Bellice Rabach took a friend’s challenge seriously and ventured into cleaning business by squeezing time when not at work to walk into people’s homes and houses asking for cleaning assignments.
Hers was akin to the bite of a bug and sheer grit.
But she was also armed with healthy passion and the urge to take risks because she poured her small savings into the unknown.
That was three years ago, when she was accompanied by “two casual labourers” to help her launch the side hustle.
This combination with a sprinkling of personal savings of Sh15,000 have turned into a promising enterprise in Kisumu.
Next, she, like every other entrepreneur, wants to grow and build a cleaning name in East Africa.
Lisarey Limited is the name of the business that now employs 25 people trained to “professionally” offer cleaning services in homes and offices.
“I am passionate about cleanliness, I like things that are perfectly done. Everything has to be done the way I have pictured it,” says Ms Rabach.
With the small capital from her savings, the Jomo Kenyatta University graduate of commerce and marketing, registered the company, designed company objectives and mission and bought rudimentary equipment.
“I registered the company in March 2014 and developed policies required to run the cleaning enterprise. I got a lot of help courtesy of Occupational Safety and Health Administration website,” Ms Rabach says.
She adds: “The website offers guidelines and outline on how to handle spillages, theatre and different areas in hospitals when cleaning.”
The literature helped her to carve a niche of cleaning hospitals and hotels, “which require discipline and professionalism.”
Ms Rabach also benefited from firsthand experience having worked as a housekeeper at five-star hotels in Nairobi.
To get the first clients, she asked for contracts, got a few in people’s homes while the corporate world proved difficult to penetrate.
This hurdle of clinching deals with businesses got her thinking, until she arrived at the thought of upgrading her equipment.
She approached her sacco for an Sh800,000 loan that she spent on buying floor scrubbers, steam machines, extractors, suction machines for carpets, trolleys and mops.
Ms Rabach, 36, and a mother of two, landed her first contract in October 2016 with the Kisumu Specialist Hospital and she got the deal renewed.
The customers list has now grown to include Nightingale Hospital in Kisumu’s Milimani, Ikonia Hotel, Aga Khan Hospital, Rockwel Hotel, and Grand Royal Swiss Hotel.
“Most clients, I have learnt, are focused on maintaining high standards of cleanliness; once you get that you will definitely attract clients, and that is my drive,” she says, adding the services are offered daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly depending on need.
She charges between Sh10,000 and Sh400,000 while relying on referrals, web marketing, and social media like Facebook to build Lisarey’s customer base. “In a good month” Lisarey revenues go up to Sh500,000.
Accessing loans, especially in the era of interest rate caps, makes the list of business woes that are giving Ms Rabach sleepless nights.
Getting the right spare parts for the imported cleaning machines is also source of headache, the entrepreneur says, because “the kind of clientele I work with and the scope of work definitely need professional machines.”
Because the tools are imports, the parts search is material expenditure that requires funds.
Most banks are hesitant to lend, threatening her expansion bid, although Ms Rabach is eyeing a regional presence in the next five years, targeting major shopping malls and offices.