Anthony DeNardis recently started a commercial and residential cleaning business called WeTidyupUSA.com, but he's quick to tell you that's really not his business.
“My business is not cleaning,” he insists. Instead, he says he's selling clients time to do the things they would be doing instead of cleaning their business or home.
DeNardis, 36, says it's an important distinction because that's how he's been able to land 100 clients since launching the business late last year.
Consider the “gift basket” he's selling called Dudes Only. It includes a car wash, oil change and a garage cleanout — stuff dudes would rather not have to do. DeNardis' firm does the cleaning, but he's partnered with providers of other services to sell his “basket,” which also includes a couple beers.
Another basket aimed at single guys is called Date Night. DeNardis' cleaning crew will show up at your home while you're out with your date. When you return, you can impress her with your squeaky-clean bachelor pad. “That's how we separate ourselves,” DeNardis says.
DeNardis, the CEO of the Port Charlotte company he founded in November, says he meets regularly with a small group of young entrepreneurs in Venice to exchange marketing ideas. “What clever thing did you come up with that works?” they ask themselves.
For example, DeNardis supplies free pens with his logo to restaurants in exchange for a free cleaning. When the waitresses bring the checks to customers, they give the pens away. “It's a cheap way to market,” he says.
That's important to entrepreneurs like DeNardis, who want to grow their business but don't have the resources to spend on advertising in traditional channels. For nearly seven years, DeNardis was a sergeant with the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, but harbored ambitions to become an entrepreneur since majoring in business at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
DeNardis started cleaning homes and condos with his parents, who had established a handyman business in Englewood after they retired there. As it turned out, he was making as much money helping his parents part-time as he was making with the Sheriff's Office full-time.
DeNardis is a big user of social media, regularly posting on Facebook, Twitter and other outlets. “The old-school ways are definitely fading,” he says. “There's ways to get your name out there practically free.” He and his wife, Jodie, came up with the firm's dot-com name when they were brainstorming at the kitchen table.
The company generated 20 new clients after DeNardis promoted a special deal offering free house cleanings for police officers and firefighters he dubbed Hero's Cleaning. “The local paper ran a story in June,” he says. “That was a real tipping point.”
DeNardis keeps overhead low. When he needs labor to clean homes, he posts an ad on the free online classified-advertising site Craigslist. Part-time workers use their own cleaning supplies and equipment, for which he provides a per diem. “I post a calendar [online] and they sign on,” he explains.
By now, DeNardis has developed a list of cleaning people he can rely on, though he continues to follow up with inspections. But he's always looking for more because it's a challenge to find entrepreneurial people. “I want someone who's business savvy and takes care of their equipment,” he says.
Currently, 75% of DeNardis' business is commercial and the rest is residential. From his base in Port Charlotte, WeTidyupUSA.com crews clean homes and offices from Cape Coral to Bradenton.
He's developed his own minute-per-square-foot formula for turning a profit on cleaning offices and homes, and unlike his competition he doesn't charge a big upfront fee for the first cleaning. “Charge a little less and they want you to come back for more,” he reasons. Depending on the size of the house or office, cleaning costs between $40 and $200.
Ultimately, DeNardis hopes to franchise his company. He's a big fan of College Hunks Hauling Junk, the Tampa-based franchise with 35 locations. DeNardis says he's been tweeting with one of the founders for advice. “They're like my role model,” he says. “They're inspiring me.”