be done and in just 27 days I created my own cleaning company and had my first customer after about 45 days.

The first step was to pick a location that had a lot of potential. I decided to go with Indianapolis as it had a metro population of about 1 million and at the time not many house cleaning companies (none which offered flat rate prices and online booking in under a minute). Obviously, big markets like New York, Chicago, or LA were tempted but it may have been harder to penetrate the markets there.

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Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?

Initially, I used Facebook, Craigslist, and Thumbtack but the long-term strategy was very focussed on SEO and improving our visibility on Google. SEO can take a few years before seeing a ROI but it is now by far our most successful channel. 90% of our revenue is now through SEO traffic.

We found that PPC had a negative ROI for us. The CPC for the keywords in our area was quite high and we were converting very few of these clicks. PPC can be great in some industries but we found it ineffective.

How are you doing today and what are your goals for the future?

DeluxeMaid's revenue

Business is better than ever in spite of Covid slowing us down for a few months in the middle of 2020. Revenues were in excess of $500k in 2020; profit margins in the service industry are usually between 20-25% of gross revenue. I own three smaller cleaner companies in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Milwaukee, and they are also run remotely. 

What were the biggest obstacles you overcame? What were your worst mistakes?

Customer service is definitely something I struggled with in the beginning. I was not used to dealing with angry customers; especially when I saw their complaints as unreasonable. Over time I learned that it was best to ‘take the hit’ on these types of customers as they are not worth stressing over. Moreover, if a dissatisfied customer leaves a bad review online it will likely cost the company future revenues far in excess of refunding a partially refunding a customer. It’s important to leave your ego at the door in the service industry and act in the best interest of your business at all times.

What tools & resources do you recommend?

Slack is how we communicate on a daily basis. We have different channels for each important area of the business e.g #hiring #procedures #schedule.

I enjoy reading books about goal orientated entrepreneurs. Two books I’d recommend are Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture and the Elon Musk biography. They both focus on the importance of having ambitious goals and setting deadlines.

This recently inspired me to create a new project for the cleaning companies called ‘Operation 200k’. The goal of which is to have a combined 200k monthly revenue across the cleaning companies by July 2021. It will be difficult to get but it is always good to have ambitious goals for your business, as even if you fall short you’ll still hopefully have seen substantial growth.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can find out more about my house cleaning business on our website

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