Why you need to sanitize your business model
Starting a business in a city you know is one thing, expanding into unchartered territory is another. AspenClean knew if they wanted their business to grow across Canada they needed to be strategic, intentional, and willing to start on a “clean” slate. AspenClean is a Vancouver based company founded by husband and wife dynamic duo, Alicia Sokolowski and Chris Solodko (or also referred to as Mr & Mrs Clean). Like many entrepreneurs, they started their own business because they were not satisfied with the products available in the marketplace. When they couldn’t find natural cleaning solutions they decided to create their own. From this need, AspenClean was born. AspenClean is a company that offers all natural cleaning services and sells all natural (ECOCERT certified) cleaning products. Rather than starting one business the couple knew they truly needed two businesses, a product and a service line. Over the years, AspenClean has expanded across Canada with head offices in Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto. Although it may seem like Mr and Mrs Clean have the magic touch, it was truly hard work and a lot of research that allowed their business to grow the way it has.
“We decided to start our own cleaning service, to meet our standards of health and home environment.”*
When Chris and Alicia had children is when they truly began to worry about the cleaning products they used in their homes. They couldn’t believe all the toxins and chemicals they found in commonly used products. They began creating their own products from ingredients they had in their home (vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda) and quickly realized these products were much more effective than the chemical based ones they had become accustomed to using. AspenClean was founded in 2004 and became profitable in less than five years. Even back in 2004 there was a demand for all-natural products, but over the years this demand has only increased as consumers have become more health conscious and selective.
Although demand in all-natural products has sky-rocketed over the years, Canadians have faced ever changing economic conditions. AspenClean was looking to grow their business in a bust economy and quickly had to learn how to adapt in order to retain customers. In times of recession customers are less likely to spend money on additional luxuries such as having someone clean their home. Alicia recalls having one day when 9 customers all cancelled on the same day. It was a moment of panic. What if people no longer required AspenClean? What would happen to the future of their business? The founders of AspenClean developed a solution without skipping a beat. They started a follow-up program to ensure regular communication with customers. This program ensured they were constantly top of mind and it allowed for an open forum of communication. This sort of thinking has allowed AspenClean to naturally grow into the successful company it is today.
“We wanted a place remote from Vancouver so that we could make sure our processes and procedures work, but it’s close enough to get there by plane in a few hours.”**
A challenge many businesses face is expanding into new cities, provinces, and even countries. AspenClean knew they wanted to replicate their business model in a new location so its founders took a very strategic approach to finding the right place to set up shop. After considerable research they realized franchise laws in the United States were far too complicated for their first trial run. Although they didn’t rule out expanding into the United States, it was not the right fit for their first jump into another city. AspenClean decided to expand into Calgary. It would be their test city since it was different enough from Vancouver but still close enough that they could travel by plane to manage the head office.
After a demographic analysis, Alicia and Chris believed Calgarians would embrace their all-natural products and they were right! They looked at average household income as well as the number of health food stores active in Calgary. After all the numbers lined up, Calgary was the new home to AspenClean’s second head office in 2012. Two years later, AspenClean went through the same process and opened their third office in Toronto.
“We hire for attitude, and train for success.”*
There are so many things business owners need to consider when they expand across boarders. The first lesson AspenClean discovered was that a business in one city can never be replicated exactly the same way in another city. The AspenClean staff carefully looked at their business model in Vancouver and adjusted it accordingly when launching in Calgary. Things like marketing, pricing models, and hiring vary from city to city and businesses need to adapt if they want to be successful. Doing research and looking at customers attitudes and demographics is just the beginning of what a business needs to look at.
By sanitizing their business model AspenClean has successfully set up offices across Canada. Business is booming as AspenClean strives to be an industry leader in all-natural products and services. After expanding across Canada we can’t wait to see what is next for this inspiring business!
Things to consider
If you are an entrepreneur here are some things to consider:
- When expanding to a new city do not assume you can simply replicate your current business model. Changes may need to be made based on customers attitudes and demographics in target cities
- Use one city as a “guinea pig.” Pick a city different enough from your current city to ensure your plan is sustainable for growth
- If you fail while expanding do not be discouraged. Expanding to a new city is one of the hardest things a business can do. Instead, take time to analyze what went wrong and create a plan from there
Here is how you can learn more about AspenClean: