Humberto Briñez was a television journalist in Colombia before he fled to Canada in 2002 when guerrillas attempted to kill him for his investigation into the ongoing conflict. Taking his wife and children with him, he first settled in Winnipeg before moving to British Columbia and finally making his home in Vancouver. Briñez was unable to find work as a journalist because he “didn’t speak English very well” so he decided to start a business with his wife. Green Maids was launched in 2005 when Briñez realized that people in Canada were looking for environmentally-friendly cleaning options. They first focused on eco-friendly carpet cleaning (normally a highly toxic cleaning service) and then branched out into green home and office cleaning as well.
Green Maids has benefited from retaining several clients that were with them from the beginning, and adding additional clients through word of mouth recommendations. Managed by Briñez and his wife, they employ twelve full-time people and are actively recruiting more employees year-round. “Vancouver is an expensive city, and you have to pay your cleaners well. Our employees are very happy with their level of pay. When you offer a good salary, you can recruit good people to work for you.”
Briñez is passionate about green cleaning. When they first started out, their focus was on carpet cleaning and they made sure they used 100% environmentally protective products, not the usual toxic chemicals you find in carpet cleaning treatments. “You need to care about your clients,” Briñez said. “If you use strong chemicals, people get exposed to the cancer-causing residue in the carpet.”
Over time, Briñez learned a lot about green cleaning from his clients. “They taught us how to do it and shared their knowledge. Clients would say, ‘It’s better to use vinegar for the floors, so just use vinegar and water or vinegar and baking soda.’ We learned more about green cleaning in the past eleven years from our clients than from anywhere else.” Green Maids Canada creates their own green cleaners to clean ovens, floors, and windows, feeling secure in the knowledge that their products are 100% biodegradable and green. “Sometimes we do need to use chemicals, but we always ask permission first,” Briñez said.
The best part of Briñez’s job is getting to meet people and make new friends. This seems like a natural fit for someone who used to spend his days in the media talking to politicians, the military, and other leaders to get the latest scoop in Colombia. Briñez admits that the transition from being a journalist to running his own business was a bit hard, but he feels good about the fact that running a cleaning business in Canada is different than in Latin America. “It’s a big industry here, a real business. It took me time to understand that it is not considered a low-level job.”
Some of his favorite clients are companies that are providing services to the community. There’s a local YMCA and a women’s shelter that Green Maids has been cleaning for several years. “We are always ready for them, any time, any day, whenever they need our services. They are working very hard to help women and single moms in trouble.”
When I asked about one of his worst cleaning jobs, he mentioned a client several years back who asked them to clean an apartment where someone had died a few weeks before and hadn’t been discovered for awhile. Briñez’s team did not know about the death, but as soon as they started cleaning the carpet, worms came out of the carpet and walls. They freaked out, but stayed to finish the job.
Briñez suggests that anyone looking to start a cleaning business should not undercut their prices. “Don’t go cheap. Market yourself in accordance with your performance and try to do the best quality job. But don’t go cheap.” To experience the high quality and eco-friendly service offered by Green Maids Canada, you can book them here.