Grace Ruocco and Ben Zev are the masterminds behind Cleaning By Consuelo, servicing the high-end residential market in Toronto. The couple speak five different languages and are able to communicate effectively with the international monied set who make Toronto their home.
“One in every forty-four people around here are millionaires, and cleaning is one of the services that most people who are very wealthy find very handy,” said Ben. Their clients include political figures, professional athletes, and other people in the news.
Neither of the two had a cleaning background before starting their business, with Grace graduating with an international business degree and working in banking for several years and Ben, a self-described “geek,” working as a telecommunications engineer. But they recognized that the community needed this service, and Cleaning By Consuelo was launched in 2012.
The duo limit their service area to the 32 km2 area around their house, and are indeed neighbors of their clients. This came in handy for their very first cleaning job, which was right after huge snowstorm. “The worst snowstorm in thirty years in Toronto. The city was paralyzed, nobody expected to go to work or anything. The customer was so surprised that we showed up,” said Ben. “Our employees showed up at our house and we said, ‘Ok, let’s go. It’s walking distance.’ We walked a few blocks to [the client’s] house,” said Grace. Ben remembers thinking, “Here I am with a master’s degree in engineering and I’m shoveling the snow… But you do anything for the first customer because how great is it if ten years later you can still say that our first customer is still with us.” While that snow-bound customer was wowed by their dedication, she’s relocated to Mexico for the time being. “If she ever moves back then she’ll be with us again.”
With an eye toward capturing the luxury market, the pair hires workers who have previous experience in high-end hospitality. One of their top employees, Willis, is a violinist from the Dominican Republic, and he brought his hotel training to bear on clients’ homes. He introduced folded toilet paper, adjusting living room cushions at an angle, artistically folding towels, and setting the soap just so.
Ben emphasizes that the business is built on trust, that the clients are letting them into the sacred space of their homes. “We go into every room. Every space in their home is available to us. A high level of trust is so important. We don’t do it for the money. We’re a company with heart, spirit, and a vision. We have a lot of customers but the real value is in the friendship, the thank you, the smile, and giving them a home that they can feel good in.”
There are definitely some oddities of servicing the very wealthy, like the customer with a home theater that had thirty reclinable La-Z-Boy chairs, or the gifts that cleaners get when clients are downsizing their household after they purchase a smaller home. “We’ve had cleaners get Gucci presents from clients emptying their closets.”
This should make the rest of us feel good about hiring a cleaning service – even people who already have hired help need professionals to clean their homes. “Even the nannies or the live-ins don’t have time, they can’t keep up with everything. Some of our customers have us come in once a month. The live-in is so busy with the kids that she can’t keep up with the cleaning. We’ll do the deep cleaning, and the nanny just has to maintain it for the rest of the month.”
When asked what they like best about their job, Grace noted how much she enjoys good feedback from clients and also good feedback from employees about a nice client. Ben joked, “I like when I go to bed tired” then went on to confirm how much client feedback meant to him, how much he appreciates them taking the time to write comments and be thankful. “All the testimonials on our website are true!”
So what’s next for the two? Ben envisions a future where Cleaning by Consuelo is franchised, making it the McDonald’s of cleaning. “I want to see us clean 1.2 billion houses a year!” They plan to encourage current employees to become owners of the franchises, to help them have an opportunity own and operate a business of their own.
You can book a quality service with Cleaning By Consuelo online here.