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Businesses You Can Start Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner

1. Introduction
This guide explains the basics of starting up a carpet and upholstery cleaner in South Africa. It describes what kind of person is suited to the business and what training is available. It also tells you who your customers and competitors are likely to be, and what issues are affecting the market for carpet and upholstery cleaning. It gives you an idea of the kind of costs you will need to meet and the regulations you must comply with, and ends with some sources of further information. Carpet and upholstery cleaners wash and deodorise carpets and upholstery fabrics, including curtains, lounge suites and other soft furnishings. You can also offer a service to: Repair carpets and give advice on how to get rid of stubborn stains; Clean homes that have been damaged by flood or fire; Give specialist advice on the care of carpets and rugs; Clean furniture and household goods (silver, leather, etc).

The industry is very competitive, with independent operators starting to offer a broad range of cleaning services.

2. Are you suited to this type of business?

This is a business that needs some training and experience in carpets and upholstery fabrics, as you must understand the different styles and textures of carpet and fabrics to know the best chemicals and detergents to use with each of fabric. You need to be interested in the latest trends, techniques and equipment to keep your business at the cutting edge. The customer is paying for your expertise, not just the time you spend in their home. Most carpet and upholstery cleaning businesses in South Africa operates with semi-skilled staff doing much of the hands-on work. If your business will also work like this, then you must be able to manage, mentor, teach and motivate your staff in working efficiently. You will also have to take responsibility for any mistakes on their part, so keeping a constructive relationship with staff is vital. If you are planning to run a one-man-band then you need to be physically fit, as the day-to-day work is demanding. Even if your role is mainly supervising others, you will spend a lot of time on your feet, and will often get involved in helping out to solve problems or ensure that jobs are finished on time. You may also be lifting heavy or bulky equipment in and out of vehicles, so a certain amount of strength is vital. You will be dealing with harsh detergents and chemicals, which could be a problem if you have allergies or very sensitive skin. In any event, you will need to be aware of the dangers of these substances, so that everyone in the business has the necessary protective equipment and understands safe working practices. As a service provider, you are more or less a stranger to your customers but you need to spend a number of hours in the privacy of their own home. So you need to be able to be professional but friendly, making them feel as comfortable as possible with your intrusion. If you manage to do this, you can boost the number of referrals youll get, as well as the amount of repeat business.

3. Knowing and reaching your market

3.1 Who are your customers likely to be?
Your customer base can be both domestic (private homes) and commercial (offices), so will vary from small to quite large jobs. These will require a range of specific services, from stain and chewing gum removal through to a thorough steam or wet clean. Here are some of your main customer groups: People living in rented accommodation may hire a carpet and upholstery cleaner to remove any stains and ensure the carpets are clean before they move out (this is often a condition of getting their rent deposit back from the landlord). Many of these people will be on a tight budget, and will go for the service with the best price. However, they will usually not be the source of much repeat business.

Landlords and residential property managers will also need the services of a carpet and upholstery cleaner to make sure the carpets are looking good before the property is put up for rent. These customers could give you plenty of repeat business, so make sure you provide a professional and reliable service. Busy professionals and dual income families with little free time on their hands may contract a professional carpet cleaner to freshen up their carpets on a regular basis. As our lives get busier, fewer people want to spend their weekends and leisure time doing household chores. Elderly people who have lost some of their mobility, and disabled people who may not be able to do housework, may appreciate the regular services of a professional carpet and upholstery cleaner. Pet owners, smokers and allergy sufferers may contract a professional carpet and upholstery cleaner frequently to freshen up their house and get rid of odours from carpets and furnishings. Hotels, conference centres, bed and breakfast establishment, and other public accommodation will need carpets cleaned regularly and often because of guests and visitors walking in and out. This includes restaurants and bars (which must deal with the added problem of food and drink dropping onto carpets), as well as schools and hospitals. Contract cleaning companies, while being potential competitors, may also hire your services when they have taken on more work than they can handle. Ideally, you could build up a regular working relationship with a contract cleaner who does not have specialised carpet cleaning equipment or expertise.

It is not always easy getting information and statistics about the people living and working in the area where you want to start your business. But without this information, there is no way of knowing who will buy your products (that is, who your market is) and why. Statistics South Africa does research into the countrys population, showing gender, education levels, population group, and income levels and many other indicators that you will find useful in planning your business. Contact Statistics South Africas user information services on Tel: 012 310 8600, email info@statssa.gov.za or visit their website at www.statssa.gov.za.

