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BM Cleaning Service: Scrubbing their way to success in the crowded Toronto market


SUMMARY

Industry

  • Residential and cleaning services

Customer - Toronto homes and businesses

  • Offers cleaning services to families and businesses in Toronto core
  • In business since 2008
  • Dedicated to providing environmentally responsible cleaning services

Challenge

  • Growing the business in a crowded urban cleaning market

Solution

  • Focus on learning business lessons from bigger companies
  • Commitment to ensuring customers are 100% satisfied
  • Stand out from other cleaners with free, eco-friendly cleaning kit for customers

Result

  • Still surviving and thriving after nine years in a constantly competitive market

While many people love a clean home or office, not everyone loves to clean. This is especially true in a big city like Toronto where the fast-paced lifestyle leaves little time to take care of domestic chores, and the opportunity to hire someone to clean for you are many. In fact, a Google search for “Toronto Cleaning Services” returns 1,880,000 results! Surviving, let alone thriving, in this crowded market is tough. Yet that’s exactly what business owners Bill and Marina Christou have done for the past 10 years.

Offering full service residential and commercial cleaning since 2008, BM Cleaning Service serves clients throughout the Toronto core area, with a focus on providing environmentally responsible cleaning services. “Our inspiration to start BM Cleaning Service sparked when we discovered that we both shared a love for cleanliness and order in our home,” says Marina. “We also wanted more control of our financial independence, and the ability to spend more time together and with our two girls.”

The Christous recently shared their thoughts on the key to building a successful small business, the importance of the local community to their business growth, and their financial journey as they built BM Cleaning Service.

On start-up funding

Many small businesses that are just starting out look for loans, credit lines, or other ways to borrow money to launch their business, but not the Christous.

“The start up funds to get BM Cleaning Service off the ground came from our savings,” says Marina. “We had a modest shoestring budget to work with.” The Christous say that in the early stages of their business, startup funds weren’t as important as working hard, as they invested “leg work and dedication” to launch their business.

Learning through trial and error

Small business owners today might access a variety of programs, like the series of small business workshops offered by the Toronto Public Library, to learn about many typical business-related issues, However the Christous say they learned their business lessons on their own.

“We didn't have any guidance or direction on the business side of things,” says Bill, adding that they went through a difficult series of “trial and error,” over the years. “The key is to learn from your mistakes,” he says. “What worked for us was to set the bar high for ourselves -- we would try to model the way we did things after big companies that we liked.”

One way BM Cleaning Service stands out from the competitors is with their free, eco-friendly cleaning kit. It’s provided on the first cleaning visit, then replenished for as long as clients use their service.

Business success with a local focus

“When it comes to providing residential cleaning services, the big brands have an advantage because the public knows their name and recognizes the branding - just think of Molly Maid. Yet the Christous say that the Toronto community appreciates working with a local company when it comes to something as personal and intimate as cleaning a home.

““Our industry is very locally driven,” says Marina. “Our “BM Home Attendants”[the BM cleaning staff], suppliers and clientele are all within close proximity.” Marina says that she and Bill like the fact that they directly contribute to their local economy while doing what they love. And the community reciprocated -- right from the start, she says, as early customers didn’t take long to recognize the BM Cleaning Service brand.

““We found that people were eager to support our vision through hiring us, offering business advice and reassuring us that we were in fact not your ‘run of the mill’ cleaning company,” she says.

Expanding their market as business grew

Over the years BM Cleaning Service has grown and changed, and Bill says their marketing has also changed to keep up with the times. “Initially our marketing channel was simple and dated,” he says, explaining that it included sending out high quality promotional postcards to carefully selected areas they targeted to get new customers.

“Now that the marketing landscape has drastically changed, social media is where we tend to concentrate. Online presence is now by far the most important first impression.” BM Cleaning Service now has a business website, has an active Twitter account, a Facebook page called BM Lifestyle and is listed on several online business directory sites such as Yelp, Canpages, and LiveGreenCard.

The key to small business success is...

So what have the Christous learned that has allowed BM Cleaning Service to not only survive, but actually grow in a crowded Toronto cleaning services market?

“The biggest lesson we've learned from running a business is that the first and foremost import thing you can do is to make certain that your customers are 100 percent satisfied at any cost...period!” says Bill. “ Even if that means at a profit loss.”

“The Christous believe that the impression that you make is the brand that you build, and that the biggest asset a business has is its reputation.

“We've been carefully maintaining and crafting our good reputation from day one,” Marina says. “We think the best advice for new business owners is to stay true to your vision and give it your all. Strive for constant improvement, work hard and stay dedicated.”

Credit Unions and small business finance

When BM Cleaning Service launched, the Christous started their business journey with one of the big banks. “It was the traditional direction most businesses take,” says Bill. Yet he says that they realized that the monthly fees kept increasing over time, to the point where they were no longer reasonable for a small business. “We also didn't like the treatment we received, and [we were] made to feel insignificant.”

The Christous say that after some research, they stumbled upon Meridian Credit Union, and instantly connected with the more personal approach offered by the credit union.

“We love working with a credit union,” says Marina. “Meridian has such a great approach to dealing with clientele, the atmosphere is warm yet professional.” Marina says that she feels Meridian is more “in-line with the needs of a new business” than their traditional bank was.

“We really appreciate the level of personal attention from our Meridian branch's business account manager,” says Bill. “We're given opportunities to give our feedback and input through Meridian's “inside hub member” program. Meridian has given us a sense of belonging.”

“If you’re looking for a personalized, friendly approach for your small business financial needs, learn more at Meridiancu.ca, or contact your Meridian branch today to meet with a small business advisor.

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