We caught up with Chantal Doucet, founder of the Toronto-area Mop Up Your Mess, shortly before she headed out the door to her brother’s wedding in Jamaica. She started Mop Up Your Mess in 2014 after doing commercial cleaning as a contractor and noticing that her work was earning compliments all the time. “It got to a point when I thought, ‘Why am I getting her all the jobs and making her all the money when it’s me they like, my attention to detail and my thoroughness?’ So I decided to go out on my own,” Chantal said.
She’s currently managing a staff of six people, but looking to grow and is constantly hiring since business is booming. Her business more than doubled last year due to a lot of referrals because of the high quality of her work and what Chantal dubs her “hustler-type attitude.” If she has open slots on her staff’s schedule, she will fill those at a discounted price by advertising a promotion on social media. “If you get in and clean and they really like you, they may book you for a continuous service,” she said, and Mop Up Your Mess currently has around eighty regular customers.
The high quality of her company’s work is driven by Chantal’s insistence on high standards. She quickly elevated one employee, Kayla, to a supervisor role to do quality control. “She’s very attentive and detail oriented. She got promoted very fast due to her overall thoroughness and devotion to the company,” said Chantal.
Working for yourself vs. working for the government
Before getting into cleaning, Chantal worked for the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario. When asked how running her own business compares to working for the government, she insists that it’s not really comparable. Chantal said, “There’s good and bad for both. It’s great that I get to make my own schedule and shift things how I want. But when business demand is there and staff isn’t available, I need to step in. It’s a lot more demanding on me than the straight 9-to-5 job. And [previously] if I was sick I could stay home, but with this I can’t take time off because clients need to be handled.” That said, her favorite thing about her job is the independence she has. “When you’re working you don’t have to answer to anyone. Even when you’re cleaning, in that moment, you get in the zone. I like that.”
Most of her staff members are mothers with young kids, and Chantal keeps their work/family balance top of mind. “We work between 9 am and 3:30 pm intentionally so they can be home at a reasonable time to spend time with their kids before they have to put them to bed. I’m big on making sure they still have a quality life outside of work. If I wouldn’t do something, I wouldn’t ask you to do it, like work late or have constantly rotating shifts.”
For her own life outside of work, Chantal gets crafty and makes things. She’s currently making all the décor for a friend’s upcoming wedding, and is even toting hand-crafted centerpieces down to Jamaica for her brother’s nuptials next week. “Small votives,” she explains. “They’re going with a beachy theme, of course, so I glued some sticks and wrapped some twine and when I get there we’ll put sand and a candle in each one.”
Making all-natural cleaning products
Along those same crafty lines, she began making her own all-natural cleaning products a few months ago and will start distributing them next month. She found it to be cost-effective and it felt more eco-friendly if she understood exactly what the ingredients were in the cleaning products she was using. “We always did green cleaning, but when we switched to all-natural I didn’t understand what some of the words were, I had to Google so many things. I thought I should be cleaning with products where I knew what the ingredients were,” she said. The components for the Mop Up Your Mess cleaners are all sourced from local grocery and specialty stores.
Tips for cleaning
Chantal keeps herself on-call as an overflow cleaner and frequently finds herself out on jobs since business has been steadily increasing. One of her tips is to always start with the worst room to clean and then tackle the rooms that need less help. She finds that bathrooms are usually the worst, so she starts with the bathrooms and then judges how much time she has left to do everything else.
Time is money
Chantal is convinced that business will continue to grow, since cleaning is an industry that people need. “Hiring a cleaning company will save you a lot of time, give you hours that you get to spend with your family instead of picking up after them. It’s cost-effective, since time is money and your time at home is precious. No real dollar value can be put on that. Why not take advantage of being able to come home to a clean house and play with your kids and talk to your husband. That’s invaluable,” she said.
Advice to anyone starting a cleaning business
We asked what advice she would give someone who was considering getting into the industry. Here are her suggestions:
- Be dedicated. “Be ready to put in a lot of hours. In the last year, I put in twelve hour days, easy.”
- Be responsive. “There’s a big demand for your service and people are demanding. They expect you to answer the phone and contact them right away.”
- Stick to what you know. “I didn’t know the best way to advertise or do marketing or build a website so I relied on other professionals who I trusted to steer me in the right direction.”
- Don’t lower your price too much. “Don’t cheapen your prices to get the business. Your business will come if you provide a good value, but if you cheapen your prices you cheapen your value. People will think you’re not as valuable as companies that are charging more.”