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Neel Parekh is the CEO and Founder of MaidThis, one of the top-rated national cleaning franchises. MaidThis offers hassle-free house cleaning for busy individuals and vacation rental hosts (Airbnb, VRBO, etc.). MaidThis has been called “the franchise for millennials”, given its fully remote model and new-age spin on an old-school cleaning industry.
As he built his business to reach millions in revenue, Neel traveled for five years while managing a fully remote team — he is now on a mission to help others achieve the same! A renowned business expert, Neel mentors other entrepreneurs on the benefits of owning a franchise versus launching a new business, the do’s and don’ts of managing a remote team, success tips for franchise operators, how to be a successful digital nomad, and more.
Connect with Neel on LinkedIn and follow MaidThis on Facebook and Twitter.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- About MaidThis
- The benefits of becoming a franchise owner versus launching a whole new company
- Tips for others who want to be a franchise owner
- Some fundamentals of running a fully virtual company
- Some must-know tips for marketing a fully virtual franchise
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:07] Welcome to Franchise Marketing Radio, brought to you by SeoSamba Comprehensive, high performing marketing solutions for mature and emerging franchise brands to supercharge your franchise marketing. Go to seosamba.com. That’s seosamba.com.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:32] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Franchise Marketing Radio, and this is going to be a good one today on the show, we have Neel Parekh and he is with made this cleaning. Welcome, Neel.
Neel Parekh: [00:00:42] Hey, thanks for having me here.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:43] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about Made this How are you serving, folks?
Neel Parekh: [00:00:48] Yeah, absolutely awesome. Made. This is a work from anywhere cleaning franchise that focuses on two niches one’s residential cleaning, and the other is vacation rental turnover. It’s like Airbnb, so we’re actually the first and only vacation rental cleaning franchise. And yeah, like I mentioned, we’re fully remote concept.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:03] So what was the genesis of the idea? How did this come about?
Neel Parekh: [00:01:09] You know, I was working in corporate a few years ago, and I was trying to find some sort of side hustle and was trying a lot of different things like e-commerce and marketing. None of it really worked, and I came across a post on Reddit lead, you know, of Reddit dot com.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:23] Yeah.
Neel Parekh: [00:01:24] Hundred percent. Yeah. Yes, I read it in a guy who posted how he started a candy company. I thought, You know what the heck? Let me try this as well. And it started to work. And in hindsight, I figured out why he was working better than anything else. But it started to work well and I wanted to eventually quit and travel. And that’s why I had to figure out a way to make this local business completely remote. And a couple of years after that, I quit my job and took my side hustle full time and booked a one way flight to South America and traveled for about five years. While building made this, and therefore was able to make the systems in a way that can be done from anywhere in the world.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:57] So but you obviously you need boots on the ground in the market to serve?
Neel Parekh: [00:02:02] Correct? Yeah. So the cleaners are localized. However, your operations have coordinated things. Picking up calls can be done from anywhere.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:09] And then so the people that are there cleaning your job as the franchisee is just to recruit them, motivate, manage them.
Neel Parekh: [00:02:20] Exactly, exactly. And of course, on the other hand, you have the customers calling you as well. Right. So you’re kind of almost like the middleman in between the two funnels which are running. But I think what’s cool and in this day and age is how fast technology has moved. You can have a local company completely remote, and I feel like a lot of people haven’t really caught on to that yet. It’s a lot of home service companies. You don’t really need boots on the ground as much any more besides the actual labor go in there. So that’s kind of what we figured out just because of the timing that we came about in.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:49] And then so when you kind of made that mental shift and then you tested it, I guess with yourself, you were remote and then you were trying to to manage the people locally. What were some of kind of the the breadcrumbs that were like, Hey, this could really work? Like, when did you start seeing some traction and when did you see this as more, you know, maybe easier to manage than you maybe anticipated?
