Originally, Neel Parekh studied economics and psychology, but only because those were the two closest degrees to business available. Even at that point, he wanted to do something in business. Growing up with parents who were small business owners, he always felt he would end up doing something similar.
He completed several internships throughout college, but his first real job was at a venture capital firm.
The focus was PR growth and private equity, which meant he was writing checks for five to $20 million to different companies for a minority stake. It was exciting. He was getting to invest in software companies and high-end tech companies.
The switch happened when Neel was on Reddit looking at different ideas of what to do next. He wanted a side hustle. Though he enjoyed the excitement of his job, Neel was looking forward to a change worth quitting for, something that allowed him to travel. He came across a post on the entrepreneur subreddit, of someone who started a cleaning company. He had posted the steps, and Neel thought, why not?
He started following the subreddit, researching the framework, and then took it and made it his own.
In 2020, Neel launched MaidThis Franchise, which is the first-ever U.S.-based cleaning franchise specializing in vacation rental cleanings. He is the Founder and CEO of MaidThis® and MaidThis® Franchise, a cleaning franchise that helps residential homeowners and short-term rental hosts (Airbnb, VRBO, etc) with their cleaning.
MaidThis is a completely remote business model and operates locally with a global team. His business was designed for remote work, which is very timely for the current economic climate.
Noticing entrepreneurial opportunities
When Neel first started out with his side hustle, there wasn’t a grand master plan. He chose to focus on Airbnb hosts because he saw the vacation rental company growing into a hundred billion-dollar brand. There were no conscious plans or goals, it was simply about noticing the opportunities and taking advantage of them.
While many companies like these were popping up, Neel had chosen to operate remotely from day one, out of his necessity to have a side hustle while he was working his day job.
This gave his business a huge competitive advantage. They could recruit around the world with no office overhead. All of those dollars could go to marketing instead. Having a more lean infrastructure is a big leg up.
His business also coincided with the boom of vacation rentals. As work became more complicated, people began converting their homes or secondary spaces into vacation rentals. Instead of going to hotels, overcrowded amusement parks, or tourist spots, people began looking for small, well-maintained rental homes for a safe getaway. With this shift, homeowners now needed more cleaning each month.
How a cleaning franchise works
Over seven and a half years, Neel and his team have spent much of their time examining their mistakes, figuring out how to run a remote business and a cleaning franchise. Trial and error, practice, and time are the most important and unavoidable factors of this process.
There’s been a lot of demand for their business to expand into other markets, so to resolve this, Neel and his team have packaged the system to partner with franchisees. For example, if someone wanted to use their cleaning system in Vegas, they could partner with Neel for support from their team and brand recognition of a franchise.
For any service-based business, finding staff is always one of the most difficult parts to scale. That’s always the bottleneck. It’s similar to the chicken or the egg debate. When you have jobs, you need cleaners. If you have cleaners, you need more jobs. It’s always fluctuating, and it’s never going to be perfect.
For Neel and his team, this is something they consider when deciding to award a franchise to someone in a certain locality. There has to be enough talent pool in the market in order to recruit the necessary amount of staff.
Tools for remote teams
One of the most important tools in Neel’s arsenal is Slack. Slack is the central hub for their operations team. The efficiency of a tool like this for remote work is enormous. You can’t just rely on emails and wait for someone to reply. A quality communication platform is the core of a successful cleaning franchise.
The next piece is a quality CRM. Neel’s team uses Launch 27 to allow customers to go online and schedule appointments. This system also sends a schedule to cleaners and keeps the bookings updated.
The third tool Neel recommends (though not necessary for every business) is a VoIP system for phone calls. This allows the remote team to log in from their home computers to the phoneline, dial in, dial out, and manage calls.
Starting From Scratch
In the beginning, the biggest challenge is always getting customers. However, the first major issue Neel and his team faced centered around the parts of the business they had no experience in. They didn’t know how to make a website.
Neel works in finance as a master of Excel spreadsheets. But creating a website? Impossible. Everything from formatting to marketing had to be done completely from scratch.
Finances, on the other hand, weren’t difficult to find. The beauty of having a remote local business, where you could do things very lean, is that you need very little cash to get going. Neel’s business was 100% bootstrapped.
Working and Leading Remotely
Running a remote business is where it can become more complicated. For those who want to travel, bad Wifi will eventually happen, and in certain areas, no amount of money can fix it. In these scenarios, mobile hotspots are a godsend. Of course, you’re never really unplugged. In the beginning stages, you’re always tethered, and you have to be in a place with reliable Wifi.
After that, the challenge is productivity. When traveling to a new city, most people find it takes about a week to get settled, discover which coworking space they’ll use or find a local coffee spot. It just takes time to get into the rhythm. For those who seek out this lifestyle, it’s important to be aware of the loss of productivity and how to combat it.
Today, Neel’s cleaning franchise has nine office staff members, between 25 to 40 cleaners at any given time, with services in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver. Currently, they’re discussing which locations should be next. An ideal spot would be a good mix of both residential and vacation rental spots, like Phoenix, Arizona. They’re also considering large, competitive cities like NYC.
For Neel, the most important thing is to continue learning the market, so when the unexpected happens, there’s room for flexibility.
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