How Aussie mum went from dropping out of university to building $2.5 million cleaning business

How Aussie mum went from dropping out of university to building $2.5 million cleaning business
  • PublishedMay 6, 2024

The mum-of-four came up with her brainwave at family’s kitchen table.

Kacie Stephens started her business as a one-woman show.

With zero experience in the industry, the mum-of-four went from dropping out of her commerce degree to building a flourishing $2.5 million cleaning brand from her family’s kitchen table.

But the Australian professional cleaner’s journey to success didn’t come easy.

The 38-year-old was running The Big Clean Co across Victoria when her business, like so many others, was impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns — leaving her and a team of five employees unable to clean homes for customers in 2020.

Stuck at home with four kids under 12, the mum came up with a simple pivot strategy to keep the business afloat.

She launched her own brand called For All — selling just one product that works on cleaning every surface of the home.

The idea to create her cleaning solution came to mind after she began going viral on social media for showing the world “how to clean like a pro” using a common item that does it all: Dishwashing liquid.

The self-described “cleanfluencer” made dozens of videos, telling her huge following that dishwashing liquid was the “best thing to clean literally everything”.

She urged everyone to “stop overcomplicating cleaning” by buying different products for every room because it was unnecessary.

“Through being a professional cleaner, I had discovered some truths about cleaning products,” Stephens tells 7Life.

“Firstly, just about all the brands that market their product as being ‘safe alternatives’ and ‘eco friendly’ don’t work like they say they will, and are usually just ‘expensive water’.

“I discovered that one of the most versatile products for cleaning all surfaces is dishwashing liquid.”

The mum created just one product that works on cleaning every surface of the home.
The mum created just one product that works on cleaning every surface of the home. Credit: Kacie Stephens

However, there were things she didn’t like about the versions sold in supermarkets.

“Dishwashing liquids are almost always over 95 per cent water and they’re filled with ingredients that can be skin irritants… and contain synthetic chemicals and fragrances,” she explains.

“I wanted to change all of these things with For All.

“So I created this product that is safe for people and pets, easy to use, is concentrated so customers can dilute it at home and works effectively on every hard surface.”

Stephens started formulating a cleaning solution with a chemist.

“I wanted it to be something that would work really well, smell good, contain nothing nasty and be dilutable for maximum value — and it had to be Australian made,” she says.

“My aim when I started my business was that I saw things I liked and I made them even better.”

As her business took off during COVID, the mum had to move her stock into a warehouse.

Her cleaning solution — described as a “one bottle that does it all” — works on most surfaces, including floorboards, stove and oven, shower, bath and toilets, tiles and grout, dishes, windows, walls and cars.

The product is said to replace most cleaning products on the market, including all-purpose sprays, window cleaners, dish liquid, toilet gels, degreasers and more.

A 1L bottle ($29.90) can make more than 50L of cleaning solution.

In just two-and-a-half years, Stephens grew her cleaning product brand to a $2.5 million business.

“When the product came to life, I stored everything in a small storage shed and brought it back to my kitchen table to pack,” she says.

“I had no experience in shipping and e-commerce but I’m a sponge when it comes to learning and I found out how to do it. I do almost all of our marketing and I love it.”

As her business took off, the storage shed she used to keep all her stock “quickly grew” to three sheds, an office space and a new team of employees.

“We outgrew our office and we’ve been in our warehouse for five months now,” Stephens says.

The mum started her cleaning service in 2017 after struggling to find reliable cleaners for her investment property.

“What prompted the journey into cleaning was my experience as an Airbnb host,” she says.

“Two things have always bothered me the most in this industry: People not keeping their promises and hidden invoice surprises that appear after a job is done.

“These two pet hates became the driving force behind my business.

“I wanted The Big Clean Co to be a business that does what it says it will do, and is transparent in the process.”

Like many business owners, she had no choice but to put hers on hold due to strict COVID restrictions.

“Very quickly, just about everyone, got stuck at home, and my business all but closed,” she says.

“One day during lockdown, my 12-year-old showed me TikTok and I decided to start sharing cleaning videos.

“I kept repeating that dishwashing liquid was the best thing to clean literally everything.”

She now runs a team of 25 professional cleaners, all while working behind the scenes to sell her cleaning solution.

“It’s hard for me to even explain how much I love what I do, the people I work with and the customers I sell to,” she says.

“In the space between dropping out of university and starting my business, I’ve had four children.

“And my success in the past two-and-a-half years with For All is the culmination of so many years of trying new things, keeping my eye out for opportunities, and not being afraid to take calculated risks.

“When a lot of people start a business, they get into it for the money.

“But a great product passion and enthusiasm are what have worked for me.”

For those looking to create their own business but don’t know where to start, Stephens says: “Think about who you are helping and what problem you want your business to solve.

“So many businesses fail early or fail to even get off the ground because there is no market for what they’re selling or the service they’re offering.

“Don’t skip the market research stage.”

SOURCE: 7NEWS

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