Neel Parekh: [00:03:15] Yeah, great. Great question. And I think at the first the beginning, I didn’t think it could be done fully remote because you don’t you don’t think that with the local business. So my parents had video rental stores like a traditional brick and mortar store. So I always thought local businesses, you have to physically be there. There’s a large in-person presence. And then what happened and how I figured out could work for me. This is I was doing this as a side hustle meeting. I was doing it from my job. Basically, I’d run out and lunch breaks, take calls, you know, just render and give cleaner’s cash because I didn’t really know how to do this thing at all. So I kind of figured at the time I’m like, Oh, I’m actually kind of doing the remote. It’s just from L.A. and the one piece I cannot figure out how to get out was doing in-person interviews for cleaners, so I always thought it had to be done here. Finally, I kind of solved that because I just had to go somewhere for vacation one time, so I found someone to do the interview for me, and it worked, and that was the last piece of the puzzle. So then I said, OK, let me just try to take off completely, go to South America and leave. Whenever you have constraints, you kind of figure out a way to get creative around those constraints. So because I was not there at all, I had to figure out the systems in a way which to make in order to make it work. And the beauty of any model that does this is that it works mostly for businesses which send technicians straight to a different job site, whether that’s a home or that somewhere else. As long as there’s not a central office where customers have to come into this model can work. So it was it was kind of a slow aha moment, you know, I kind of figured out just from different things I was doing that, Oh, this actually can work. And then finally, you just made the plunge.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:47] So then you eliminated the step of that in-person interview with the person that goes into someone’s house. You did you get rid of that? Or you just found another way to do that remotely?
Neel Parekh: [00:04:59] I found someone who can do the group interviews for me in person. And Lee, what’s kind of changed in the last couple of years is we were doing in person because cleaners were not very tech enabled, right? They wanted to meet someone in person. You have group interviews, you have that whole funnel. What happened since the pandemic is that everyone learned how to use Zoom. Everyone learned how to use my 70 year old parents know how to use Zoom and do karaoke on it, right? So like, everyone has a Zoom, including cleaners. So now you actually can’t be fully remote because you could run the entire interview funnel exclusively on Zoom. And people are. And able enough to be able to do that, so the game has changed in our favor because of the pandemic. We don’t need to do group interviews in person anymore and we don’t do it in person anymore.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:39] And then you’ve been able to elevate that Zoom interview or execute that Zoom interview in a manner that you’re getting kind of the same. Read on this person, you know, because obviously there’s limitations to zoom as in person, you’re missing some cues, visual cues that maybe you would see in person, but you’ve been able to kind of navigate around that.
Neel Parekh: [00:06:04] Yeah, good question. And I would say, for the most part, yes, it will never be 100 percent compared to an in-person interview, right? You see kind of body language cues and things like that. But a lot of the things we are testing for is reliability is a big one in attitude. So reliability, you know, the people who won’t show up for group interviews won’t show up for a Zoom interview. And after that, we actually added another segment of the funnel, which is in terms of like a test cleaning. So there are different steps we added to kind of push them through those hoops a little bit more. So we’ve been able to achieve a similar level of success by adding and refining the funnel a little bit more.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:39] So once you’ve kind of got this model down for yourself, how difficult was it getting that first franchisee to make that same mental shift in that same leap of faith that this can be done remotely?
Neel Parekh: [00:06:52] You know, surprisingly, not because I think when people hear it, it’s kind of like a oh, like, of course, you can do it remotely, right? So for me, I think the bigger, bigger shift was actually, to be honest, understanding of the franchise world. I didn’t come from a franchise road. I didn’t know anything about franchising. So getting into franchising and figuring out basically how to pitch this, who really ideal franchisees? What are they looking for? I think that was more of a learning curve for me. I feel like when people see the model and they understand it like, Hey, you don’t need heavy overhead, you can run a local home services company pretty lean. This is just the way things are in this day and age. It doesn’t have to be super old school where you have a big shop and hold on to supplies everywhere. So surprisingly, it wasn’t that much of a mental hurdle for people to get it immediately.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:35] So did you kind of I hear this a lot from founders that, you know, you assume that the person who’s a franchisee potential franchisee is a version of you, you know? Oh, maybe that someone with a side hustle that is, you know, coming from corporate that is kind of seeing the world like I saw the world so that this would be a logical path that you go down that route or did you say, OK, let me start from a clean slate and let’s see who would be attracted to this kind of a model?
