Starting a Cleaning Franchise
Interview with Richard Sparacio, Co-Founder of MaidPro
Learn about the beginnings of cleaning franchise giant MaidPro as co-founder Richard Sparacio shares his entrepreneurial experiences.
Richard Sparacio and Mark Kushinsky founded MaidPro in 1991 and began selling franchises in 1997.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
MaidPro is a franchised residential cleaning service with over 100 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.
How did you come up with your business idea?
In 1991, while living in Beacon Hill, my co-founder Mark called a maid service to have his home cleaned. Although he was shocked by how high the prices were, he was looking forward to regaining valuable time. On the day of the cleaning, Mark arrived home eager to see the work that had been done. He was very disappointed. The cleaning team had done a seriously inadequate job. He called the manager of the company to complain. She was not apologetic. Instead, all she said was, "Well, we'll be sure to give the cleaning team more detailed instructions next time." Still, Mark persevered. He called another cleaning company. They were even more expensive!
But, Mark reasoned that this must be because they provided better service than the first company. Yet their work was even worse! Not only did they do an extremely poor job of cleaning his home, they had left his cat, Foof, locked in the bathroom - without a litter box! There was no way Mark would allow this company in his home again.
But this is not the end of the story, it is only the beginning - the beginning of MaidPro. Mark shared his experiences with me and the two of us recognized a great opportunity. We opened MaidPro's first tiny 200 square foot office on Boston's historic Beacon Hill in September of 1991.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I stepped out of my senior year in college at Suffolk University and to start MaidPro with Mark. I had experience working in family business prior and during my college years that was a great foundation.
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?
Good Question. Gaining key allies in these areas is hugely important. We used our family contacts and personal relationships in the beginning. I would suggest having advisors who can grow and invest in you. They are vital and yes, get them early in your planning stages.
What outside resources were helpful for you? Business incubators, Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, ….
We used SCORE and the experience was very pleasant. An additional resource is a strong mentor. Finding someone you can trust who has skills to share can make you very powerful.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
My business partner, Mark, started the business from his apartment for the first few weeks, to simply get the business off the ground. He leveraged his savings to ramp up to get into our first office on Beacon Hill. I am a believer that you need to separate the business from your home to give both the space they need.
Have you hired additional staff? What is your greatest human resources challenge?
Yes. Our business had developed into the size where there are now individual departments at the home office level. Accounting, Marketing, Call Center, Operations, etc. Hiring employees is honestly, my favorite part of the business. The talent that exists out there is beyond exciting. The challenge is making sure that you have the right employee fit with an entrepreneurial company because the company is always changing.
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur? Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?
I think the time is better than ever for woman to go for it. The female role models are out there to emulate with great abundance. I can only think of advantages for woman to be business owners. Examples would be the strength of intuition, sales skills and being great at building relationships.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
There are great leasing deals out there right now, so take advantage of them. Lucky is over so now is the time to watch every expense with a keen eye.
Finding employees to work in a new and growing business can be a challenge. How did you find your employees?
Networking, local colleges and employment websites give us great results. We are lucky to be in downtown Boston and in the center of a strong city.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
Yes, it's been more of a life lesson than I ever imagined. It's been amazing for me to see the business turn into something that touches so many people each day.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Have more patience and accept that it takes different types of teams at different stages of the business.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Starting any business requires an enormous amount of energy. Be ready physically, mentally and emotionally. Have an extra cushion of cash to protect you from the "what-ifs." If at all possible work in the same or similar industry to get a real world taste of what it will be like.
Thank you for your time Richard. It sounds like you and Mark are on the road to a promising future.
Do you want to learn more about MaidPro franchise opportunities? Check out our MaidPro franchise listing!
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