In this interview with The News Chronicle (TNC), Linda Onah, the CEO of Sparkle Concierge talks about her business, motivation, challenges, future plans …and many other issues.
TNC: First, let me congratulate you on Sparkle Concierge. We all know it is not easy to set up a business and run it successfully. Can you please tell us a little bit about your company and why you ventured into that line of business? How has it been so far? Tell us about the company’s growth trajectory including the number of employees.
LO: Thank you. It is no news that, nothing good comes easy (laughs). Sparkle Concierge was born with the desire to serve people that might find it a bit tasking to maintain their homes and (or) establishments but, who are willing to allow the fairies of cleaning swoop in and handle it. We are a boutique company but don’t let our size fool you, we’ve proven ourselves capable of handling very large businesses and centres and the same attention lavished on the smaller homes are also given to the big businesses.
I like to think of Sparkle as my baby, one that was born out of love and the need to fill a gap that a lot of people didn’t even know was missing, so when I decided to venture into cleaning as a business, I had the intention of doing something different. I wanted to offer a service that the high and middle class income earners can tap into. I said to myself that the only question I wanted prospective clients to ask themselves was “Do I need to clean my house?” and if the answer was ‘Yes’, then that is my target market. The plan is to clean every dirty surface that presents itself.
It has been challenging to say the truth. This is the first business I have ever run. I barely had any experience on how to run a business. I knew I could clean very well and I wanted to make money out of it. I have learnt a lot and I am still learning. The good and bad experience has made it worthwhile.
Sparkle Concierge has grown over the years. I remember the first call we got to clean, I wasn’t ready then, I was still looking at the business prospect, doing my research and asking questions and telling one of my friends about my business idea. My friend called to tell me that her boss needed someone to clean her house, I was happy and I accepted the job.
I called my younger sister and told her to get the mop, broom, towel, sponge and buckets in the house ready because we have a job to do. Then we went, in the bid of wanting to impress our first client we spent most of the day there cleaning. We impressed her but I realized, we had to find a way to spend less time cleaning or charge for the extra time and effort we put in. We charged way less for the quality of work we did and the time we spent, looking back it was incredulous but I’d like to think of it as growth. We have been able to adjust the charges and the types of cleaning service we offer. Sparkle Concierge now has three full time staff and seven contract staff.
TNC: Please tell us about what keeps you motivated and focused on the business despite the inevitable odds that anyone or any business faces along the way. What are the peculiar challenges you face in your line of business? What are some glorious moments of the business?
LO: I like to think that my business goal is what has been motivating me to push further. My goal is to create a trusted brand, a household name if I may say, one that is synonymous with clean living, a brand that would help people to achieve a very clean environment to live in.
It’s funny how, despite our advancement and growth, in this part of the world, people still find it absurd to pay to get their space cleaned. They do not see professional cleaning as something serious. They think it is the usual business of sweep and mop. They tell themselves, “I do not need professionals to sweep my house. I can just get my security man to do the job, and give him a plate of food when next I cook”. Thinking about those people just bring pity to my heart because, we go beyond sweeping and mopping, we try to ensure that your space is safe and healthy for you to live in.
With our systematic method of cleaning and sanitizing your space, we do more than just making the places we work on “appear” clean as some people might do, to actually eliminating 99% of the dirt, making the places we clean, healthy and habitable.
I’ll have to say that any time our clients are happy with the kind of work we’ve given them, that’s our glorious moments. When our clients are happy with our work, and they are satisfied with our procedures, they refer us to other people and nothing is as glorious as knowing you contributed to the health and well being of some individuals.
TNC: The government says it has put in place a number of incentives to help businesses such as encouraging banks to lend to them at favourable interest rates. Are there any incentives that you have tried to tap to grow your business? How would you want government to assist a business like yours?
LO: Government says (laughs). I have not taken time to study any of the incentives that the government allegedly provides, so, No, I have not tapped into any to grow my business.
The government should assist us by giving us contracts to manage the cleaning and the maintenance of government facilities. I’m sure we can handle it (smiles) but seriously if the government can help reach out to media houses (print and broadcast), like placing some sort of subsidy for small businesses wanting to advertise, that would be amazing. We could reach a wider audience which means, more customers.
TNC: Please, tell us a typical day in your life as a business owner, the time you wake up, the time you get to your office, the challenges you typically face, including with clients and employees. What puts a smile on your face on a typical day – from the time you wake up to the time you retire to your bed for the day.
LO: I wake up by 5 or 6 am daily depending on my plans for the day. I go through my personal morning routine; I take an inventory of all the equipment we are taking for the job of the day; I mobilize my staff and head down to the site. The type and magnitude of the cleaning we are to do determines how long we spend at a site or a project: sometimes, we can spend a full day or more cleaning a particular site, other times we can clean upwards of 2 houses in a day. I am a very hands-on person so I tend to join my staff when cleaning as well as generally supervising the work being done. When we get back from a job, we wash, disinfect and dry all the equipment we use and that’s it for a day.
The days we are not cleaning, I prepare documents (like proposals, receipts, and letters), design ads, call clients, update our social media pages and solicit for clients.
Our major challenge with clients is trying to change their already existing mind-set and preconceived notions of what and how cleaning should be done, and getting them to see the importance of employing a professional service like ours. I seldom have challenges with my employees, except, a few times when they are not available when I need them.
My mother always makes me smile whenever she calls me. The fact that another site has been sprinkled with our sparkle dust always brings a smile to my face
TNC: Where do you think your office will be in the next five years? What advice can you offer aspiring entrepreneurs?
LO: In five years, we want to have around three hundred or more steady customers that employ our services in their homes, offices, post-construction projects and events. The quality of our services and cleaning procedures would improve and all our cleaning products would be organic and produced by us. This is just a step in the direction of trying to make our business and brand a household name
My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is that they should be true to themselves; do not go into a business because other people are doing it. Look within and find something you are passionate about and find ways to monetize it. Do not look down on yourself or your ideas; you could be the next big thing in the business world. Doing business can be difficult but if you persist enough you will definitely succeed.
Sparkle Concierge can be reached through: