Newport-based cleaning company Cleany Queeny shows resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic through quick diversification and new service offering.
Introduction to business
Charmain Marie Edwards set up Cleany Queeny in May 2019. The business provides personalised domestic cleaning services with a growing client base for residential, commercial and site cleaning.
In less than a year, Cleany Queeny has grown from two members of staff to 14, and is looking to create more jobs in the coming months.
What challenges did you face during the Coronavirus outbreak?
Less than a year since our launch, Covid-19 hit our part of the world. With the new rules to stay at home and socially distance, I was worried for the health and safety of my family as well as the impact this would have on Cleany Queeny’s future and our staff.
The first week was very worrying – we didn’t really know too much of what was happening. Our regular cleans were being cancelled, cleaners went into self-isolation or the closure of nurseries and schools meant a problem with childcare for many of Cleany Queeny’s staff. Cheryl, our Office Manager, and I spent the first week speaking to customers and dealing with queries regarding Covid-19. By the end of the week, I took the decision to put a pause on all our regular cleans to protect my family, my staff and the public. It was hard thinking that the business may not survive, but I knew I would try – not only for my family, but also for my employees and their families. That really has been the drive behind the weeks to come.
My first challenge was staffing issues. Some cleans were still taking place for key workers and places used by them. We have several contracts with nurseries and offices, which were still open. To accommodate the cleans, I spoke with staff individually, but so many had issues with childcare, needed to self-isolate or were just scared of the unknown. Although I didn’t need 3 cleaners and Cleany Queeny was bringing in less than the 3 wages combined in the first few weeks of the virus, I was hoping to still have some cleaners available to work their contracted hours, when and if they were needed. Sam and Natasha agreed to remain in work, and I couldn’t be more thankful as I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do everything alone.
What measures have you implemented to tackle the pandemic?
I sent letters out to our customers offering an anti-bacterial deep clean post pandemic and invested in a full range of antibacterial products which I had to pay for out of my personal account to try and keep as much in to pay wages. That was stressful as personally, people see business owners as having lots of money…but not in the first year. We had invested not only time and energy, but also any personal savings into making Cleany Queeny a success, so there wasn’t money lying around to spend on products.
Although short on cash, as a business owner, I knew you have to spend to gain. I took a risk purchasing the Fogging machine and products, as I was unsure whether it would even arrive and whether people would be interested in the service.
I created some leaflets and put all my risk assessments and COSHH sheets together. Getting PPE was extremely hard and expensive but essential.
I started looking into my cash flow problem to pay wages and after researching bank options, it felt like a miracle when HMRC paid furlough within 6 days of us applying.
With lots of addresses in the Newport and Cardiff areas to send my flyers to, getting some training on using our new machine as well as sourcing the correct PPE, I started promoting the service on social media. I am looking forward to welcoming back some of my staff, too, because Cleany Queeny is in demand once again!
I do believe that if we had not chosen to diversify and be pro-active, Cleany Queeny would not have been able to survive. Despite having more bills to pay, we are getting busier and we are again seeing a profit at the end of the working week.
How has Business Wales helped throughout the process?
Our Business Wales adviser Miranda (Bishop) was amazingly helpful and ensured I was kept up to date with what was available in terms of funding. She offered her help wherever she could. Miranda helped me apply for the Government grants but unfortunately, we didn’t meet the full criteria.
However, I was determined to make Cleany Queeny survive – not just for myself, but also for my partner and our young kids. We spent a few days bouncing ideas off before joining a Business Wales webinar on Diversification. This inspired me to do further research on cleaning after viruses – and this is where I found about ‘Touch-Point Cleaning’ and Disinfectant Fogging.
After we managed to pull through without any financial support, at the beginning of May, we successfully obtained a Bounce Back loan of £17,500, which we will use for staff training, expansion and cash flow.
Your advice to other business owners during the crisis
I hope that other new and small businesses have been able to diversify in some way to ensure they are able to get through this. If you can spend some time identifying gaps, exploring new services or products, or if you can modify and adapt your existing offering to suit consumers’ changing needs, then do it. You might be surprised on how well it could all work out!
If you want to read more success stories of how Business Wales has helped other people like you to start or grow their businesses, visit https://businesswales.gov.wales/case-studies or follow @_businesswales / @_busnescymru on Twitter.