May 26, 2016
With a little help from our classes and coaching, the company is conquering the cleaning industry and remaking it as a force for good
In 2010, after being unexpectedly laid off from her job and with a family to support, Laura Stewart decided to become her own boss. Although she had little entrepreneurial experience, she was a cleaning crackerjack. After all, she was practically raised in the industry; she remembers being a kid and dusting desks to help at her mother’s job. So she used an unemployment check to buy into an existing cleaning company. And from there, Organic Planet Cleaning was born, a business that today not only provides cleaning services but living-wage jobs for those in the community who need them most, just like she did not too long ago.
That business partnership with a former employer, Leslie Ellis of Green Home Cleaning, fanned Laura’s entrepreneurial fire. Thanks to Leslie’s mentorship, Laura doubled Green Home’s business in just six months, recruiting enough new clients to not only pay herself for full-time work but to hire another full-time employee.
Laying the Foundation
Ultimately, Laura decided to split off—amicably—into her own residential and commercial cleaning business. Laura’s husband, David, had experience in sales and marketing and decided to join Laura to make the new company as successful as possible. They had the drive but needed some help getting started all on their own. So, they signed up for our Foundations business planning class (now offered through our partner Birds Eye Business Planning).
“We didn’t even know what our name was going to be at that point,” David says, noting just how early they were in creating what would become Organic Planet. “We knew how to do the daily operations, but as far as having a growth plan and projections for the future, we didn’t really have any experience with that. Foundations really helped us hone everything. The tools helped us figure out what our name was going to be, what our tagline was going to be, and what our business model was going to be.”
Business plan in hand, they officially launched Organic Planet Cleaning in January of 2012. They quickly distinguished their company in the marketplace through exceptional customer service and the use of their own handcrafted, organic cleaning products. As a result, demand for their services grew rapidly from the start.
In fact, the couple admits that like many entrepreneurs, they’ve spent much time utterly overwhelmed. Until last year, they say their strategy was “playing keep up.”
Coming Home for Coaching
That’s when they came back to Mountain BizWorks, where their dream originally took flight. “We realized we were starting to run in place a little bit, and we had plateaued with our residential clients, David shares. “And,” Laura adds, “we were experiencing a really high turnover rate with our subcontractors.” That upset them, since from the beginning they envisioned the company to be a wealth-building pathway for those who may have limited opportunities. They wanted to help their employees achieve success, and they couldn’t figure out why they weren’t sticking around. So they turned to coach Ravi Gaikwad to brainstorm ways to better make Organic Planet a thriving, and growing, social enterprise.
“He’s been an incredible resource,” David says. Coaching sessions with Ravi examined their current business model closely. They discussed going the multi-level marketing (MLM) route or micro-franchising path to get better buy-in from their employees. They explored the coop model and making their workers owners, and attended our recent Cooperatives Learning Lab 101 workshop. Ravi suggested applying for ScaleUp WNC as a way to further explore all of their options for future growth, and they were accepted to Cohort 3, which just finished earlier this month.
Polishing to a Shine
“ScaleUp was a time of major soul searching for us,” David notes—a time that resulted in a clear direction for Organic Planet’s future. “What we’ve realized from the program is that we’re going to be able to serve the most people, both clients and workers, if we remain at the helm.” But they aren’t letting go of their original mission and vision, David ensures. “We’re still planning to incentivize and make our workers stakeholders in the business through a form of profit sharing.”
The ScaleUp WNC program also helped them identify potential funding sources to support their growth. They’re hopeful they’ll soon obtain the working capital they need to truly scale up. Goals include doubling their commercial clients, hiring a manager, and moving the business out of their home. With such growth, Organic Planet expects they can add anywhere from 10 to 20 new employees to their existing roster of six, all of which are paid a living wage.
And, they plan to make their eco-friendly cleaning products available for sale for the first time. The couple stresses that the products are safe for use around pets and children and by those with allergies or weakened immune systems.
We’re thrilled to have been with them at every step in their journey—from start up to scale up—and know that coupled with the other growth strategies, their new product line is sure to polish Organic Planet Cleaning to a shining success.
For more about Organic Planet Cleaning, visit organicplanet.wordpress.com. For information about working with Mountain BizWorks to launch or grow your business, visit the lending, coaching, and ScaleUp WNC pages of our website.