House cleaning has never been among the most cherished of activities, and among two-income families there typically is precious little time to do it anyway.
Ana Alonso, the owner of a Molly Maid professional cleaning service franchise in Houston, counts on as much. "If no one is taking care of the house, you need to find another way of doing that," she says.
Ms. Alonso, 40, a native of Colombia, and her husband, Jorge Alonso, 42, a native of Cuba, moved to Houston to pursue jobs – she in accounting and he in engineering – but knew that someday they would open their own business.
"In both our families there are family members with businesses, and we saw that was what fit best with our personalities and our goals in life," Ms. Alonso says. "We felt having our own business would give us more flexibility in our lives and greater opportunity because we saw that in our families."
The question was: What sort of business?
"We definitely did not want to start something from scratch," says Ms. Alonso. "Eighty percent of franchises are successful, while 80 percent of self-start businesses fail."
They originally considered a Dominoes Pizza franchise, but there were none available in their area and relocating was not an option. Then Ms. Alonso spotted a Molly Maid car in her neighborhood.
"From the moment we contacted the franchisor, we didn't look at anything else, because everything was positive and fit what we were looking for," she says.
Cost was a major selling point. They spent $15,000 to buy an existing franchise and another $20,000 to get started, financing part of the cost through the franchise's previous owner. The business grew from five employees, 40 customers, and $150,000 in gross revenues in 1987 to 30 employees, 500 customers, and $980,000 in gross revenues last year. The couple expects to gross more than $1 million this year.
The Alonsos promote their Molly Maid franchise by leaving door hangers at area homes. At $50 an hour plus tax, the service costs the average household about $75 every other week.
Ms. Alonso says owning a Molly Maid franchise has allowed them the flexibility to participate in the life of their daughter, Alicia, who was 8 months old when they purchased the franchise. "The business is so large I currently have three office people, and therefore I don't ever have to be anywhere at 8 o'clock," she says.
– Scott Williams
Business: Residential cleaning
Date established: 1979
Number of franchises: 500
Total annual revenues: $68 million in 1998
Requirements: $35,000 to $60,000
Where available: Worldwide
Contact: Molly Maid, 1340 Eisenhower Place, Ann Arbor, MI 48108 (734) 975-1000
Web site: www.mollymaid.com
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