3.2 Who will you compete against?

Direct competition will come from other independent carpet and upholstery cleaners in your area, so make sure you know who is operating there and what they offer. This will help you to find a niche for yourself where you can offer something different or something extra. Carpet cleaning franchise networks such as ChemDry (www.chemdry.co.za) will also represent direct competition. They have considerable marketing muscle, putting more resources into advertising and branding than you will manage. So you need to differentiate your service and choose a niche market that you will focus on; you can develop strong relationships with customers by providing a personal and high-quality service, and build a strong network of referrals. Tool hire shops often rent out industrial carpet cleaners to individuals for use over a weekend. This do-ityourself approach appeals to individuals looking for a quicker and cheaper option to get their carpets clean. However, amateurs carrying out their own cleaning wont have the specialised stain removal knowledge that an independent cleaning professional can provide. Many South African homes employ full-time domestic workers, whose tasks will include the regular shampooing of carpets. They will generally use domestic carpet cleaning equipment bought by the homeowner specifically for that purpose. This will generally keep carpets respectably clean, but a professional job is usually still needed once in a while.

3.3 What are the key issues affecting the market?

Social and economic transformation in South Africa has led to the building of many thousands more houses each year; recent economic growth and rising house values has also given homeowners more disposable income to furnish and decorate their homes. As more consumers swell the ranks of the middle class, carpets and upholstered furniture will be among their first big purchases; this is creating a strong demand for these cleaning services. Business growth has also been strong in recent years, and most South African cities have seen new office blocks being built apace. Most of these will be carpeted, and will carry more foot-traffic than your average home so the demand for industrial-scale carpet cleaning services is strong, if you can find a niche and develop strong customer loyalty.

Carpet and upholstery cleaning is an unregulated service, so it has often been criticised for being attracting unscrupulous cowboy operators who bring the profession into disrepute. The Carpet and Upholstery Cleaners Association of Southern Africa (www.cucasa.co.za) was set up precisely to try and combat this reputation. By getting proper training and experience, and by joining a recognised trade association, you can help assure the market that you operate to high standards of ethics and service. There is growing concern about the environmental impact of cleaning detergents and other chemicals, so reputable carpet cleaners now go out of their way to use products that are environmentally friendly and do not irritate the skin or eyes. This is particularly important if a customer has toddlers or small children (or even animals) that spend a lot of time crawling or lying on the carpets you have cleaned. Interior design trends change quickly and can prove difficult to predict. However, recent trends have included the use of natural fabrics in furnishings, with a number of different materials now being used as curtains. Professional carpet and upholstery cleaners need to keep up to date with information about how different fabrics react to deodorants and cleaning products, so that you use suitable chemicals and dont cause any damage. Many allergies are still thought to be caused by the dust mites that live and breed among carpet and fabric fibres. In recent years the carpet industry has developed dynomite carpets, which aim to control the procreation of these mites. Various chemicals have also been developed to help deal with mites in the home, although their effectiveness is not yet universally accepted.

3.4 How can you promote this enterprise?

Running a classified advertisement in each issue of your local suburban newspaper is a useful way of promoting your business to people living near you. You can also speak to the editor and offer to write a cleaning tips column or prepare a feature on ways to keep carpets hygienic. Distribute direct mailshots to local residents and businesses that may require your services. Include a special offer to ensure they reply, such as a discount on an annual booking or an incentive such as introduce another customer and get one room cleaned for free. Dont forget to measure the effectiveness of your mailshots by asking new customers how they found out about your business. Customers often look in the Yellow Pages or other business directories to find a local carpet and upholstery cleaner. Registering your service with both hardcopy and online business directories (www.ananzi.co.za or www.yellowpages. co.za, for example) will put you in line for this business. Word-of-mouth recommendations are important to a carpet and upholstery cleaning enterprise. Offer business cards to previous customers to encourage them to pass your details on to friends and family. Shops selling upholstery, furniture or carpets may offer their customers a cleaning service as a bonus. If customers have had their furniture re-upholstered, for instance, they often want to get carpets cleaned too to give everything a face-lift. You can offer your services at a discount to these shops; this will give you a new homeowner on your prospect list, and give the shop-owner a marketing opportunity. The vehicle you drive can be used as an effective promotional tool. Put your business name, contact details and logo prominently on the vehicle, making it an all-day mobile advertisement. This can either be painted on, or done with stick-on film or magnets (removable). Talk to a graphic designer about your options. The National Youth Development Agency subsidises business support for youth enterprises owned by previously disadvantaged youth and women. With the Business Consulting Services Voucher programme, you can get technical assistance and managerial support (in business planning, marketing, financial systems, etc) for your business from an expert in your area. See the NYDA website (www. youthportal.org.za) or phone 08600 YOUTH (96884) for more details.

