Taking a walk around Williamsburg, Brooklyn back in 2005, Miriam Kahn noticed a lot of construction going on. She saw a huge boom in the building of high rises and thought to herself, “Who’s going to clean all of those new apartments?” The answer, in part, was the business she then created, eMaids, Inc. In the beginning, she never thought it’d be more than a part time business, but she has grown the company into a multimillion dollar business.
Running a business over the past decade, Kahn has seen an influx in people looking for cleaning services. “That’s a good thing,” Kahn noted, “but we’re also seeing ‘Groupon shoppers’ who are used to lots of different coupons.” But mostly she pinpoints the increase in demand for cleaning as the result of economic reality. “Nowadays most households need a second income, you work so many hours that you should leave cleaning to someone who does it well. Or if people have little kids or if they’re older and just need the help. We’re here for them. We make their life easier.”
Her cleaning empire consists of eMaids franchises in the New York City area, as well as New Jersey, Houston, San Diego, and Las Vegas. She’s currently juggling around 100 employees, although this fluctuates depending on the time of year and the locations she’s servicing. Kahn previously worked for many years for her father’s payroll company, but entrepreneurship is in her blood, and she loves running her own business.
“I have the same passion as I had on the very first day. I love helping the franchises develop their locations, and helping staff members make enough money to support themselves,” said Kahn. She appreciates feedback from clients, as well, saying, “You help them, and they call a few days later to say ‘You are the best, thank you.’”
Delegate and trust
Her tips for success include developing the ability to delegate to her staff. “It took a while to build trust. I made one woman sit beside me for four weeks before I let her answer the phones alone. But you have to build your business and not just work it as a job. I’m very fortunate to have great employees.”
Her employees are lucky to have her, as well. Several of her cleaners were living in homeless shelters when they came to work for eMaids. “We’re very careful in who we hire, they need to have experience. But the fact that they were living in a shelter didn’t keep us from hiring them.” These staff members have been able to move into their own apartments with the steady paycheck they get from eMaids.
Words of wisdom
In the early years, Kahn was fortunate to have a few mentors in the cleaning space, including Tammy Spivey (Maid Services of America) and Renee O’Brien (Your Cleaning Business, Inc.). “They were great if you needed a listening ear or someone to vent to,” said Kahn, and she developed a great personal relationship with both mentors. When we asked Kahn what advice she’d give to someone starting a cleaning business today, she preaches what she practices:
“Find someone who has been there and done it already. I could write a book of the mistakes that we made in the first few years and how costly it was–going with the wrong marketing approach, signing six month contracts with people I shouldn’t have, not having the right checklist or knowing how to set pricing correctly… basic business startup things you don’t know how to do. Follow the direction of someone who knows the ropes. Be positive and know that you can do it. No matter what comes your way you are going to be successful. It’s not an easy business. But if you know what you’re doing and are aggressive, you’re going to get there. And always say yes to a client!”
Interestingly, Kahn said that their focus on green cleaning products was something her staff found more valuable than the clients. “Oh, the green cleaning phenomenon! Our employees enjoy it more than the clients. At the end of the day, clients don’t care about green cleaning, they just want their toilet clean, their bed made, their kitchen clean. But our employees really care. When we didn’t have an emphasis on using green cleaning products, our staff would get sick because they were inhaling chemicals all day long. That’s why we transitioned to using green cleaning products–we wanted to keep our employees healthy.”
The team at eMaids handles between 50-100 cleanings a day, which can make Kahn’s days a bit hectic. “The toughest part of the day is in the morning when you need to make sure everybody’s at their jobs on time. I wish I had a magic wand to make sure all maids show up on time, on schedule. We’re in New York and this morning I got a call from a maid who was stuck in the subway tunnel. The train was stopped for an emergency, so she’s not going to be on time for her client and her client is going to be late for his job,” she said.
There are other snafus that arise as well, like the time her employee opened a window that held an air conditioner which then fell three stories to the ground. “Luckily no one was walking by when it happened,” said Kahn. Or a maid will open a door by mistake and a cat runs out, the maid having no idea how to get it back into the apartment. Kahn tries to mitigate these situations by asking clients specifically about their pets and training her staff to know how to handle them.
Kahn says her clients love her because eMaids is more than a cleaning service. “We care about our clients, and go above and beyond. We have a 24/7 answering service that allows them to reach us at any time. Clients are like family, we build relationships with them.” Some clients have been working with Kahn for years, but when she gets a new client, she tries to match them up with the right kind of maid. “You have to read between the lines. Is it an older woman who’s looking for someone to talk to, or is it an office looking for someone to just clean quietly. We’re good at identifying what a client needs, and we get it right 90% of the time. It’s very important to earn the trust of the client.”
To get a great cleaning by eMaids, Inc. in the New York area, you can book them online here.