Geoff and Dawn Crawley are the owners of a high quality cleaning business, Rescue Me Cleaning, in Northern Virginia (Loudoun County, near D.C.). I caught up with Dawn recently via phone as she took a quick break from a weekend getaway to Nashville, where husband Geoff was running the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon.
The Crawleys had been involved in a variety of other ventures before purchasing the cleaning business 3 years ago from the original owners who had kept the company family-owned and family-operated for decades. “And that’s what we still are!” said Dawn.
Geoff’s background is in business management and Dawn worked as a massage therapist for years before going back to school for a psychology degree and later for a masters in social work. When they took over the cleaning company, they had some customers who had been with the service for almost thirty years. “One of our original customers ended up moving to Florida after 27 years using the cleaning service.”
“Save your weekends—let us rescue you with a superior type of cleaning compared to your standard cleaning service.”
Since taking over the business, the couple changed the name from Champagne Services to Rescue Me Cleaning in an effort to make it more clear about the type of service they offer. The goal of the company, Dawn said, is to let you “Save your weekends—let us rescue you with a superior type of cleaning compared to your standard cleaning service.” The focus on quality is paying off—the company earned the Sterling Small Business Excellence Award in Home Cleaning last year.
There was one incident that happened after the name change to Rescue Me Cleaning that made us laugh. One of the cleaners finished up a cleaning appointment in a corporate apartment and left a note telling the client that the sheets and towels were finishing up in the dryer and signed it “Rescue me.” The client actually read this note with alarm and thought that the cleaner was in need of help, but was reassured after calling the main office to clear up the matter.
Both Geoff and Dawn are very active in the community and are passionate about charities that help children or cancer. Besides being board members for several local organizations, they also work with Smashing Walnuts, a local nonprofit raising money for brain cancer research. And with lyme disease reaching epidemic proportions in Northern Virginia, they try to sponsor and run in as many races as possible with proceeds going to lyme disease research. They are also proud members of Cleaning for a Reason.
At first, Geoff was running the company without Dawn’s help but her passion for chemical-free and healthy living got her involved. She read stories about cleaning employees having developed asthma from using harsh chemicals and made it a mission for Rescue Me to go green. “I tell customers that it’s not good for them either. But it began with our cleaners. If they’re in a shower stall and using bleach, it’s not good for them or the environment. We’re now 100% green.”
Dawn then schooled me about ionized water and its cleansing properties, waxing almost poetic about its chemical makeup and how it is used in Japan to sanitize surgical equipment. “It has healing properties but also kills bacteria, mold, and mildew. You can drink it—it would taste gross, but it’s healthy. Actually when Geoff runs marathons he drinks the pH 11.5 alkaline water for recovery.”
“In this country we’re bogged down with what chemicals are allowed. The U.S. allows something like 1,600 to 1,900 chemicals. Europe only allows 9, so we’re behind the curve on that. A lot of this is driven by money, like the pharmaceutical industry.”
She makes a great point, and segues into the state of conventional cleaners overall. “In this country we’re bogged down with what chemicals are allowed. The U.S. allows something like 1,600 to 1,900 chemicals. Europe only allows 9, so we’re behind the curve on that. A lot of this is driven by money, like the pharmaceutical industry.”
While educating clients and employees about the importance of green cleaning, Dawn feels she is making a difference in people’s lives. “I believe in our mission. House cleaning is no longer a luxury—it’s a utility like the internet. Can you live without the internet? In the process of making life easier, we’ve made it more complicated. We’re focused on letting you spend time doing the things you love with the people you love.“
Retaining top quality talent enables Rescue Me to keep providing the level of service their clients have come to expect. Dawn makes sure she goes out into the field once in awhile to clean, to see what employees are doing, and to give them the sense that she understands how hard the work they do is. Besides this solidarity, they reward their employees with prizes for positive feedback from customers (called “Bravos”). They also do a yearly picnic blowout, provide anniversary bonuses, and are looking to implement health insurance again. Referrals remain their best source of great new hires.
For anyone starting out, Dawn recommends that you hold onto your money and not spend on mass marketing unless you have a recognizable brand. “Start small and get word of mouth referrals. You do not have to spend a lot of money to become profitable quickly. Be involved in the community around you, and develop relationships. Build your business around your life and not your life around your business. If you only want to work three days a week, do that, and stick to it. It will all be ok.”
Dawn has great advice, saying that if you’re passionate and believe in what you do then money will come. “Take the time to stop and appreciate what you have accomplished. Look at where you are and where you were.”
Besides helping Geoff run the business, Dawn likes to garden and plants a large enough garden to last her family through the winter with jams and spaghetti sauce. She loves to read and travel and has a trip to South Africa planned with one of her sons. “We’re not guaranteed tomorrow… I found out my friend had breast cancer. She died, and my mother died from breast cancer. It hit me hard. So I’m not going to do ‘one day we’ll do this’ anymore. There are things I want to do with my kids and I’m going to do them!”
If you’re looking for a top quality cleaning service in Loudoun County, Virginia, check out Rescue Me Cleaning.
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