Kenyan Tent maker spots lucrative business in house cleaning

As his peers look forward to one day running a business that best suits their profile, Erick Kinoti, 28, opted for a cleaning services venture as soon as he spotted a business opportunity.

According to Kinoti, busy professionals who spend most of their time in offices often retire to untidy houses after work, making their experience in the house agonising.

He too, had a similar experience living in a house, which was not neat as a result he spent more of his time in restaurants than in the house. However, it reached a point he could no longer cope and had to find a way out.

Kinoti sought the help of a cleaner he refers to as mama nguo, one of the women in estates who wait by the roadside for clients to hire them to do domestic chores on their behalf.

“I hired a mama nguo to clean my house thrice a week,” says Kinoti.

The outcome got him thinking of thousands others who could make do with professional services from trained house keepers. His house became like a small paradise and he began spending more time at home, thanks to the cleaning services.

“After that my life started changing. I looked forward to going to my house, daily,” said Kinoti.

He toyed with an idea of coming up with a company to offer the same services but professionally and cash in on the gap in home cleaning services.

In February, he turned his dream into reality by launching Safisana Home Services.

“I asked myself how many people would need the services if I was to do it professionally,” said Kinoti.

Starting off with Sh2.5 million as capital, which he secured from his tent making business — Shade systems, the Safisana managing director was ready to go.

But the first three months was the hardest for the entrepreneur since it took people time to buy the idea.

“The first three months were slow, but now it’s catching up. We did a lot of free samples for the market to accept the idea,” he says.

Advertising on the social and electronic media as well as the word of month from satisfied clients, the business grew and was able to break even after six months. The company has 30 registered clients and the number keeps rising daily.

Safisana Home Services managing director Eric Kinoti during the interview last Thursday at his office in Westlands, Nairobi. The company provides house keeping services

Customers are ranked based on the frequency of the services. For instance, a gold package involves daily cleaning services — dish washing, laundry, house cleaning, ironing and home organisation at Sh15,000 a month.

Bronze package, which offers the same services as gold costs Sh5,000 a week. The firm also engages in one-off cleaning services at Sh2,500 but the charges vary depending on the size of the house.

Safisana has employed 22 permanent staff and more than 40 others who work on casual basis.

“We train them (casual workers) but only call them in when we are overwhelmed,” says Kinoti whom he says his company trains free of charge.

To ensure safety of his clients’ belongings, the company asks job seekers to submit a certificate of good conduct, names and contacts of three referees — a chief, cleric and landlord since according to Kinoti, the three are in a position to give an accurate account of the person seeking employment in his company. Safisana also signs a liability contract with client in case of damages and conducts a background vetting of job seekers.

Safisana assigns each client two uniformed employees to carry out the day’s duty and provides detergents and other cleaning equipment.

However, Kinoti says, most clients prefer to be present to supervise the work, although Safisana also has a supervisor who oversee the work and get feedback.

Based on the market response, Kinoti says the company plans to open an institution to train domestic workers.

“My long term vision is to start a Safisana training institute to specialise in housekeeping.  If a hotel or an expatriate requires the services they will be able to find a suitable professional that meets their demand,” he says.

The company pays its staff Sh3,000 above the government recommended rate for domestic workers and makes statutory contribution for them. This model, the workers say, motivates them to perform better.

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