How I Turned My Side Hustle Into $650K a Year Cleaning Business

Joining us today is Brian Winch, creator and founder of Cleanlots – America’s Simplest Business.

Since 1981, Brian has transformed his side hustle into a thriving six-figure operation over 40 years.

Key Stats:

  • Revenue: $53,000 a month
  • Founder: 1
  • Employees: 1
  • Subs: 7
  • Started: 1981

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Meet Brian Winch

I’m Brian Winch, creator and founder of Cleanlots – America’s Simplest Business. I grew my business from a simple side hustle in 1981 into a six-figure operation of 40+ years. I started with little money, no special skills and a high school education.

I was inspired to start my business by my dad. He was a janitor who supplemented his income with a few side gigs.

He would cut grass in the summer months, shovel snow during winter and clean up litter debris outside a shopping plaza that was close to our home.

He occasionally took me along when I was growing up to assist him. I don’t know if I was of much help when I was younger but I sure enjoyed the treats afterwards!

I was about 12-13 years old when he asked me to accompany him to his parking lot litter cleanup gig.

We would walk the exterior property and clean up all litter material from the sidewalks, parking lot and surrounding landscape before the businesses opened in the morning.

We used simple hand tools that made the work almost as easy to do as going for a walk.

It only took us a few minutes more time than it took for us to walk the property. I couldn’t believe he was getting paid to do this.

When I was considering side hustles as a way to start my own business, I recalled my dad’s litter pickup gig.

I was 21 and working a dead end job at a large sporting goods company. I’ll be the first to admit that cleaning up litter is not glamorous.

But I really enjoyed working outdoors in the early morning hours. I felt satisfied seeing the immediate results from my work and knowing that I had made a positive impact on the environment in my community. People litter.

They always have and always will. Somebody has to clean up their mess, so I thought why not me? My dad unfortunately passed away unexpectedly at the age of 61 just as I was starting up.

What is your litter cleanup business?

Litter cleanup is a year round service best performed on-foot before businesses open so all litter material on the exterior property can clearly be seen and cleaned up.

We utilize unique hand tools that allow us to clean up more litter material in less time than other tools. Our service is performed minimum 2 or 3 days per week up to 7 days per week depending on the type of commercial development.

No power equipment is needed as this is not a sweeping service. We also change out the trash liners of any common area litter containers that are situated on storefront sidewalks. Anyone can clean.

We go further by providing our clients with a free reporting service. They will be notified of any incidents of property damage, graffiti, burned out exterior lighting, or illegal dumping. My business is home-based.

How did you transform your side hustle into a six-figure business?

My intention for starting my business was to work as long as I could as a simple one man operation.

Success forced me to bring in more people to assist with the cleanup work. I began getting requests from my clients to take on more properties.

I decided the most simple way to accommodate this was by subbing the work out to other small cleaning companies.

You’d be surprised with how many cleaning contractors are looking for work. I’ve found them to be dependable and most importantly they understand the work must always be done on time.

Each subcontractor must sign a contract that I had created before they commence work for me. It spells out their legal and service obligations. This arrangement has made it possible to grow as much as anyone would want to.

What tools and equipment do you use for litter cleanup service?

All you really need is a litter collection tool and a broom to sweep material into it. I recommend a specific one in my book that I’ve been using for over 40 years.

I suggest another as an alternative that can be found at Home Depot. My business model has been proven successful in large part by the use of these tools.

I’ve seen many competitors struggling with grab tools, where you grab one item at a time and tiny lobby pans. They’re either not thorough or spend too much time with their cleaning.

A reliable vehicle to get you from one job site to the next is a necessity.

How do you secure contracts with property management companies?

It’s quite simple to find prospects for your business. Do an online search for property management companies and slight variations of.

Once I’ve compiled a list of prospects I begin calling them and asking them who’s responsible for the litter pickup outside their properties. You need to develop a brief elevator pitch.

Quickly introduce yourself then state one or two of the benefits your service can provide. Once you’ve obtained the name and contact information of the decision maker send them an introductory email. You’re not trying to sell them anything.

Your objective is to gain an address for a property or two to provide an estimate for your service. I can’t stress this enough; sell the benefits of your service. How will my prospect benefit from my service?

Can you discuss the growth of your business over the past 40 years?

Once I’ve established my price (based on estimated time) from walking the property I email it to my prospect.

If they reply that my price is acceptable I forward to them a formal contract proposal. I never start a new property until I’ve received an executed copy of my contract proposal.

Once I’ve started providing my service I make a point to communicate with my client any issues or concerns.

They appreciate hearing from you about any incidents of property damage, illegal dumping or grafitti. This is a great way to develop a business relationship that builds trust and oftentimes results in more work from that same client.

When I started in 1981 there was no internet. We had the Yellow Pages telephone directory. You could look up any type of business and it most likely would be listed. Today you need to be where your prospects are.

Start with a Google Business profile and company profile on LinkedIn. These don’t cost you anything but a bit of your time. A simple website making use of relevant keywords should follow next.

You might say that my business has grown organically over the past 40 years.

It has grown at a pace I’ve been comfortable with as a result of the systems I’ve put into place. I’ve focused on providing exceptional customer service and been rewarded with plenty of referral business.

I have simple but very effective profiles on Google and LinkedIn that drive traffic to my website. I’m not a salesman.

I love what I do and can share how my service can benefit my prospects. I’m an introvert who enjoys being an early bird and is profiting from it.

Why did you decide to write “Cleanlots” and offer free support?

I wrote Cleanlots – America’s Simplest Business as my way of sharing this business opportunity with people who are like me when I started.

People with little money, no special skills and a high school education but have passion, persistence and patience need an opportunity like this. They most likely could not afford a hefty franchise fee, ongoing royalties or a costly coaching program.

I offer free support as my way of giving back but also honoring my dad. He’d be proud of how I turned his simple litter pickup gig into a six-figure business of 40+ years.

What’s your key piece of advice for starting a low-cost, service-based business?

Provide more than you promise. Do the little extra that will make you stand out in your client’s mind. It’s the best investment you can make.

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