Neel Parekh: [00:08:01] I’m very curious what you think the correct way to do this? I’m not correct way. I’m sure there’s multiple ways to do it. I’m going down the path of probably someone who resonates with my story. And what I found from early emerging brands is people resonate with your story are probably the ones who are going to be more bought in, right? So people who want to start it as a side hustle and eventually quit their job, they say, Hey, has already done it. Obviously, he’s done. He’s bought a franchise off of it. Let me just copy that blueprint. So I’ve been approaching the path of the people who want to copy the similar model with side hustle to remote local opportunity is kind of what I’ve been doing. Lee, what have you seen from different people you’ve interviewed?
Lee Kantor: [00:08:41] And now that that’s it’s usually that’s I mean, when they’re just starting out, that seems to be the path is like, Oh, somebody like me, of course, because I did it, I’m proof. So therefore it’ll be easier for me to sell because I have me as this example of doing it this way. Yeah, but over time, you realize some of the people realize that, hey, maybe I was an anomaly, or maybe I was an outlier. I wasn’t really kind of the optimal person. Maybe there is a different optimal person that this is a better fit for than me.
Neel Parekh: [00:09:16] Yeah, yeah. And I think that will be a discovery process. We’re still relatively new in the franchise had been around for a year. I have a couple of locations, so still kind of figuring out who is the ideal target. But yeah, initially it just, hey, who are people who resonate with my story who have a similar background? And I agree. I think we’ll see where this goes,
Lee Kantor: [00:09:33] But something to consider and this is what I’m seeing a lot of as brands evolve. They’re trying to partner with other brands. So so I’m seeing more clusters of brands and that are targeting a similar audience member.
Neel Parekh: [00:09:48] So when you say partner, do you mean like someone buys a franchise, someone becomes a franchisee of one brand and another brand or?
Lee Kantor: [00:09:56] Yeah. So that and that and the franchisor becomes owning all these multiple brands that have the same customer?
Neel Parekh: [00:10:04] Oh, interesting.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:05] Interesting. So it’s I mean, I’m using the term cluster and I’m using these words. I don’t know what they use internally, but there’s there’s now I’m seeing a lot more what I’m calling professional franchisees where they’re like, Hey, I’m building a portfolio. So if I’m going through all this hassle of getting this, you know, a person who wants made right? Mm hmm. They also may want a. Painter, or they also may want someone to clean their pool, and it’s the same customer, so the hard part is getting the customer. So if I can then now have three or four other services that I’ve already got the customer I can now offer them. Then there’s some economies of scale for me and I can build this kind of mini empire.
Neel Parekh: [00:10:48] Interesting. Ah, is it usually the franchisee who’s going out and finding the different ancillary services
Lee Kantor: [00:10:53] Now that franchise or
Neel Parekh: [00:10:55] They’re the ones who offer that? Right?
Lee Kantor: [00:10:57] So and then they start buying up these kind of complementary. They’re looking for the emerging franchise and they’re like, Oh, that’s a good fit to this portfolio. And then I have a portfolio of four to six services that I’m going after for this one customer.
Neel Parekh: [00:11:12] Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I love that. I love that it makes. I mean, for us, I think the most complimentary service, for example, would be, let’s say, window cleaning, right? We do residential and Airbnbs, but a lot of the residential customers say, Hey, I need my window cleaning done right now. We just refer it out to a partner. They give us business. We give them business. But we had that as just a bolt on service as well. I like that a lot.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:32] Right. And the more window cleaners you, you know, the more you’re going to grow your business because that’s a great referral source. And then if you can teach your people in the local market or working the local market to befriend, OK, I need you to to meet the window cleaner, the painter, the landscaper, like all these people who are outsource those kind of home services. Yeah. Then the then your choice is also one of those outsourced home services. Yeah.
