As an MBA student at the University of Chicago’s Booth school, Kathleen Wilson was struck with an idea while looking at businesses that provided daily housekeeping in one of her classes. Given the density and physical structure of many apartment buildings, she wondered why a housekeeper couldn’t similarly push a cart down the hall and spend an hour or less in each unit.
To test out her theory, Wilson and a classmate started cleaning the apartments of friends, spending 30 minutes to an hour at a time and trying to establish a reasonable price point for the work. Armed with enough data, Wilson then landed at a local real estate tech accelerator, formed her company, and locked down her first property management company client, Waterton — and her efforts have been gaining momentum since.
In fact, her 20-month-old startup, The Minte, which now employs roughly 60 people, is today announcing that it has raised $2.25 million in a round that brings the company’s total seed funding to $4.7 million. Dundee Venture Capital led this newest round; other investors in the company include MATH Venture Partners, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, Firebrand Ventures, Blue Note Ventures and numerous angel investors. We had a quick chat with Wilson earlier this week to learn more.
TC: Can you tell us a bit more about your customers? Are they all property management companies like Waterton?
KW: We only provide service to apartments and condos, so our clients are currently property management companies such as Greystar, Bozzuto, Lincoln Property Company and CA Ventures. We have just under 70 properties in Chicago, another 20 in D.C. and we’ve been launching six to 10 new properties in each market each month.
TC: The Minte promises to make a housekeeper available to a property full-time, correct?
KW: Yes. A housekeeper is located on site for residents to book cleaning services with them, so that residents are provided with consistency and trust. To be clear, our housekeepers are full-time Minte employees with health benefits and paid time off. We keep our housekeeping cart and supplies at each property, and there’s a place for housekeepers to go if they have a bit of downtime, although that’s rare.
We do have some housekeepers who split their time between properties, either if the property is smaller or if we’re still in the first couple months of service and still building demand.
TC: What makes the company think people would prefer to work with The Minte versus housekeepers they know? These are trust-heavy relationships, a feature that other housecleaning startups have overlooked to their detriment.
KW: Exactly. We bring the personal trust by having the same housekeeper assigned to the property, which allows the housekeeper to get to know the residents, and we bring the corporate side of trust by having insurance, QA by managers and the ability to send a backup housekeeper if someone is out sick. We also have top-notch, live customer service if there is ever an issue.
TC: What does your quality assurance process involve?
KW: It’s a multi-tier process. First, we’ve implemented an eight-day training program for all new housekeepers. Second, housekeepers and housekeeping managers with whom we work almost always have hotel backgrounds, having worked at the Waldorf Astoria, The Conrad and Sofitel, to name a few. Third, housekeeping managers do random spot checks of service. And fourth, users can rate and comment on every service, which we review in real time. It’s company policy to reach out to the resident any time something is less than four stars.
Also worth mentioning: our products are eco-friendly, P&G products, so there’s no compromise on the quality of our supplies.
TC: How do clients pay, and how much do they pay? Is this a subscription model?
KW: They can pay à la carte — paying $30 for a hotel-style service, $90 for a deep clean for a one-bedroom apartment, for example — but over half of our cleans are residents who are on a recurring package. For customers on a package, they can customize how many deep cleans and/or hotel-style cleans they have every four weeks, including which days those cleans occur.
TC: The home services model is more prone to leakage, meaning people form relationships and stop using the platform. Is this a concern?
KW: Our employees are full-time, so this is essentially a non-issue for us. With our housekeepers on our schedule throughout the entire week, it’s not feasible for someone to poach them.
Potentially a resident could do this on a weekend, but in our experience, people want housekeepers to come when they are not home. Furthermore, the property manager would tell us if our housekeeper was getting keys outside of their Minte schedule.
TC: And how are you marketing the company?
KW: Through our partnership with the property managers, primarily.
TC: How will you use your new funding?
KW: We’ll continue to enhance our tech. Our app is out this week, and we’re rolling out our smart home integration in the coming months. We’re making our button — which is physical hardware that goes on the wall inside each unit — more readily available. We’ll also expand more into condos and corporate housing and target our third city in early 2019.
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