I had the pleasure of interviewing a fantastic entrepreneur, Fortino, founder of Maids by Trade. He is an incredible inspiration to all of you looking to go off the beaten path with your own business. See, like me, Fortino came from a family of entrepreneurs, but he still pursued his own path to become his own kind of new entrepreneur.
Me: Tell me a bit about your background.
Fortino: I come from a family of entrepreneurs. I started helping in the family business since I was very young at my mom’s grocery store. Throughout the years, I became more interested in taking more responsibilities in the business so my mom could take a break.
After being brought by my family to the US, I learned English and eventually started learning more about formal business, ethics, accounting, etc.
Me: What led you to start this business?
Fortino: Maids by Trade started by accident…literally. One day I suffered a serious back injury that required surgery. No longer able to physically do the work I loved, I had to hire people to replace me until I could recover. In a matter of weeks I noticed that my popularity increased. Even though I was no longer cleaning, the number of cleaning team grew under my management. Eventually, I became the estimator and quality control supervisor—running between estimates and supervision the team on my route to my appointments. Seeing the expressions of satisfaction among my clients has been always very rewarding and it makes me proud.
Me: How is this different from other cleaning services?
Fortino: Maids by Trade is a professional house cleaning service that provides customizable maid services; we use the exclusive Tru-Green Clean System that assures the use of green practices, which is not just to protect the environment, it also prevents cross-contamination while enforcing safety for our cleaning crews, our clients and their pets. I guess if fair to say that Maids by Trade is a company built on a spotless reputation.
Me: Does technology have a large role in your business’ growth?
Fortino: In every aspect of our business operations: From the account management customized software to the highly regarded HEPA vacuums we use. While technology plays a big role, I believe it’s thanks to our teams and their dedication to their job. At the end of the day, it’s the human’s efforts and dedication that makes a difference.
Me: Have you received any awards and recognitions?
Fortino: We have received the Super Service Award from Angie’s List two times and last years we received the prestigious Small Business of the Year Award from Portland State University’s Business Outreach Program for Business Growth and Job Creation. More importantly, Maids by Trade has remained the most reviewed cleaning service in the Pacific Northwest for twelve consecutive years; and while that’s not a formal award, that comes from our client’s directly, making it more rewarding than any trophy or award.
Fortino also owns Purple Forté, a revolutionary business model…
Me: What led you to start franchising to others?
Fortino: I decided to start franchising because my team noticed an increase of calls from people wanting to learn how they could work under our reputable brand; which has been the most reviewed cleaning service in the Pacific Northwest for twelve consecutive years.
Right before making the decision, I started to remember my beginnings; I remember how hard it was not having a guide or even experience in the cleaning industry. At the time, I had no idea that I could franchise with someone else—who knew. I didn’t. A moment of realization hit me—I could “package” my business model and make it available to other people wanting a chance to get their own business going. At that moment, I knew I had to do it.
Me: What opportunities does Purple Forté offer to people in the industry?
Fortino: We work with individuals that work in the house cleaning industry in obtaining their own business. In fact, the company offers and incentive of over $20,000 USD for people with proven record of success in the industry. It is a rigorous and selective process, but it’s well worth it. Not many franchisors are willing to invest that kind of money in prospective franchisees.
Me: Have you received media exposure?
Fortino: Throughout my years leading a cleaning company, I’ve invited multiple times to TV shows and interviews discussing cleaning tips during flu season. In addition, my cleaning crews have had cameo appearances on national television a few times with national celebrities.
Me: What kind of growth have you seen with the new business model?
Fortino: So far we have exceeded our expectations on every level; not only when launching a new office, but the number of clients acquired and the revenue numbers have experienced a significant increase. What’s more important is that growth is even across the board; in new and previously established territories.
Me: Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Fortino: You can do it! It’s not easy but you can do it. Find a mentor, an experienced business person that can guide you. Do it because you love it, money and success will come as a result of your own efforts.