Lockdown and stay-at-home measures, while necessary to help curb the spread of covid19, has had a tremendous impact on the economy. Many industries have had to be creative in redirecting their sectors to stay afloat.
One business, however, that has been able to turn things around is the cleaning and sanitising industry. Such is the case for Squeeky Queens.
The cleverly named sanitising business, owned by 36-year-old Jenna Neaves, was established in December 2019 during the Christmas season and was doing well.
Little did Neaves know at the time that a virus, still isolated in a country halfway around the world, would hit TT and disrupt the big dreams she had for her new company.
“It was a dream of mine for about two years before I started,” said Neaves who started her career in public relations and marketing.
The business entails cleaning, organising and decluttering residential and commercial spaces. The young entrepreneur is hoping over time her business could branch out into other areas such as interior design.
Before the pandemic, Neaves said she did well during the Carnival season. “Airbnbs and post-event cleanups were my biggest clients for the season, which is no more” she said with a laugh.
“At first, covid19 practically stalled my business,” said Neaves, adding the closure of borders slowed things down for her drastically.
“Also, the event side of the business was no more, so that's where the idea to pivot and create new business opportunities for myself and partner with Andell.”
Andell Francois, a sanitisation technician and owner of Compound General Contracting Ltd (CGC), was recommended to Neaves by a mutual friend. Francois uses a spray jet gun with sanitising solutions effective in killing most bacteria and viruses.
Together, the duo has teamed up their businesses to help their clients combat covid19.
“Because of the pivot, I am starting to see growth. While there was a lapse in the first couple of months, I'm starting to see growth from July to now.”
Their services include residential and commercial deep cleaning and sanitising, from carpets, chairs and mattresses to floor polishing and mould removal.
“We have a dust mite treatment that can help with sinus congestion, allergies and asthma. Nobody wants to be coughing and sneezing right now,” joked Neaves.
“Anything that can compromise your immune system and make you more exposed to the virus, our services help,” added Francois. “Just like anything else, once your immune system is low you tend to be more (susceptible to getting) sick. Keep your areas clean and safe so you could always maintain a healthy immune system and help fight this pandemic.”
Francois uses two solutions, both approved by the WHO and the US Environmental Protection Agency. Vitaloxide, he explains, is safe to use in and around environments with open fruits and vegetables, such as kitchens and groceries. The other, Avistat-D, can be used on all other surfaces.
According to the product information provided by Francois’s company CGC, “Avistat-D has demonstrated effectiveness against viruses similar to Sars-CoV2 (coronavirus), the cause of covid19 on hard, non-porous surfaces.”
Even with the team’s best efforts and improvement in business from customers sanitising to keep safe from the virus, Francois admits it has still been a challenge.
“At the beginning, there was a financial challenge. Most clients were out of jobs, home without money so the residential side of the business slowed down,” he explained, “but the commercial side was still open because clients had to keep their environment clean for customers and employees. Yet still it has been a challenge because commercial customers are also having financial issues and are cutting back.”
Challenges aside, Neaves is moving forward and hopes to continue to expand the business.
“I want to transition into many things: get into all natural products, safe for kids and pets. Eventually, we would want to get into entire home services, not just cleaning but construction, handyman and interior design.
In the short-term though, she hopes to grow the business, even for residential homeowners who would want to get this type of service done.
Neaves said although many people feel like they can do it themselves at home, there are benefits to having the home professionally cleaned.
“Right now there is an emotional reaction to sanitising and keeping safe. We want to make this a routine. This is not a one-time thing. You can get it done regularly on your schedule. The key thing is it gives you a peace of mind that you're doing this extra step.”
Neaves explains the cost of the services they provide is based on the size of the space, per square footage. “We provide free site visits, listen to your concerns and we give a package with both the disinfecting technology and physical cleaning, so you get a double cleaning (and) you have that peace of mind and safety.”
She said she hopes to grow the business commercially and expand to other spaces like churches and schools, when they reopen next year.
“I think, especially for employees’ peace of mind, commercially this should be a routine.”