How a cleaning business owner took an idea and brought it to life as a tech startup in the hustle and bustle city of Chicago.
The idea of Route came about 2 years ago when I was dealing with pain points in my business. I own a Commercial cleaning business named Rozalado. I had the vision of scaling the company to a certain size and revenue growth, but I kept hitting a wall of growth that I couldn’t surpass because I was stuck doing all the work and wearing all the hats from the sales to operations process. Typical small business owner problems.
The cleaning industry lacks automation and tech tools to help with the sales side of the business. Yes, there were CRM tools, but these tools help with the stages of a deal not with the actual process of a walkthrough, to bid, to proposal to contract management.
As I searched, I said well, since there isn’t anything out there then why can’t I just build it myself. I was infatuated with technology and used so many in my business that I said, why not? Nobody knows what I need more than I do, and nobody knows what the industry needs better than someone from the industry.
I live in Chicago and we have a great tech ecosystem so with the push of some fellow colleagues from 1871, IHCC and Goldman Sachs. I took the plunge. I remember the day I chose to do it. I was in a Goldman Sachs 10ksb program where they asked what is an Out of the Box idea you probably shouldn’t try to do but you would love to do but equals crazy risk. Crazy Risk equals insane potential in my book.
I took the plunge into the tech startup world. I was a non-technical founder who had no business getting into technology but that’s what made it even more exciting is that it was the biggest challenge of my life.
One major hurdle that we encountered in regard to product market fit was determining which features and what we wanted to include in Version 1.0 and as our MVP in order to push something out to the public to gain some traction and user feedback and ultimately usage overall. I am a Visionary with endless ideas that I wanted to bring to life but thanks to my team we were able to come together and make the right decisions that ultimately carved out the path we were going to take. Thank God I listened to them.
My first crack at fundraising was a big learning lesson. We ultimately cancelled our first fundraising round. I am extremely thankful we did. We were targeting the wrong investors. We began with VCs when we should have been speaking to angel investors. I don’t regret it though because we learned valuable lessons that I would have never learned. I met a ton of great contacts and now put our company in front of their eyes and on their list. The feedback we were given was invaluable and is something I have created a notebook of VC feedback notes. My bible to building and scaling our startup for the next stages of the company. I learned to make sure you’re speaking to the right investors that buy in to you, your mission, your values and your vision. They feel just as lucky as speaking to you as you feel speaking to them. I can now email a rolodex of people and ask any questions I have because we spoke to investors that were not yet our investors but could be in the future which was perfect for us.
I started Route out of a need for a tool that could streamline our company’s sales process. I wanted to digitize the walkthrough process. I was tired of using pen and paper, or my phone notes/camera and excel spreadsheets. I knew we could make a more seamless and organized digital tool for this 1,2,3 step process.
1 year into the product life and our company anniversary we hit 100 companies, $5k MRR and 1 full year of data usage and feedback from customers that showed us we were on to something and had reached some small milestones that gave us the confidence we needed to build on the product and take it to the next level with 2.0.
Another big turning point for us came from realizing that in our first year of business, we had already been attempted to be acquired by 3 industry brands/software companies. Not to mention how exciting it has been to now get the attention of some of the biggest brands in our industry. All this happening has truly validated all of our grind, efforts and hustle we had put into this startup the last 18 months. We’re a small nimble team but pack a punch. I smile when I see our Stripe account pinging at all hours of the day from subscribers signing up from all over the world, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Europe, and more. It is absolutely amazing to know that your dream is coming true and all of your hard work is paying off and your vision of empowering your very own industry is coming to fruition.
Our mission is to Empower the cleaning and field services industry. I want to put the power of data and technology in the hands of the mom and pop shops, the SMB’s and mid market companies to allow them to compete with the bigger companies and improve the overall quality of our industry. This is not just a US market solution this is a Global solution. The blue collar industries are the foundation of our economies and the driving force behind how well our economy is performing.
Thank you and please love and respect your cleaners. If you want to join me on this mission please follow me and reach out. We have a youtube channel under Route the service platform and subscribe to my podcast Cleaning & Cocktails.
Ricardo Regalado is the CEO & Founder at Route, where they digitize the entire sales process — from walkthrough to new client — for facility service businesses. You can find Route on LinkedIn, YouTube, or their website, www.getroute.com.