The Fifth Time’s A Charm?
Can you imagine a gay guy starting and running a successful cleaning business? No, it’s not much of a stretch, is it. But to create a startup given life’s unexpected and tough curve balls, well, your mettle as a human being let alone an entrepreneur can surely be tested.
Meet LGBTQ Out Entrepreneur and StartOut member, Mihalis Dimopoulos (Michael). Michael is an Australian transplant in New York City who made the move to the Big Apple only a few years ago to pursue his startup dreams. After four attempts, Michael is succeeding with his fifth as founder of Lazy Susans Cleaning Service – a gay-owned and operated cleaning business in New York City. Michael is gay of course but so are all of his male cleaners. Imagine that.
Michael graciously spent time with StartOut sharing his fascinating story, startup experience including some very tough life lessons, some sage advice and the impact of StartOut on his success.
What was the inspiration to start and run Lazy Susans?
I founded Lazy Susans quite by accident. I needed extra cash to survive in New York City. I arrived in the Big Apple in 2014 to launch two start-up companies which unfortunately didn’t go to plan, and all the stories I’d heard about what this city can do to one’s confidence soon became a reality for me.
Running out of finances, New York quickly became a very hard place for me to live. With very little savings left, I gave up my apartment, sold my furniture, moved in with friends, and turned to house cleaning to make cash – I was determined to make it here.
I have a very strong work ethic and obsession with perfection – because yes, cleanliness is next to Godliness. I also have that typical Aussie humor. Because of all of this, I quickly created more demand than I could handle alone and needed to hire additional cleaners. Crazy, right? The rest is, as they say, history and hence the birth of Lazy Susans Cleaning Service – ready to keep your house clean and organized, and you stress-free.
What services does your business offer and what makes your business stand out from others?
Like the invention of the Lazy Susan, my company is here to serve our customers, to roll up our sleeves and clean the homes of busy people. And yes, we know our customers aren’t lazy but don’t really want to spend their precious free time cleaning. As our tagline states – “home cleaning for the time-pressed urbanite.”
Lazy Susans provides standard and deep cleaning, move-in/move out cleaning, Airbnb turnaround cleaning, organizational and decluttering services, home styling and handyman services. We already have a five-star rating and are committed to continue working very hard to maintain this status. What differentiates us from our competitors is that we work around our cleaners’ schedules by booking cleans when they are available. We also pay our cleaners the best in the marketplace. Customers can always book the same cleaner and our cleaners are extremely punctual, trustworthy and reliable. All you need to have is a mess, and a vacuum. We will do the rest! We even do laundry if a client has a laundry room onsite.
And how’s business going for your startup?
In just the past past 6 months, we’ve grown from me being the only cleaner to a team of 20 cleaners, cleaning over 200 homes a month. Did I mention that all of our male cleaners are gay? And yes, I’m actively seeking a business partner too. (More on that later in this interview).
What do you love most about your job?
Nothing makes me happier than receiving the reviews and positive feedback from our clients. As a company, we strive to create the best-in-practice work environment and strive to improve upon every clean. The ability to transform our clients’ homes to a light, sparkling clean environment which they love to walk into and the fact that our clients are excited to return home after we’ve cleaned, is such a great motivator for me and my team at Lazy Susans.
Are you an “Out” entrepreneur?
I am indeed “out” and find that within the cleaning services industry being a gay owner and having a team of gay cleaners has really set us apart. There is something to be said about gay guys who maintain an immaculate home, have a great eye for detail and are house proud. I believe being an “out” entrepreneur puts a majority of our female customers at ease as they tend to be home alone and feel much more comfortable when I mention that our male cleaners are gay, trustworthy and extremely hard working. Inviting a stranger into your home is daunting enough and very much a trust issue, so I assure all of our customers so they feel completely at ease with our team. Our goals – to be recognized as an “employer of choice” to the LGBTQ community, to attract and retain an amazing team of talented cleaners and customers in NYC and then across the USA. We have a “support the LGBTQ community logo and message” on our website. So we are constantly on the lookout for dynamic individuals who love to clean to join us, both male and female.
How important is it to you to be an “out” entrepreneur?
I believe it’s extremely important for what we are trying to achieve with Lazy Susans – which is to create more awareness across NYC that there is now a residential cleaning business who supports the LGBTQ community, is gay owned and operated, and has an outstanding reputation for providing an exceptional cleaning service. We are truly grateful to both our gay male cleaners and our LGBTQ clients who support Lazy Susans. Our LGBTQ clients love the fact that they will always have the same cleaner every-time, can book a clean on the same day, have someone from the community show up, knows how to clean, and is extremely respectful of their home.
