Today marks our last day of operations for the summer of 2017, and we couldn’t be happier with how things turned out this year. With an expansion to Toronto, 10 times more staff (meaning 10 times more students employed!) and a contract with Ottawa’s largest business park, KRP Properties, this season has been a wild ride, and we are so happy you were able to join us for it.
To say thanks, we thought we’d share our story with you and tell you a little bit about how Cleen Detailing came to be. If you don’t know, Carson and I, the founders of Cleen Detailing are entering our third year of university, and started talking about Cleen around this time around two years ago. For reference, the person writing this is Sawyer (the taller one ha!). Carson and I have been best friends for as long as I can remember, and throughout high school had always been talking about starting a business together, but nothing materialized. We then headed off to our respective universities (I’m at Queen’s while Carson is at Western) to study business, and the classes immediately got our minds churning. Before you know it Carson is on the phone pitching me about a mobile, subscription based car wash business.
Left: Carson (left), Sawyer (right), Right: Sawyer (left), Carson (right)
After a lot of tweaking, we settled upon a mobile car detailing business instead. Before you knew it we were creating the website for Cleen, getting a business number, and seeing just how much of our education savings we would need to dip into to get this thing off of the ground. Things got very real very fast. I remember the day before our launch vividly. It was pouring rain and Carson and I were huddled inside of a Mini trying to figure out the best way to go about cleaning pleather. We had 30 appointments booked, were already $8,000 in debt, and had (frankly) no real clue what we were doing. We couldn’t help but laugh at what we had gotten ourselves into.
Photo of Carson (right) and I (left) on our first day of operations
We went to every appointment with our employees for a month straight, slept in my basement for the three hours a night when we weren’t working on the website or tending to sporadic administration tasks, and refilled all the supplies from my garage, things were hectic and unorganized to say the least, but there was no time to make adjustments. We pushed through. In a blur the summer was already coming to a close, and after going through hell, we were unsure of where to even begin the overhaul that would need to take place with the company to remove ourselves as bottlenecks for next year. We routinely did follow-up calls with every customer to ensure they were 100% satisfied with their appointments, but this one, on one of our final days of operations, was different. We were speaking with a very nice lady on the phone, when all of a sudden we heard a “click”, it was another phone coming online on their end. A mans voice rang in “listen you guys, my wife never raves about companies like this one, you gents are doing good work over there, when would you be able to meet for coffee? I think this thing could be big.” We didn’t realize, but that one conversation led us to an amazing investor and mentor, who would change our lives forever. We had our first official meeting in his office as he pointed outside of his window, “right….there” he pointed to an empty area of the large commercial parking lot “that’s where I see you boys set up next year”. Before we knew it we were incorporating, he lined up a commercial deal for us with KRP Properties, and set up a loan to get us off the ground for the summer of 2017. I remember sitting inside of Carson’s family minivan after the first meeting and just laughing for what felt like forever. Our hard work had finally been recognized. We were moving into the big leagues.
Minivan receiving #TheCleenEffect in our first year of operations
Our goal was to 10x our revenue in one summer. In the back of our heads we knew we would likely fall a little short, but it completely changes your mentality when you are shooting for a 10x versus, say a 2x. The 2 calls for optimization, the 10 calls for a complete restructure, and that’s exactly what we did. We bought 8 massive branded canopies to allow us to operate in the rain, 8 commercial grade steam cleaners, completely new uniforms, did class talks about entrepreneurship at high schools for hiring, and completely gutted the Frankenstein of excel sheets that we had called our back-end. We automated everything from payroll, to appointment scheduling, to employee tracking, to cash deposits. We rented a warehouse to fit all of our supplies and equipment each night, and completely rebuilt our website on WordPress (see the old site here). We even found a team of amazing students at Queen’s led by Adam Milito and Daniel Porter to spread #TheCleenEffect to Toronto. Lastly, we hired two fantastic managers, Julia Yang and Sharon Gong, from Queen’s and Western respectively to carry the torch for Cleen 2.0. Before you knew it the summer had begun.
A photo of the new Cleen canopies set up outside of KRP properties
We went from 4 to 30 employees that became a family, from 6 cars a day (on a good day) to 30 cars a day, and from a convoluted back-end to a well oiled machine that for the most part ran itself, all in one of Ontario’s rainiest summers. Cleen has been a roller coaster since it’s inception but I think I can speak for Carson and myself when I say that nothing in my life has even come close to being as challenging, energizing, or rewarding as starting this company. It’s like having your own little world where you make all the rules, and you get to pay attention and tweak every little detail. There really aren’t a lot of scenarios where you can spend four hours testing the ratios of essential oils to leave in the car to get that perfect Cleen scent, or to take every coin we find in the car and package it into our Cleen gift bags, and to me it’s the little things like that that make Cleen so special. Designing those little things that stick in a customers head and that give them more than what they came for, to me is what #TheCleenEffect is all about. Thank you so much for being a customer, you have had a profound impact on not just mine and Carson’s lives, but also the lives of all of the Detailing Experts and managers that make this company. We hope to continue to grow and evolve, and serve you for many years to come. Long live #TheCleenEffect!