Hammonton entrepreneurs turn chores into successful family-owned cleaning business

By KEVIN POST Business Editor | pressofAtlanticCity

Joseph Young, of Hammonton, long wanted to have his own business and five years ago had an idea.

“One day just out of the blue he said, ‘Let’s start a cleaning company,’” said his son, Andrew Young, also of Hammonton.

Neither had worked for a cleaning business.

 Andrew Young, 31, was doing public relations and marketing for R&R Partners, the Las Vegas firm that created the “What happens here, stays here” campaign.

“I never liked cleaning when I was young,” Andrew said. Nonetheless, “I said let’s do it and we just jumped in.”

The younger Young’s financial advisor said they should open a franchise cleaning operation, but he wanted to work for himself and own the business outright. So the advisor challenged Andrew to go out and get three cleaning contracts as a way of showing him how hard that would be.

“I went door to door and landed three contracts,” he said, before they even purchased any cleaning equipment.

The first contract for Garden State Commercial Cleaning Services was with ProSource Wholesale Flooring in Berlin, Camden County, and the firm still provides janitorial services there.

In the five years since, the Youngs have added customers all over the state, including Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township, the housing authority in East Orange, and Atlantic Cape Community College.

Garden State Cleaning has also added services and a new unit to handle them: TruBlu Carpet Care.

Carpets are cleaned with steam, generated by a machine mounted in the TruBlu van.

If customers prefer cleaning without water, TruBlu uses an encapsulation dry-cleaning method, Young said. “We put down a chemical that loosens and encapsulates all the dirt, and then we vacuum it up.”

Either way, the company uses Green Seal Certified cleaning chemicals that are safe for the environment, children and pets, he said.

Another machine mounted in the van produces water pressure up to 1,200 pounds per square inch, which is great for cleaning tile and grout.

“I love doing tile and grout. That’s the best. It’s so much fun,” Young said Wednesday before heading to the Atlantic City Boardwalk to clean a pretzel store.

Another popular specialty is cleaning natural stone. Usually that involves just washing with a special detergent and polishing, but stains and scratches might require the removal of a thin layer of the stone.

“We do what’s called honing, stripping away layers of stone little by little until the stain or scratch fades away,” he said. “Once that’s done, we can apply a protector or enhancer that will give it a good pop and bring the colors back up.”

Stone cleaning and polishing costs about $2.50 a square foot, he said, and if honing is required that’s an additional $2 a square foot.

Carpet cleaning typically costs $54 to $81 per room, and ceramic tile cleaning 50 cents to $1 per square foot.

TruBlu also cleans and buffs floors, and enough customers are asking for wood floor refinishing that the business will add that to its services in about a month, Young said.

“The process is almost the same as when we resurface natural stone, so wood is a natural progression for us,” he said.

Young said his staff is more stable than that of most cleaning companies, which he credited to the firm’s strategy of targeting the underemployed rather than the jobless for hiring.

And Garden State Commercial Cleaning and TruBlu Carpet Care are very much family firms.

Andrew said his mother, Cheryl, a retired IRS worker, handles the bookkeeping; wife Sandra works on customer service, as does his sister Alexis Young (but less now that she’s got her master’s degree); and his aunt, Gail Matthews, helps out with sales support.

The family also makes sure the business gives back to the community.

Joseph Young and daughter-in-law Sandra are both mentors for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Atlantic & Cape May Counties, so for the next three months the firm will donate a portion of its earnings to the organization.

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