When Marlo Kanipe was studying philosophy in college, she thought she’d become a medical ethicist, working in hospitals to help decide controversial cases. Instead, in 1986 she and her mother founded their successful cleaning company, Deserved Comfort Housekeeping, to service Columbia, South Carolina. Besides going to school full time, Marlo had a full time job in banking, but realized that she could create a company from the side business she was doing of cleaning condos for attorneys in town. Her mother, Bunny, started researching the cleaning industry and financed the business, but both of them continued to work full time elsewhere and handle the cleaning in the evenings. Marlo laughs about the difference between then and now. “Back then we charged $20 a house no matter what size it was, and we even did the dishes.”
“Back then we charged $20 a house no matter what size it was, and we even did the dishes.”
Marlo bought the company from her mother in 2000 so Bunny could retire and had been running things single handedly until she hired full time help in the office recently. While her philosophy classes didn’t help her understand the basics of running a business, she had handled the bookkeeping and payroll for her father’s hardware store when she was in high school. “Everything else I learned from taking courses.”
She kept the business small and wasn’t too concerned about growing it until she was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. “I worked through it the whole time but couldn’t really concentrate on anything except getting well. After I got well and got back on my feet I realized I needed to grow the business into something that I could retire from or sell.”
After beating cancer, Marlo set out to grow Deserved Comfort into an even more successful business. That’s when she discovered the helpful resources available at ARCSI, and she went to a convention to learn more. “I couldn’t believe all the people who were there that owned cleaning businesses. Ever since then I’ve been very involved with the organization and have made wonderful friends.”
That conference is where she found out about Cleaning For A Reason, the non-profit that provides free cleaning services to women who are battling cancer. As a cancer survivor, Marlo has bonded with the women whose homes her company cleans as part of the program. “It is a sisterhood that no one wants to belong to. I know what it means to them and it made me really want to serve more women.”
Her compassion reaches far beyond her clients and touches her staff as well. Marlo focuses on making her team feel like they are part of a family. “Many of the women who work for us don’t have things that others have had, they come from broken families or are single mothers with kids. I feel like a momma to them.” She is quick to give hugs at staff meetings and makes sure everyone has fun at the offsite meetings like the staff picnic at Lake Murray where everyone brought their families to enjoy games, watersports, and food.
With over three decades of experience in the cleaning business, Marlo has more stories than she has time to share. “I should write a book,” she said. From maggot infestations, to worrying about discarded needles during the height of the AIDS crisis, to a team member walking in on a suicide scene, she has seen it all. There was even a client whose life they saved—twice. The crew found the elderly woman having an epileptic seizure under her table when they came over to clean and called the ambulance. Later, she had moved into a care center and the crew once again found her having a seizure and called for help.
Now that Marlo is laser-focused on growing the company, she is excited about learning tactics from other successful cleaning business owners. “We’ve been doing things one way for a long time and I’m excited to try new things. It’s scary to take a leap of faith to invest in marketing but I know it will work and pay off. You gotta spend money to make money.” She has found the resources available from ARCSI to be invaluable and highly recommends this for other companies. “Get to know other cleaning business owners. No matter how long you’ve been in the business, you don’t know everything. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned in the three years since I joined ARCSI.”
When she’s not spending time on her Facebook groups with other cleaning business owners, Marlo loves to travel. Now that she’s got help in the office she can take longer trips and just got back from a two week tour of the West, hitting up the Grand Canyon, Hollywood, and Las Vegas. She also combines her love of travel with her excitement about the business and joins a small group of cleaning business owners that meet up in Atlanta.
If you’re looking for a cleaning company in Columbia, South Carolina, I’m sure you’ve heard of Deserved Comfort. If not, you should check out the company that has been cleaning in your community for over thirty years.
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