Neel Parekh: [00:12:02] Yeah, yeah, I love it. I feel like, I mean, you’re giving me way too many ideas right now. So I’m like, OK, go start a window cleaner because I need to take a step back. It’s the same
Lee Kantor: [00:12:11] Model, right? Like, once you’ve got your thing now, you can plug and play with all those home services.
Neel Parekh: [00:12:16] Exactly, exactly. I like it.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:19] So now, like you mentioned that that this was kind of your first venture into franchising. What have you learned about that process? Because your business, you know, when you’re going from a Hey, I’m a remote cleaning service to I run a franchise of remote cleaning service providers. You, you’re going from. Ok, let me get one more client to let me become a training operation and helping someone learn these skills and kind of then kind of be successful in selling that one more local client. So how has that shift happened for you? Was that a difficult transition?
Neel Parekh: [00:12:56] It was. It was. I guess I’ve heard it. I heard a phrase, Leila, where it’s like the ignorant are often the most bold, and I feel like that’s what I was. I didn’t know what I was really getting into because I was completely ignorant on the industry and what franchising was and what I am basically selling. I always say I’m pleasantly surprised into how much I enjoy it. Honestly, I love like I care for more when my franchisees make a sale than when my corporate office makes a sale, I just get so pumped because it’s like, Hey, the model is working, and it just brings me a lot of joy. So she’s seeing my franchisees trust me and buy into the system and seeing it paying off for them is huge for me. So I’ve been loving that part a lot. One thing which has been very interesting is, let’s say, cleaning, you know, maybe selling a $200 cleaning, going from a $200 sale to a thirty five thousand plus sale. Right, that’s a big jump. It’s not like, hey, I gradually went up from two hundred to one thousand to ten thousand and then now I’m doing like a large ticket item. So going straight to a large ticket item sale has been an interesting shift and has made me have to like, really retool what I’m doing. And I’m realizing, like I’m actually running two businesses right at my corporate offices as well as the franchising because it’s related, but it’s extremely different. So that’s been a lot of the learning I’ve had in the last year or so.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:09] And then. So where are you at right now? How many up and running franchises do you have?
Neel Parekh: [00:14:16] Sure. Yeah, we have two franchise locations. One’s in Denver, one’s in Myrtle Beach, and we have two corporate locations L.A. and the bay areas like S.F.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:24] And then are, are you going going for regions or are you just like kind of the world is your oyster in wherever they come, they come
Neel Parekh: [00:14:32] For us because it’s water. Wherever they come, they come right. And I think people who are in that local market have a better handle on whether their market is good or not. So I know there is a strategy of targeting specific states and saying, Hey, I’m going to target this state. I think there probably are some states which are very conducive for vacation rentals. For example, Florida has thirty five percent of the entire nation’s vacation rentals. Those are probably really, really good markets. But the reality is with cleaning, every household is a potential customer in theory. So it’s not like we’re just segmented into certain key markets, and that’s it. So because of that, the entire country is our oyster and anywhere works, and it’s a remote model as well. So I have people who are living somewhere else who want to open a franchise somewhere else, and it’s doable with our model.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:15] And then are you constantly kind of upgrading your technology in terms of making an app or something that’s easy for your franchisee to totally kind of send them to one location? They can do all the behind the scenes like schedule pay like all the kind of elements of the business, all in one kind of nice technology bucket.
