A Molly Maid enterprise in a busy Michigan community attributes much of its success to its proximity to two thriving universities.
A town bustling with college students can spell success for home services franchises.
Consider Ann Arbor, Michigan, which boasts the University of Michigan, with Eastern Michigan University nearby in Ypsilanti.
Gina Cohen and her husband, John, have owned their Molly Maid shop for 21 years; Gina has been director of operations for five years. The couple also owns a Molly Maid shop in Livonia, a non-college town 30 minutes away.
Though college towns have a high rate of residential turnover, Gina Cohen says the Ann Arbor franchise keeps busy by cleaning campus housing and fraternity and sorority houses. “When they see what a good job we’ve done, we get a lot of repeat business,” she says.
The students might move out for the summer, but they put their accounts on hold so cleaning can resume at a new address when they return, she says.
Comings and goings
Cohen says her busy season starts at the end of July and lasts a few weeks while young adults are getting situated in their new housing.
Graduating students are replaced with incoming undergrads. The kids depend on the cleaning services, yet Cohen often communicates with parents who want to ensure their students begin the semester in a clean environment. “Parents call to schedule monthly cleanings and pay for services,” she says.
Upperclassmen often have hectic schedules with internships and classes, so their folks want to make sure their bedding, linens and cleaning are taken care of before they move in, Cohen says. They want particular attention paid to bathrooms and kitchen, she adds.
The University of Michigan boasts nearly 45,000 students. Cohen says she and her husband enjoy building relationships with first-year students and working with them through graduation.
“We see them grow and mature, and [we] develop a relationship with them and their parents,” Cohen says. Many customers refer their friends, as well, she says.
In addition to recommendations, the Cohens advertise and market specifically to the university community. Their targeted approaches include:
- Running ads in student planners
- Placing coupons on college football tickets
- Displaying banners at football games
- Using promotional placards on cleaning crew vehicles
Cohen’s franchise also cleans the homes of educators and other staff at the local colleges.
“We’ve cleaned the house of the women’s basketball coach at U of M, too,” she says.
Cohen suggests that potential franchisees considering a college town evaluate the scope of student housing. There might be high turnover, but you’ll get new clients every few years, she says.