Paul Goodsell takes his eco-warrior role very seriously, even using a cargo bike rather than a car to transport his eco-friendly cleaning gear to and from jobs.
Describing himself as Adelaide’s only truly green cleaner, Goodsell is the founder of The Kind Cleaner, an eco-friendly cleaning service operating in the Adelaide CBD and surrounding areas.
“Everything, from the products I use to my choice of transportation, has been carefully considered. Even the business cards I hand out have been printed on a solar-powered press using non-toxic inks,” Goodsell says.
“The environment isn’t something ‘out there’. It’s where you live, eat, work and play. I promise to treat it kindly.”
It’s not easy being green. Goodsell talks to StartupSmart about how he’s making it work.
What inspired the idea for The Kind Cleaner; what gap did you see in the market?
My inspiration came about as a sum of a few things.
I was working in a job that I didn’t particularly enjoy. It was a bit of a dead end. I wanted to do something that was consistent with my personal values.
I have always wanted to do something on my own. I wanted to see my own ideas flourish. And I was limited by not having a driver’s license or a car. Hence the choice of a cargo bike as my means of transit.
The eco-friendly cleaning product segment is becoming very well serviced. The service segment, on the other hand, hasn’t seen much competition.
Also, the participants that do exist in the eco-friendly cleaning service segment aren’t as eco-friendly as they could be.
How did you fund the business?
Funding came from personal savings. My start-up costs were quite low, and mainly comprised my cargo bike, equipment, inventory, a marketing budget and working capital.
How do you promote the business?
Facebook and Twitter have worked really well for me so far.
I’ve managed to befriend a few other businesses in my niche, which has been mutually beneficial. This is a great way to get a strong following on social media.
High-targeted marketing postcards have also worked well, even though I have so far invested very little time in it. I’ve experimented with my message a bit, which has led to quite a good conversion rate.
Other than that, good old word-of-mouth has served me well.
How many staff do you have?
Just me at the moment. I intend to bring on my first employee at the end of 2012.
What are your main goals?
By the end of FY 2011/12, I expect to have myself and my first employee’s schedule consistently full.
This will lead to me hiring at least another one to two cleaners by the start of FY 12/13.
Is there enough demand for a business like this in the Adelaide CBD?
Absolutely. The eco-cleaning niche is quite broad in who it can target: people with allergies, people with young children and/or pets, vegans and vegetarians, organically-minded, etc.
There is a huge shift in the direction of conscious consumption. It’s a fast-growing space that encompasses all sorts of consumers.
And then you have those that just want a good quality cleaner.
Do you intend to grow the service beyond the CBD and surrounding areas?
Through employing more cleaning staff, I intend to expand outside of the CBD and surroundings.
Ultimately, I would like to see a fleet of The Kind Cleaner cargo bikes in every major city in Australia.
What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Time. Up until recently, I was working fulltime and operating The Kind Cleaner part-time.
At times I struggled to find a spare moment for back office type stuff, let alone for rest and relaxation. My partner has been very understanding and helpful.
What’s the biggest risk you face?
Competition is always on my mind. That’s why I am working very hard at establishing The Kind Cleaner as a strong, unique brand.
Economic conditions are also a worry. The media do a good job worrying people and changing their patterns of consumption.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
I would have gotten a more agile cargo bike. This would have expanded my range, thus market.
I am sure there are countless other things but I tend to learn from any mistakes pretty quickly and set them right.
What advice would you give to other eco-friendly start-ups?
Write a business plan but don’t let it be a static document – nothing is static in business, so add to and emit from it constantly – and don’t get too tied down by it. Get out there and do stuff.
Importantly, for eco-friendly start-ups, do not greenwash. First, it assumes your market isn’t savvy.
Secondly, it’s sure to bite you in the proverbial sooner or later. If you want to market yourself as an eco business, be genuine.