4. What will you need to start this business?

4.1 What training do you need?
There are no compulsory skills or qualifications needed to run a carpet and upholstery cleaning service, but it would be easier to promote your business if you and your staff had some recognised qualifications. These include:

National Certificate in Hygiene and Cleaning Services National Qualification Authority (NQF) Levels 1-3 General Education and Training Certificate: Domestic Services National Diploma in Hygiene and Cleaning Management

There are a number of technikons around the country offering a range of courses; contact the career guidance centre of the technikon in your area for more information about what they offer. You can also download A Learners Guide to Higher and Distance Education from the National Youth Development Agency website (www.youthportal.org.za) or go to a Youth Advisory Centre in your area for advice. You can also contact the Cleaning Chamber of the Services SETA (the Sector Education and Training Authority for the services sector) at 011 276 9600 or go to their website (www.serviceseta.org.za) for more information about training. If you have not run a business before, get some training in: Basic business skills; Administration and financial management; Estimating and tendering; Knowledge of cleaning equipment; and Knowledge of cleaning chemicals.

You can get more information on courses from the Services SETA, as well as from the National Contract Cleaners Association (www.ncca.co.za). The National Youth Development Agency offers Entrepreneurship Education for in-school and out-ofschool youth. NYDA also offers you the support of a mentor as you start up and build your business, through its Volunteers-in-Action Mentorship Programme. See the NYDA website (www.youthportal. org.za) or phone 08600YOUTH (96884) for more details.

4.2 Obeying the law

The information in this section will just give you a starting point; you should get legal advice from a professional before making important decisions that might have legal implications. Registering your business One of your first decisions when starting a business will be whether to operate as a sole trader (under your own name) or register the business under its own name (as a close corporation, partnership, cooperative or company). To make this decision, you must first understand the benefits and disadvantages of each option. For more information on this, you can talk to the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (Cipro) on 0861 843 384 or go to their website (www.cipro.co.za). You can also download NYDAs guide on Starting Your Own Business from the organisations website at www.youthportal.org.za. Paying taxes You need to pay income tax on your earnings as an individual. If you run your business as a sole trader, then all your business earnings will be regarded as your personal earnings and you have to pay tax on that. If your business is registered as a close corporation, company or cooperative, then the business has to pay tax on its profits. You also need to deduct Standard Income Tax on Employees (SITE) and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) from your employees salaries, and pay this to the South African Revenue Services (SARS). Talk to SARS to find out how to register yourself, your employees and your business as tax payers; the national call centre number is 0860 12 12 18 and the website is at www.sars.gov.za. Employment regulations If you have anyone working for you, you must register as an employer with the Department of Labour, and make contributions on behalf of your employees for Unemployment Insurance (UIF) and Workmens Compensation. As an employer, you need to comply with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, which regulates working hours, overtime, leave, deductions, etc. It also says that you must give employees their terms of employment in writing, and can only dismiss them using the correct procedure. If you have more than five employees, you must display a summary of the Act at your business premises.

For more information, speak to your local Department of Labour office or visit the departments website at www. labour.gov.za, which has a number of useful guides on these and other topics. Health and safety Health and safety legislation is also important, as you may be working with potentially dangerous equipment and chemicals. As an employer, you are required by law to ensure that your staff are not exposed to health and safety risks, and to give them the instruction, training and supervision they need to work safely. Your basic responsibilities, according to the National Contract Cleaners Association (www.ncca.co.za), are to: Identify and anticipate health risks; Evaluate these by their consequences and precautions; and Control the risks through training, appropriate procedures, etc.

You will be governed here by the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 85 of 1993, as well as the various OHS regulations and notices promulgated by the Department of Labour. Of particular relevance will be Regulation 1179 on hazardous chemical substances. The departments website (www.labour.gov.za) is a valuable resource in this regard, with the relevant laws themselves as well as useful guides on a range of labour issues. Public liability You should also have a public liability insurance which will cover your business for the legal liability arising from its business activities through personal injury to third parties (your customers or members of the public) or damage to third party property.

