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Springfield, MO

SPICK-AND-SPAN: Eco-Cleaning Systems owner Tara Coble and her team clean 50 properties between Springfield and Branson.
SBJ photo by Wes Hamilton
SPICK-AND-SPAN: Eco-Cleaning Systems owner Tara Coble and her team clean 50 properties between Springfield and Branson.

Business Spotlight: The Maid Brigade

Employee-turned owner triples housekeeping business volume

Posted online

Working in the housecleaning business is sure to produce all kinds of new cleaning hacks.

“Right now, we’re really fond of Magic Erasers. And razors, we love razors,” says Tara Coble of Eco-Cleaning Systems LLC.

Coble’s been a professional housecleaner for more than a decade and a small-business owner for four years. She’s the type to buy the company she worked for.

At the time, it was just Coble and another employee. Coble jumped at the chance to purchase Eco-Cleaning Systems from owner Tim Stade. On March 14, 2014, she put about $5,000 down on the undisclosed purchase price and agreed to pay 10 percent on the commercial property cleaning revenues for three years.

That time is up, and now, she and 10 full-time employees clean 50 properties – mostly residential and a couple of commercial jobs. The workload and sales are about triple the volume when she bought in.

Annual revenues have held steady around $200,000, with some growth points from condominium complexes and Airbnb rentals.

Eco-Cleaning is contracted with WaterMill Cove to clean 10 of its 24 units on Table Rock Lake’s Indian Point.

“We can clean for that property 20 times in a week, depending on their check-ins and check-outs,” Coble says. “They do up to three-night rentals. So it will turn over, and we’ll go in and clean from 10-5.”

She says the local ownership group, Faria Resorts, plans to build more properties onsite and that could produce additional work.

“That’s our plan,” Coble says.

Eco-Cleaning also works with multiple property management companies: Debco Management Inc., Wilhoit Properties Inc. and the Preservation of Affordable Housing. POAH manages the 18-unit low-income complex known as Country Club Village near Glenstone Avenue and Bennett Street.

In addition to general cleaning – the standard dusting, vacuuming, cobwebs and trash removal – Coble and company also will change filters and linens, clean ovens and refrigerators, and walk dogs.

“We have really personalized services and try to get to know our clients,” she says. “Everybody’s home is different. Some people like the smell of lavender and some people don’t.”

Others might have allergies and only want vinegar and baking soda cleaning products.

“We take that into account,” she says.

One client is going through chemotherapy.

“Not only can she not clean for herself, she also can’t smell those chemicals,” Coble says. “We have a lot of older clients who can’t get on ladders, and things like that, or who are sick. I sit down with them and ask exactly what they want done. I’ll write down a checklist for them.”

For Marilyn Wilkins, time is the biggest factor.

“It’s busy,” she says. “I don’t have time to do it myself. That’s how it was in the beginning, when all the kids were littler.”

Wilkins has hired housecleaners for years, beginning when she worked as a nurse and had four young children.

“She’s done multiple homes for me,” she says of hiring Coble for at least 10 years now.

Coble personally cleans Wilkins’ home in University Heights twice a month. She says that’s Eco-Cleaning clients’ most common frequency of service.

Now that Wilkins is a great-grandmother, with 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, she’s still happy to hire out cleaning work.

“I could still do it,” she says, before concluding, “but I don’t have to worry about it.”

She’d much rather spend time with her family’s activities.

“With a cleaning service, that allows you to be more involved with what’s going on in your kids’ lives,” Wilkins says.

The cleaning services industry is big business, too. According to a report by Allied Market Research, the global cleaning services market is expected to exceed $74 billion by 2022. The forecast includes commercial/janitorial work and companies centered on niches like floor care and window cleaning.

Growth in the residential segment rides on the increasing number of dual income homes and disposable income, as well as an aging population in need of services, the report said.

Competitors in Springfield include franchisors MaidPro and Merry Maids, along with a number of small businesses like Eco-Cleaning: Janitor Jane LLC, Penny’s Cleaning and Elite Cleaning Services.

Coble spends about $400 per month for placement on HomeAdvisor.com, a searchable database for home improvement services. Listed there for a year now, Eco-Cleaning has a 4.6-star rating out of five.

She says up to 15 percent of business can be attributed to connections on the site, and a few Airbnb jobs she’s secured were HomeAdvisor leads.

“If I take on two or three new clients or just one-time cleans every month from HomeAdvisor, then it’s worth my while,” Coble says.

Coble charges $25 per hour, and there is a three-hour minimum per job.

She uses Google Calendar for scheduling, and she’s looking into online client booking.

“I used to do everything by a paper calendar. That got to be too much,” she says.

Next up is researching an Amazon platform to request cleaning and home maintenance services by a click of a button online.

Who knows, maybe Amazon will come out with Dash buttons for housekeeping.

“That’s an idea: ‘Come clean now!’ That would be super cool,” Coble says.

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