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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 6, 2018 7 months ago

Growing company focuses on different kind of cleaning — crime scene, trauma and hoarding

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Crime scene, trauma and hoarding cleanup franchise Bio-One is in expansion mode. A core challenge: Marketing its unusual services.
by: Grier Ferguson Staff Writer

No one thinks about crime scene cleanup until they need it.

That’s what Jennifer Salomon says. She’s the marketing manager for the Bio-One franchises in Sarasota, Tampa and Orlando. That fact presents a marketing challenge, but she and her boss, Robert Riley are prepared to meet it.

Riley is the owner of the Sarasota, Tampa and Orlando franchises of Bio-One, a company that performs suicide and homicide cleanup; undiscovered death cleanup; biohazard waste disposal; hoarder and clutter cleanup; and mold remediation.

He’s owned the Tampa and Orlando franchises for six years, and he opened the Sarasota franchise six months ago. Before purchasing the franchises, he was a business broker.

Each Bio-One franchise covers the city and its surrounding counties. Bio-One Sarasota handles jobs in Sarasota, Manatee, Hardee, DeSoto, Charlotte, Lee and Highlands counties. “I like having the whole central Florida corridor,” Riley says.

In Sarasota, Salomon says, there aren’t a lot of companies doing the same thing. Most competition comes from trauma cleaning and biohazard removal company Aftermath and from water damage, fire damage and mold restoration company Servpro. 

But Salomon and Riley have worked to set Bio-One apart from competitors by emphasizing its local ties. When people call Bio-One Sarasota, Tampa or Orlando, they talk to Riley — not someone at a call center. That’s important, Salomon says. She wants potential customers to know: “We are here, and we are local.” The goal, she says, is to get the Bio-One name out in the community as a name people can trust.

She and Riley are on site at cleanups themselves, along with other members of the Bio-One team. When they go to the scenes of suicides, murders and people dying alone, Salomon, who has a background in mental health for the military, says she has to remove herself from the scene emotionally. “You have to step back and say, ‘I’m here to get the property back in order.’”

“You have to step back and say, ‘I’m here to get the property back in order.’”— Jennifer Salomon, Bio-One Sarasota, Tampa and Orlando

The company’s marketing approach is also boots-on-the-ground. “We do a lot of personal marketing,” Riley says. “The marketing is time-consuming because it’s personal contact.” It includes door-to-door, business-to-business marketing with apartment complexes and talking to victims’ advocates. “We’re out in the community a lot,” he says.

Bio-One hosts trainings for property managers to teach them what to do if they run across an undiscovered death, homicide or suicide. “When they hire somebody like us, the liability is off their shoulders,” Riley says. Bio-One is licensed, insured, bonded and employees go through a training annually, he says.

The company’s strategy is also tied in with community involvement. Bio-One regularly sponsors events, such as kickball or golf tournaments connected to local police and fire departments. “Just about every Saturday we have an event going on connected to a law enforcement agency,” Riley says. “We want them to know we’re not just out there to get their business, we’re helping, too.”

Salomon says word of mouth and referrals have been core aspects of how they’ve built the businesses. Company officials declined to disclose specific revenue figures. 

Hoarding cleanup, meanwhile, is another big business avenue for Riley’s Bio-One franchises. Salomon says at least 50% to 60% of the business comes from hoarding situations or clients. 

They market Bio-One’s services to hoarding support groups and through Google, so when people search for “hoarding help” or “hoarding cleanup,” Bio-One comes up in the results.

Bio-One offers free consultations for hoarding cases, but the cleanup charge depends on the level of contamination, how big a crew is needed and how many Dumpsters it will call for, Salomon says. She says the biggest hoarding project she’s worked on for Bio-One was at a house in Orlando. The job took a week, and they filled 20 to 25 30-yard Dumpsters.

Riley, on hoarding, says “It’s a way bigger issue than anyone imagined.”

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