While driving profits at an investment firm as a financial consultant and eventually a personnel development manager, Raymond Aker perfected his knack for delivering quality and efficient service. By 2001, the finance guy turned entrepreneur was using those same skills to provide cleaning services to residential properties. He took the concept digital and developed BidMyCleaning.com, and says the low overhead and years of providing service in the financial sector were what drew him to the space.
“We connect consumers to cleaning services, but we use technology to do it,” says Aker, who is 38 and based in Houston.
The e-business venture is the brainchild of Aker, who serves as CEO, and three co-founders: O’Brian Woods, chief operating officer; and husband-and-wife team Gavin Stone, chief technology officer, and Candice Stone, chief marketing officer. BidMyCleaning.com is a marketplace for consumers who want reputable, cost-effective housecleaning services. Customers choose the type of service they want—for example, maid, window, house, or eco-friendly—then type in their ZIP code for a list of quotes from local cleaning professionals.
With careful planning, diligence, and organization, the company turned a profit after being in business only six months—in 2008, no less, while other companies struggled in the turbulent economy. The company receives a negotiated cut (which works like a referral fee) ranging from 15% to 30% of each transaction, depending on the vendor and whether or not the appointment is recurring; BidMyCleaning generates 23% gross profit from each transaction. Also, the company draws 9% of its revenue from a widget installed on service providers’ websites; when customers book their cleaning jobs via the widget, BidMyCleaning gets a cut. Servicing 30,000-plus ZIP codes across the nation, BidMyCleaning generated $1.2 million in revenues in 2010. Aker expects the company to gross $2.5 million by year-end as the online business negotiates national strategic partnerships.
Stone, who is based in San Diego, attributes some of the business’ consistent growth to its ability to leverage favorable placement on popular Internet search engines. He explains, “We created the site to be as optimized as possible for search engines by following all the latest techniques, and then continually iterated and refined them to stay in sync with Google’s ever-changing search algorithms.” The strategy includes dynamic landing pages for each city and town the e-business serves, as well as constant content updates to the site. The initial investment was $185,000, which included seed money from friends and family. Much of it went into site development and to cover the cost of servers and other computer resources, operational support, the proprietary bid engine that generates the list of screened service providers and the rental of a small office.
BidMyCleaning’s predecessor was a maid service run out of a garage in San Diego. As the customer base expanded, Aker grew frustrated at the effort it took to find qualified cleaning professionals. Plus, a large number of his customers wanted services that went beyond maid staffing. That business was eventually sold. “I wanted to figure out how I could make my business grow faster and provide better service,” recalls Aker. Today, as the online company continues to expand, the founders are putting their energies toward assembling a board of advisers to identify national companies to align with.