Want to Start a Business? Try an Alternate Path

Entrepreneurship is such a trending word it seems anyone can start his own business. But not everyone is lucky enough to obtain an entrepreneurial opportunity. The owner of Home Brite Cleaning Services, Siraj Mirza, is part of an alternate trend which people buys an existing business and makes smart modifications to help the business prosper.

Home Brite Cleaning Services is a professional cleaning services company started in 2009 that provides private home cleaning, pre move-in and pro move-out cleaning, office cleaning and post construction cleanup services. The owner of Home Brite, Siraj Mirza, currently in his mid-40s, used to be a banker working with foreign banks; he was laid off during the recession in 2008, leaving his wife, Tess Zaidi, under heavy financial pressure. After changing jobs for a few times, Mirza decided that he didn’t want the stress of managing credit portfolios anymore, so he purchased the national franchise and canceled original contract deals restricted to cleaning services in Beverly Hills and Studio City areas. Instead, Mirza and his wife created their own brand, Home Brite, and started serving personalized home cleaning services to multiple areas within LA County.

Mirza recalled that when the business first started out in 2009, sales kept going down for a year because of the downturn that entire U.S. economy was undergoing back then. “Life was very stressful in 2009, we had lost one of the properties we owned to foreclosure”, said Tess. Thanks to the recovery of overall U.S. economic conditions and Mirza’s hard work, Home Brite has been able to double its business sales every year since 2011. In addition, Home Brite improved its service quality, and it started its marketing campaign, as well. As a result, Home Brite is able to reach steadily growing annual sales of 200,000 dollars in 2014.

The most dominant change that Home Brite made to its business is personalizing its services. Mirza knows his customers very well in person and remains accessible to his customers through text messages and phone calls daily. For private home cleaning service requests, Home Brite is able to respond very quickly and arrange timely services for its customers. By maintaining its high quality of service, Home Brite is able to maintain its loyal customers while increasing the number of new customers. Another factor that helps Mirza with increasing sales is diversifying the projects his team works on. For example, he himself would work on smaller apartment cleaning, and his other team of 6 people would work on larger projects such as post construction cleaning for an entire house.

According to Home Brite owner Mirza, he refers the housing market and national unemployment rate as two broader economic data that impact his business. Since the service Home Brite provides is essentially a discretionary service, the demand for home cleaning services depend largely on people’s economic conditions. When unemployment rate is low, people can afford discretionary services; however, when unemployment rate rises, people are losing jobs and thus are less likely to afford discretionary expenses. Another factor Mirza concludes that affects his business is the housing market. A robust housing market creates more demand for house cleaning services, yet a weak economy reflects a low level of investment that results in less demand for services.

The biggest challenge Home Brite faces with currently is to find reliable employees due to the nature of service it provides. “It makes me nervous”, said Tess, “we have not experienced anything bad, but I always want them [the cleaning team] to be extremely careful with expensive items”. Indeed, many people who use cleaning services worry about the same trust issue. In order to maintain the loyalty of both its employees and customers, Home Brite owner Mirza says he would choose to grow the business at a controlled manner. He notes that he does not want employees who are “constantly not available or constantly changing jobs”; it is not the size of a cleaning team that matters but really the quality of its service that matters.

In general, the lowering of interest rates has allowed investments pour into construction, which creates more jobs in post construction cleaning for cleaning services such as Home Brite. “When more buildings are being built, it increases our sales”, said Mirza. One may think that access to capital is a requirement for starting a business, but for a smaller business like Home Brite, Mirza used his savings to finance the initial stages of the business. Once the business is up and running, there is little capital they had to acquire from banks.

The major competition for Home Brite comes from independent workers who are not registered with residential apartment buildings. Another competition comes from national cleaning franchises such as Merry Maids and Molly Maids, because these companies are capable of much stronger marketing campaigns, especially their powerful online presence. On the other hand, Home Brite holds its own advantages. Mirza and his team are flexible in time scheduling and they always respond quickly to customers. Besides, their services have no territory restrictions. “When I talk to people who used to use other larger maid service companies, customers have complained that they never answer the phone or response to text messages, and they keep changing the times”, says Tess. Although Home Brite has not been able to raise prices for the past 5 years, it has not yet had to offer discounts to attract customers either.

“We are currently bidding for a few larger projects over 100,000 dollars per job”, Mirza says. “We now show up as the No. 1 post construction cleaning team in LA County.”

Diversification of jobs has increased Home Brite’s competitiveness in the market. In the mean time, by maintaining good relationships with its current customers, Home Brite is taking the purchased franchise onto a fruitful path.

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