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Founder Stories: Brian Winch On Building Cleanlots

In today’s Founder Story we feature Brian Winch, the author and creator of “Cleanlots – America’s Simplest Business”!

Read on for lessons he’s learned from launching and marketing his business.

1) Please introduce your business and share your role.

I’m the author and creator of Cleanlots – America’s Simplest Business. Cleanlots is a business model based on my experience of 40+ years providing commercial litter cleanup to property management companies. Our service is provided on-foot using unique hand tools that enable us to clean up more litter material in less time, thus saving our clients money.

The cleanlots manual and other related marketing products are sold to people across the country who are looking for a low cost, low skill business opportunity that can be started as a simple side hustle based from home with the potential to scale to a 6 or 7 figure business.

2) What’s your story? What kind of challenges did you face, and how did you come up with your business idea?

I was a full-time employee working as a shipper-receiver for a large sporting goods company in 1981. I was 21 at the time when I decided to look to start a business of my own. It had become clear that my opportunities for career advancement weren’t promising as I only had a high school education. 

I didn’t have much money saved up or skills to start most businesses so I did a self evaluation of what I could do, what I would like to do and what I wouldn’t. Then I decided to seek a service that I could provide working outdoors, preferably after hours. This way I could start my business as a side hustle while continuing to work my job to pay my living expenses.

My dad had unexpectedly passed away at this time. He was a janitor who supplemented his income by taking on side gigs such as cutting grass in the summer and shoveling snow in the winter. One other service he had provided was cleaning up litter outside a nearby shopping plaza. He had taken me along with him to assist a couple of times when I was a young teen. I remembered that the work was almost as easy to do as going for a walk.

We would simply walk up to an item of litter and sweep it into our litter collection tools. 

We covered the exterior property; sidewalks, parking lot and landscape areas and when we were finished we emptied our tools into a waste bin on site. This was easy work as my dad serviced this property on a daily basis in the early morning hours before the businesses opened. It only took us a little more time than it did to walk the property.

I thought that I could make a business for myself from that memory of my dad and I out for an early morning walk and making money from it!

3) How did you prepare for, and go about your launch?

I started my business before the internet so obtaining pertinent information on starting and marketing a business wasn’t as easy to get as today. Various levels of government agencies had great information as did my bank. I scoured bookstores and my library for detailed information. I created a step-by-step plan and began ticking off the steps as I completed them. 

Once the legal aspects had been taken care of I was ready to start marketing. I knew that my prospects were property management companies. The best place to find them back in the day was the Yellow Pages telephone directory. I prepared and rehearsed an elevator pitch – two or three sentences where I briefly introduced myself and company and how my service would be of benefit to my prospect.

I started cold calling, not to sell but to speak to the decision maker in charge of litter cleanup. After 4 or 5 calls I found a very responsive lead that eventually turned into a client. The income generated from their business was invested into a display ad in the telephone directory (the internet of the day) and promotional material that I mailed out to prospects. I created the copy and layouts myself from similar pieces that I compiled. Why not copy the success of others I had thought. 

4) Since launching, what types of marketing campaigns and designs have worked best to attract and retain customers?

Cold calling has worked very well for me, both then and now. The biggest difference being how much faster you can exchange information today. 

Getting listed with the search engines (Google being the biggest) is vital to your business being found in search by your prospects. 

A website optimizing relevant keywords is a must and has replaced our offline advertising.

Providing extra value to your clients and regularly communicating with them helps retain your clients and grow your business.

5) What have been the most influential brands for your business? Whose branding and marketing do you aspire to and why?

Keep America Beautiful is a non-profit volunteer organization that aims to both educate and assist communities across the country in dealing with the problems related to people littering. Our best chance for change is through education and action.

6) What are your favorite marketing platforms/tools?

I have a personal profile and a company page on Linkedin and Facebook. SEO and website optimization are vital to my success.

7) Who or what inspires and motivates you?

Leaders who know how to lead and don’t get in the way inspire me.

Both my late parents continue to motivate me from their examples of sacrifice and hard work. I grew up in a family whose parents had to work hard to put food on the table, a roof over our heads and pay the bills. My dad was an immigrant from Poland who could speak English but not write. My mom chose to stay at home to raise my two brothers and I. They both took on side jobs to provide for us. I never heard them complain about their situation. Their message was always a positive one.

8) What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way that you would share with other entrepreneurs? 

You need to be passionate, patient and persistent. The passion for what you do will help you survive the tough times you’ll go through in your entrepreneurial journey. Your patience will serve you well whenever you feel things aren’t happening for you fast enough. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say. You’ll be rewarded for your persistence after you’ve tried one more time to accomplish a task.

You may be intelligent but you don’t know it all! There will be times when you have to bring in someone smarter than you to start or complete a task. Congratulate yourself when doing so; your goal is bigger than your ego.

9) What do you believe are the qualities of a good entrepreneur? And what makes a team successful?

A good entrepreneur must be ambitious, motivated and understand how to delegate.They understand that they don’t know everything and will hire people smarter than they are. A successful team is one that clearly understands their roles and is allowed to do their jobs without being micromanaged.

10) Let us know where we can go to learn more!

You can learn more about cleanlots at https://www.cleanlots.com.

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