“I feel like I will never get out of the field!” Kimberly Rice exclaimed as we chatted about some of the challenges she’s facing as a founder of a new cleaning business in the greater Pittsburgh area. Kimberly, her daughter Dacia, and her daughter-in-law Jennifer launched Bringing Beautiful over a year ago and are still struggling to find employees to put onto cleaning crews so that they can focus on the administrative side and grow the business. Kimberly is a veteran in sales and business development, and she’s looking forward to being able to wash her hands of field work and to bring her expertise to increasing sales at Bringing Beautiful.
The three women began discussing starting their own business in October 2015 and thought they could be a one-stop shop for real estate agents who were looking for someone to get a house ready for sale. Kimberly’s degree in interior design and Dacia’s experience with staging homes (and Jennifer’s accounting degree) would be coupled with cleaning houses in preparation for prospective buyers. When they saw that the majority of demand was for the house cleaning aspect of their business, they switched gears and doubled down on cleaning.
The focus on green cleaning came quickly after that, because Dacia was pregnant and the women realized they couldn’t use unhealthy chemicals day in and day out. Although they had previously made extensive use of bleach while cleaning, they fully converted to green cleaners. At first, they bought all-natural products off the shelf but after a bit of research they started making their own green cleaning products which their clients can buy, made from Castile soap and essential oils. “I’ve had clients say that dust stays off their furniture longer with our product than with others,” said Kimberly. “The only thing… it’s a pain to have to keep making them.”
Help Wanted… Help! Really!
Originally, the women wanted to do the cleaning so that they would have a better handle on what their employees would be facing and to know exactly how to train them. However, they now seem stuck in the field, because they’ve been having a hard time finding employees. “It’s been tough. This business can’t grow much further until we get out of the field,” said Kimberly.
They’ve tried everything they know, from Craigslist ads to notices on Indeed.com, and exhausting their extensive network of friends and family. They plan to offer “well-above” minimum wage, with hefty bonuses for employee referrals along with company-sponsored breakfasts and a weekly pizza party. Kimberly realizes the value of creating a positive work environment and said they will be focused on providing a great culture. “I just can’t find employees. It’s been the hardest part of this business. I don’t know how much longer I can stay in the field. I have a home to take care of and a family, and we’re coming up on one of our busiest seasons!”
Giving back to the community
Without employees, they found it hard to keep up with the free cleanings they were providing as part of Cleaning for a Reason, so they’ve scaled back but fully intend to rejoin the program once they are fully staffed. Meanwhile, they are working on ideas for giveback programs where a percentage of recurring cleaning revenue goes to one of the many charities that Bringing Beautiful supports. Kimberly used to manage a dog rescue that placed over 200 dogs in homes within 18 months, so her charity will most likely be a local program like South Hills Pet Rescue. Jennifer and Dacia would like to support the elderly and a local children’s hospital. The women will also donate to an eco-friendly charity and a cancer-related charity. From this list of good causes, clients will be able to select which charity they want to support each month and have the receipt sent directly to them for their donation.
Kimberly’s love of dogs spills over into client homes as well. Some clients call to book a cleaning and warn them that they have pets, but she always reassures them that that’s what makes it fun to clean a client’s home—meeting their furry friends. I can hear some of Kimberly’s dogs in the background of the call and she confirmed that while she managed the dog rescue, she did end up keeping a few of the canines. “I would take dogs sight unseen, raise money to have them vaccinated and quarantined, then ship them to our home. One time we had 16 dogs coming to our home in the middle of the night. Eventually I closed it down because rescue is a tough business, but it’s really cool to see the dogs now. People send me pictures. I didn’t do it alone, I had a lot of help from different people and organizations in the area,” she said.
With the trio of mother/daughter/daughter-in-law, Bringing Beautiful is truly a family affair. Another one of Kimberly’s daughters is set to join the business soon, and at some point all three of her sons helped out. When she was starting out, Kimberly saw a lot of negative comments on forums about disasters caused by families working together. “It’s absolutely not true, when people say family can’t work together. You have to designate exactly what people do and then respect their skills and the boundaries of their responsibilities.”
“There is nothing more important than my family and we get to do this together,”
In fact, being around family is one of the things Kimberly likes best about owning the business. “There is nothing more important than my family and we get to do this together,” she said. Last year, the family went on a beach vacation and Kimberly fielded customer calls poolside while Jennifer was handling her beloved “paperwork” on the laptop by the pool. “We have a successful business but we try not to talk about it too much when we get together.”
Kimberly is eager to build the business into a thriving company that she can hand over to her family and know that they are taken care of. “I do everything I can to make this business successful,” she said. It is clear that family is one of her top priorities, along with delighting customers with a clean home.
Off to a shaky (and nude) start
When the company was just getting started, Kimberly was feeling stressed by the lack of inbound leads. A week went by without any calls and she told her daughters not to be discouraged, but felt that it was on her shoulders as the mom and as the business development lead. After confessing her fears to her husband, he had some amazing words of encouragement: “It has to be successful, because you’re the one doing it. I know it will be.”
Buoyed by her husband’s confidence, Kimberly finally got the first call for a cleaning appointment. The gentleman wanted a cleaning that very afternoon, could she do it? Kimberly arranged to ride over with her father-in-law as a safety precaution on her first cleaning appointment, and as she was getting ready to leave her phone rang again. The client wanted to let her know that he was a nudist in his home and that he’d be getting ready while she was there. Kimberly wasn’t quite sure what he meant, and he spelled it out for her, “I’m nude in my house. I’ll put a towel in front of me when I walk around and show you things.” Surprised that he wouldn’t just get dressed while she was there, Kimberly turned down the job and had to call her daughters to break the news that their first client was a no-go. “Girls, it’s not happening today. He’s a nudist in his home,” she said. Her father-in-law said it was a good thing that the client let her know before they showed up, and Kimberly agreed. “I don’t know what I would have done!”
If you promise to be fully-clothed and live in Pittsburgh, book a house cleaning service with Bringing Beautiful!
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