Three ‘yuppies’ reinvent house cleaning services

Three young urban professionals have teamed up to provide cleaning services to condominium dwellers in Metro Manila using the social media and mobile application.

“It started last year when I was in my friend’s condo in Makati. She was busy and had little time to clean the unit. She said it would take her three weeks in advance to book the services of a cleaner.  That’s when I realized the demand is there for cleaning services,” says Frances Wayne Rafio, a 26-year-old senior brand officer at Smart Communications Inc.

Cleaning Lady founders Jan Oscar King, Marianne Alonzo and Frances Wayne Rafio.
Rafio, who graduated with a degree in Business Administration from the University of the Philippines in 2010, shared the business idea with jogging buddy and former UP classmate Jan Oscar King, a theater aficionado and a consultant at Hewlett Packard.

“I used to work for HP, an IT company.  It was there where I met Yan,” King says, referring to Marianne Alonzo, a 33-year-old technology consultant with a degree in Management Information Systems from AMA University and an active volunteer of Gawad Kalinga.

Together, Rafio, King and Alonzo conceptualized Cleaning Lady, a mobile app that lets a user specify his/her cleaning services needs, hire a cleaner, book a schedule, get an upfront service quote and get the cleaning done.

More than a mobile app, King says Cleaning Lady is a social enterprise that seeks to bridge the gap between the privileged communities and the underserved communities by creating meaningful opportunities that bind them together and enable them to make a difference in each other’s lives.

“The mission of Cleaning Lady is to really empower women, to help their families also and to help other people as well.  We provide jobs to them.  We also provide convenience to our clients,” Rafio says in an interview at IdeaSpace Foundation Inc. headquarters in Makati City.

Cleaning Lady is one of the ten Filipino startups, mostly run by ‘millennials’ that won the support of IdeaSpace, the country’s largest business incubator and accelerator.  The ten groups, selected from nearly 600 applicants from all over the country, will receive P500,000 in equity-free funding, on top of non-cash benefits such as housing, transportation, incorporation, office space, communication, software support, trainings and mentoring from executives of companies under the First Pacific Group led in the Philippines by Manuel Pangilinan.

King says Cleaning Lady is about providing jobs to women from organized communities by providing them training on housekeeping at agencies accredited by Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.  Cleaning Lady links them to condominium dwellers who pay P350 per hour, P500 for 1.5 hours and P625 for two hours of service. 

“Thirty percent of our revenues go directly to our cleaning ladies as part of their commission and on top of their monthly P3,000 basic allowance,” says King.

Cleaning Lady now has a Facebook page and a website where homeowners can book the services of cleaning ladies.  Alonzo is forming a team to develop a mobile app that will make the booking process more convenient.

The three founders agree to promote Cleaning Lady as a social enterprise.  “It is not just a business that provides cleaning services, but it is also business with a heart that provides jobs to unemployed women,” says Rafio.

Rafio says the ‘Cleaning Lady’ brand was in fact inspired by a musical called ‘Leading Lady’ where King was a part of.

The idea of forming Cleaning Lady began in July 2015, with Rafio and King exchanging ideas during weekends of jogging at Cultural Center of the Philippines complex.  Alonzo came onboard in December last year.

Alonzo, a volunteer at GK Brookside in Bagong Silangan, Quezon City, proposed that they tap the unemployed women in the village to become a part of Cleaning Lady.  “Prior to the launch, we hired our cleaning ladies and we got them from a Gawad Kalinga community in Brookside in April,” says Rafio.

King says from the original 30 applicants, they selected 10 cleaning ladies.   “After the orientation, we had them trained at a Tesda-accredited agency along UN Ave. I also trained to learn about housekeeping,” he says.

The three founders invested P35,000 for the training of the 10 cleaning ladies for three days.  After the training, the cleaning ladies passed a one-day assessment conducted by another agency in Paco, Manila.  “I also passed that exam,” says King.

Alonzo says they also invested in cleaning materials such as eco-friendly cleaning agents, polishers, disinfectants, mops and vacuum cleaners.  A cleaning service would cost P75 in cleaning materials alone.

“Our initial target market is the millennials.  When we launched the Facebook page, we generated a lot of Facebook likes, something like 800 overnight.  Now we have 2,600 likes,” says King.  Cleaning Lady’s first customer was a male condo unit owner on Shaw Boulevard who availed of the service on June 2, 2016.

Rafio says because of the Cleaning Lady brand of service, which is known to be warm, delicate and professional, the business quickly took off.

“From the time we launched it, we had 100 bookings in a month.  Thirty percent of that are repeat customers,” she says.  “We have three to four bookings a day.  Right now, we are focusing on Quezon City, Taguig, Mandaluyong, Pasig and Makati.”

Alonzo says the plan is to deploy cleaning ladies from other organized communities in other areas in Metro Manila.  “Later on, we want to tap organized communities in Parañaque, Pasig and Taguig,” she says.

The three founders have so far invested P150,000 in the venture.  Rafio says with the P500,000 equity-free funding from IdeaSpace, they want to accelerate the growth of the business by developing the mobile app.

“We see the potential of expanding Cleaning Lady to different regions,” she says. “In 2019, there will be 100,000 condo units.  Right now, we are at 60,000 condo units in Makati, Fort Bonifacio, Eastwood, Pasig and Ortigas alone.”

Rafio says a customer would require cleaning services twice a month.  “But we have clients who ask for our service every other day,” she says.

Cleaning Lady, which now has 100 unique customers, expects to start generating profit by the second half of 2017. “By the end of this year, our target is to increase the number of cleaning ladies to 13 to maximize their utilization,” says Rafio.  “Eventually, our operation will be much more automated with the help of the dashboard and mobile app that we are developing with the help of IdeaSpace.”

“Our ultimate goal is to have a mobile app.  But we have to build our client base first,” says King.

The Cleaning Lady founders used to meet at restaurants to discuss their next move, but with the help of IdeaSpace, they now plan to establish their own office.  “We are looking at an office space that can be the training house also for our cleaning ladies,” says Rafio.

“Our ultimate goal is to lift the status of our cleaning ladies.  Our aspiration is to help uplift their status in life,” she says.

King agrees, saying that their venture is more of a social enterprise.  “We inspire our customers to help our fellow Filipinos,” he says.

Topics: Cleaning Lady mobile application , Frances Wayne Rafio , Jan Oscar King , Marianne Alonzo
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