Fresh off their 2023 Small Business BC E-commerce Experience Award win, SBBC sat down with Monika Scott and Robyn Mair, the co-founders of Mint Cleaning based in Ucluelet, BC, to learn about their journey going from a service-based business to launching a line of eco-friendly cleaning products.
Starting as a service
The two met at a parent get-together with their babies. Both were interested in cleaning on the side for some extra income rather than returning to their full-time jobs. They both are entrepreneurs at heart, said Robyn, who used to have a hair salon while Monika used to have a home daycare. But in 2017, they were ready for something new.
After their mutual friends encouraged them to work together, they went for a walk and talked about the possibility of starting a cleaning business together. Before they knew it, their fledgling business was instantly in demand in a town with lots of vacation rentals and very few cleaners.
Pivoting and filling in the gaps
After running their cleaning company for a couple of years, the harsh chemical cleaning products they had used were taking a toll on their health. Robyn had scarring on her lungs after three years of using toxic chemicals and bleaches to clean.
They wanted to start using safer, environmentally conscious products. But, the commercially available so-called “eco-friendly” brands were full of synthetic fragrances and did not work well. With a background as professional cleaners, Robyn and Monika set out to create their own natural yet effective products.
What began as DIY cleaning products in mason jars grew into a full product line. Mint Cleaning went from a service-based business to a product-based business, propelling the pair of entrepreneurs into a new business chapter.
Moving from the service to the product space, the pair started off with many advantages, chief among them the support of their local community.
“You have to believe in yourself more than anybody else,” said Robyn. “If you believe in yourself and you believe in your product and you get involved in your community, you will get that support. That’s guaranteed.”
Monika and Robyn have invested in their community, building connections and trust over the years. That investment has paid off with a network of customers wanting to support their business and spread the word. Other businesses jumped in to support them, too, like The Den, a sustainable goods store in Ucluelet.
“A local store called The Den was the first place to sell all of our products, which was huge,” said Monika. After that, Mint Cleaning also started providing products for the local hospitality industry, from small vacation rentals to award-winning hotels like Black Rock Oceanfront Resort.
A Hands-on Approach to Community Building
Mint Cleaning handles its marketing in-house, providing its community with eco-friendly cleaning tips and DIY recipes, providing customers with a ton of value.
“We have a story, you can trust us, we have a face to our brand…we are creating a lifestyle brand rather than just a product you see on the shelf,” said Robyn.
“Monika and I are hands-on…you are talking to real people,” she said. “To be the face behind your brand to be so involved with your customers and your community really does set us apart from all the other brands…we’re passionate about the ingredients that we use, we’re passionate about being eco-friendly about not greenwashing, and that sets us apart from the other companies,” added Monika.
Connecting with the Right Experts
One of the biggest things that led to their success was their decision to hire a graphic designer to do their branding and design their logo with their signature mint colour.
“Get a skilled graphic designer to do that for you right out of the gate…that is so important to get you started,” said Monika. “We talk to sellers, and they say that when people walk in, their eyes go over to our products.”
Ongoing support for small businesses
The journey isn’t over for Mint Cleaning. As small business owners, they say they could use more support by having resources to make it easier to get funding and to understand their options regarding the financial aspects of their business.
While many grants are available to women entrepreneurs, “it becomes almost like a full-time job” to do the work to apply for them,” said Robyn.
“I think loans and financial aid is huge, its been a struggle for us…we never had any sort of resources [for understanding] the back end of finances. Running a business that way, it can be hard to know who to trust,” said Robyn.
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