4.3 What sort of costs will you need to cover?

It will be possible to start this business from your home, although you will need some space to use as an office and to safely store your equipment. If you decide to work from a rented office, make sure that it is well-secured at night and that your equipment is insured against theft. A reliable vehicle will be essential, preferably a closed van which can lock securely. It should be large enough to hold all your cleaning equipment. The cost of industrial carpet cleaners will start at about R6,000 and you will also need a vacuum cleaner (from about R3,000 for a machine that is strong enough for everyday use). Also find out about the costs of more specialised equipment, such as spot extractors, and the various hoses and attachments that could make your job easier. You will need to stock up regularly on cleaning supplies like carpet powder, carpet shampoo and other special detergents and deodorisers that will not harm the carpets and upholstery that you clean; also budget for protective equipment like overalls and gloves. Your office equipment will include desks, chairs, a telephone, answering machine, stationery and a computer (with printer) for administration and record-keeping. You will need a cellular phone for colleagues and customers to reach you when youre out of the office. Plan your advertising and marketing activities at the beginning of each year, so that you can budget for these costs. Talk to an insurance broker or an insurance company about public liability insurance, in case you damage your customers goods in the course of your work. The National Youth Development Agency provides micro-loans (R1,000 to R100,000) and SME funding (R100,000 to R5 million) to enterprises owned by previously disadvantaged youth and women. See the NYDA website (www.youthportal.org.za) or phone 08600 YOUTH (96884) for more details.

5. Further information
National Youth Development Agency helps young South Africans (those between the ages of 18 and 35) and women to get good skills, find job opportunities or start their own businesses. It has Youth Advisory Centres around the country where you can go for information and advice. Phone the call centre (youthconnect) at 08600 YOUTH (96884) or visit the website (www.youthportal.org.za) to find an advisory centre near you.

Physical Address: NYDA House 11 Broadwalk Avenue (off Church Street) Halfway House Gauteng Postal Address: PO Box 982 Halfway House 1685 Telephone: 08600 YOUTH (96884) Fax: 011 805 9709 Email: info@NYDA.org.za Website: www.youthportal.org.za The Carpet and Upholstery Cleaners Association of South Africa (CUCASA) represents carpet and upholstery cleaning businesses. Its members adhere to the associations code of ethics, as the industry is unregulated; in this way, CUCASA tries to differentiate its members from the fly-by-night operators who do not guarantee the quality of their work. Its members are cleaning contractors as well as organisations who supply cleaning materials and equipment. PO Box 19139 Fishers Hill Germiston 1408 Tel: 011 455 6243 Fax: 011 455 6800 Website: www.mrsteam.co.za/cucasa/ The National Contract Cleaners Association is an association of businesses in the cleaning industry, set up to develop and maintain standards for its members. It is a voice for cleaning contractors, cleaning suppliers and other organisations that provide related services. It also provides a regular forum for members to meet and discuss matters of mutual interest, and to engage in training and networking activities. Members also benefit from the publicity value of adhering to the NCCAs code of conduct. The national office and Gauteng office are in Johannesburg (gautengbranch@ncca. co.za). There are also branches in KwaZulu-Natal (kznbranch@ncca.co.za), Western Cape (wcbranch@ncca.co.za) and Eastern Cape (ecbranch@ncca.co.za). PO Box 13633 Northmead 1511 Tel: 011 455 6243 Fax: 011 455 6800 Website: www.ncca.co.za Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) collect monthly levies from businesses in their particular sector, and use those funds for training and skills improvement in their sector. The Services SETA collects and disburses these funds for the services sector, which includes cleaning and domestic services businesses. Over 90% of the businesses in this sector are small enterprises, so there is a dedicated department within the Services SETA to serve their needs. Its work includes researching the SME demographics of the sector, finding out the training needs of small enterprises, developing marketing strategies for SMEs, and opening channels between the formal and informal sector. PO Box 3322 Houghton 2041 Tel: 0861 101 148 Fax: 011 726 4416 Website: www.serviceseta.org.za This information is meant as a starting point only. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, the publisher makes no warranties and will not be responsible for any errors or omissions in the information, nor any consequences of any errors or omissions. Professional advice should be sought where appropriate. Cobweb Information South Africa (Pty) Ltd 2009