When did you get involved with StartOut
I was introduced to StartOut by one of the founding members, Darren Spedale, who introduced me to StartOut even before I moved to New York. I attended several StartOut events with topics and industries that were relevant to my first two start-ups here. With Lazy Susans being gay-owned and operated, StartOut just makes sense for us.
How has StartOut helped you?
StartOut has been a great launching pad to create an awareness about Lazy Susans within our LGBTQ community and the fact that we are a gay owned and operated cleaning business in New York (Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens).
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs in the StartOut community?
Since Lazy Susans is my fifth start up – three within the last three years – not to mention Lazy Susans was created in my darkest despair when I hit rock bottom living in New York and started cleaning to afford to eat and live. I would say that I have experienced and learned some valuable lessons along the way.
Starting your own business could be the most rewarding experience of your life. However, there are many challenges you need to get ready for both, financially, and more importantly, emotionally, before you embark on your journey. For many, it’s a road of no return as we give up our high-paying careers in pursuit of a dream.
To want to earn more, be independent, do something different, or just get out of a frustrating job is simply not enough. There must be goods or services to sell and they must be in sufficient demand, in both good and bad economic times, to generate a satisfactory profit and make it all worthwhile. You don’t necessarily need a brilliant concept, or a unique idea. You just need to give people a product or service they need or want and find a niche that isn’t being served in your market. In my opinion, the most rewarding achievement, especially in today’s market, is to launch something quite unique. To merely replicate something is far less exciting than bringing a concept and brand to life and being recognized as a true innovator and creator within an industry.
The key to being an entrepreneur for me is to stay focused and remind yourself every day the reasons you quit your last job. If you, like me and many of us, start your business with no or minimum staff, loneliness can be your greatest enemy. I sometimes wish I had started my business with a partner as it is can be an extremely lonely journey.
The challenges for you as an entrepreneur will vary depending on the business. In some businesses the biggest challenge is acquiring adequate capital. For others, the biggest will be establishing a customer base and/or name recognition. With the abundance of information about starting a small business available today, why is there still such a high failure rate?
The main challenge to starting a small business will be your motivation. Your motivation to start a business must be consistent with your passion and enthusiasm for what you are doing. I have watched many good people fail over the years because they started a business more often than not for monetary reasons. Don’t get me wrong. Money is a good thing but to earn money without enthusiasm and passion is more difficult.
Alongside motivation and passion might be capital resources. You need enough money to start your business and enough to live on until your business is successful. Figure out what you realistically need and then plan on doubling or tripling that – that is what you need.
When you’re running your business, stay involved and be flexible. You can’t be too wedded to a specific way of doing things. Listen to your customers. Stay positive. Stay involved. Don’t give up. Losing heart and giving up probably kill the majority of small businesses even more than lack of capital.
You can spend more time with your family, but you also need to devote time and energy to your business for it to flourish. In fact, you might need to work twice as hard in the first couple of years to get things going. If you work out of your house, make sure to designate a room for work only. Try not to allow people to interrupt you during work time. Set up your own schedule between work and play and stick to it. Separating work and play – just because you are your own boss doesn’t mean you can take three days off a week. That is if you want your business to succeed.
And what would I have done differently knowing what I know now with 5 start-ups launched and 11 years later? I’d have more capital in the beginning definitely like 4-5 times, always understand that being successful is giving something a go and never ever feeling that you have failed as you will never die wondering “what if.” Surround yourself with successful individuals and definitely look for a great mentor. (The AT&T StartOut Mentorship Program is a great place to start.) Build a team around you of like-minded people who compliment your strengths and find dynamic people who complement your weaknesses.
How can the StartOut Community help you and your business?
StartOut could help in a couple ways …
First, I would love for Lazy Susans to be recognized as the preferred LGBTQ cleaning service in our community within NYC and then across the entire USA with a vision to eventually franchise. If StartOut members can help get the word out to create more awareness and help us grow more, that would be amazing. And of course if you live in New York, consider becoming a client.
And the second way – since we have grown significantly in the past 6 months, I am at the point of searching for a business partner. If StartOut can help me find the right business partner – or anyone reading this – that would be ideal. I’m looking for someone who’s interested in equity, being part of my growing business, and has complementary skills.
How can StartOut members learn more about your business and contact you?
StartOut members can visit us at www.lazysusanscleaning.com to learn more about us and/or to book a cleaning.
Or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about joining my team and the partner opportunity.
Before we go, is there an exclusive offer to StartOut members?
Of course there’s a special offer just for StartOut members – 50% OFF your first home clean when you sign up for a cleaning plan or $15.00 OFF one time cleaning. Please use promo code: StartOut$15OFF at checkout.
Thanks so much Michael for spending time with and being part of StartOut. Best of success with Lazy Susans as we all hope it really “mops up” the competition!