Neel Parekh: [00:15:40] Yeah, I mean, we came to the market with that tech stack in place. That’s what kind of allowed me is my corporate office to get ahead so quick. We’re just more tech enabled than any other cleaning company. So we already had that before we even got into franchising. So they piggyback off of that. A lot of my upgrades for the franchise system are based off of my learnings from corporate and also seeing what the other franchisees are doing and bringing that to everyone else. So do you feel like the shared economies of scale with just trying out a process and system, seeing if it works from rolling it out has been the biggest benefit because you could just speed up things a lot if there’s four different locations testing things out and everyone can share the knowledge you save a ton of money from not having to test things out individually, you could share resources. It just makes a ton of sense. So I think the process is is the refining of the processes. And the funnel has been the biggest improvement month over month in the franchise world.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:30] Now, have you gotten to the point where the folks that are out in the wild doing the work, you know the franchisee are bringing to you? Hey, this is something that’s working here. That’s a learning that you’re like, Oh, I didn’t think of that. That’s a good one. Let me implement that moving forward.
Neel Parekh: [00:16:50] Yeah, yeah, definitely. And I think a lot of the learning has come on the marketing end, and I’m sure you guys you know this, but like it’s very city by city from marketing. Yelp works great in California just now. We’re great in Myrtle Beach, right? So it’s not a one size fits all from marketing any local market. So the cool part about this is there’s some stuff which does work. Seo works no matter where you are. Google is key everywhere, but there’s other things in smaller markets which you might need to get scrappy for picking up the phones and calling real estate brokers attending your B and C meetings, right? More networking stuff, which I maybe have not had to do in L.A. because it’s a massive city. I got that knowledge from our franchisee, and now we know like, Oh, this works, this is how you do it. Let’s document it. Put in our operations manual. Everyone has access to it. So I think the marketing end just with the different sized cities has been very, very telling.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:37] But when they’re doing that, then then it can no longer be remote if that some of the marketing has to be done kind of boots on the ground.
Neel Parekh: [00:17:44] There’s parts of it where the majority of it is digital marketing, so the majority of it is going to be remote. For example, our Denver franchisee, I think they only do digital marketing, but our Myrtle Beach location, the person individual happens to be there already. So most of it’s digital marketing. He’s working a full time job on his spare time. He’s able to actually attend meetings and do different things. So it’s not a requirement, but it’s something extra and beneficial if you are there, at least at the beginning.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:10] And so what’s next for you? What do you need more of?
Neel Parekh: [00:18:15] Next for me for franchising. Yeah, get more. Obviously, we have the two right now and I’m loving it so far. You know, our goal is not to grow one hundred in a year. I tell everyone, Hey, my criteria is if you check mark all the boxes of what I need in the franchise, I also need to be able to have a beer with you. I want to make sure we get along well, and that’s the goal of what we’re doing in business is, you know, you want to be in business with people you like. So I’m looking for a select few individuals to really, really grow and expand with them to multiple territories as opposed to a mass quantity of franchisees. So my goal is just to kind of slow and steady growth going forward and finding the right people in the U.S.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:52] So that’s what I hear a lot of is that the first franchisees are critical because that’s the ones that other people are going to use to validate the concept.
Neel Parekh: [00:19:02] Right. Right. Exactly, exactly. And yeah, even more than that, I think you just I talk to them every week, right? You want to make sure you like them and make sure they like you, and it’s a good cultural fit. So that’s that’s very important for me.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:15] Well, congratulations on all the success, and it’s so refreshing to see someone going to kind of a an industry that has been doing things one way to kind of look at it through fresh eyes and attack it totally differently. Well, kudos to you.
Neel Parekh: [00:19:30] I appreciate those words. Thanks, Lee.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:31] And if somebody wants to get a hold of you, learn more about the opportunity. What’s the website?
Neel Parekh: [00:19:35] Sure, you just get to made this franchise that’s made his franchise.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:41] And then if you go to made his, that will take you just to the consumer site,
Neel Parekh: [00:19:47] Correct, which has a franchise link in there as well, but you could check out both
Lee Kantor: [00:19:51] Good stuff. Well, Neal, thank you again for sharing your story today.
Neel Parekh: [00:19:54] All right. Thanks, Lee.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:55] All right, this Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on Franchise Marketing Radio.