We’re so glad to see you back here at #foundingfemales, our series where we tell the stories of brave women who declared their independence and ventured out on their own to build the businesses they wanted to see in the world.
Today we meet Rocio Lane, founder and CEO of Cleancio, a tech-enabled cleaning company. Cleancio, while available for cleaning services of any kind, specializes in providing hotel-level cleaning for rental units. With AirBnB taking over the world this is one of those businesses you wish you had thought of!
Rocio grew up in Bolivia and moved to the US 9 years ago.
RL: I didn’t have any friends and my English was a work in progress (I think it still is lol). I’m so thankful for all the wonderful friends and families that have welcomed and help me through this journey. Now, it’s my turn to pay it forward and help others to achieve their goals.
Long before coming to the US, Rocio was one of those incredible founders who seemed to have entrepreneurship in her blood. Even from a young age, she was not just coming up with brilliant ideas but motivated to bring them to life.
RL: At the age of 13 I started selling Christmas cards but soon I realized that the card company was printing all the personalized quotes on a regular printer. I thought, “I can do that,” and actually I can offer different ink colors and more original designs. I took my first earnings, and I purchased blank cards and printed them in-house. I sold Christmas cards to all my aunts, my friend’s Moms, teachers, my Mom’s co-workers. In that moment I knew I’ll never starve.
Years later, that entrepreneurial spirit was still in full force. She started hosting properties with Airbnb. Her inside knowledge of the vacation rental industry coupled with her clear line of sight to a cleaning problem that wasn’t being solved made her the perfect person to build a business to solve it.
ALV: What inspired you to start your business/brand?
RL: When hosting Airbnb properties I realized how time-consuming and frustrating it was to schedule and monitor cleanings. I knew I was not alone because when I was able to train and hire my first housekeepers, my friends started to ask me to schedule and monitor their turnover cleanings. Cleancio was born not only to provide a hotel-like service to Airbnb hosts and property managers but to empower all the women and men that work in the cleaning industry.
This empowerment and reshaping of the cleaning industry is extremely important to Rocio. She mentioned that many cleaning professionals feel invisible. They don’t get the attention or recognition they deserve.
RL: I want to empower them and be a part of the happiness that they feel when they go to work. They will tell me that they’ve never had their boss bring them a cupcake on their birthday. We invest in our employees. A lot of them started with us cleaning and now occupying admin positions within the company. I see people’s lives are changing because of Cleancio and the community we are building, and that’s what gets me up in the morning.
Putting that much time, attention and care into her employees’ experience has paid dividends. Cleancio has quickly grown from cleaning 2 properties to having 400 active properties (in 2 Markets, Chicago and Miami) in their portfolio in a short time. Rocio attributes this growth to the empowerment of her employees.
RL: Caring about your employees makes a huge difference when you deliver a service. When your employees are happy and they also understand your mission they will give an extra 5%. When they are feeling like they’re not just the help, that is reflected in the work they do every day. If we promise something, we deliver what we promise and go above what people expect. That has helped us to grow so quickly through word of mouth.
Rocio makes it sound easy, but knowing personally how freaking hard it is to start a business, I just had to know the real deal about what she’s had to overcome.
ALV: It can’t have been that easy! Tell me what has been a challenge for you.
RL: The first year it is crucial for the company and for you as a CEO, you’re like “Am I really a CEO?” A lot of things go through your mind. I had those days where I locked myself in the bathroom, cried and then went back out to my team and carried on.
Yes, now that I can relate to. That, “Am I really a CEO” question is one I still ask myself to this day. When you’re starting and running a business, you’re constantly reflecting and questioning yourself and your identity as a leader. I’ve had my fair share of bathroom cry sessions. But then you get right back to it and keep going.
Another aspect of Cleancio that Rocio didn’t anticipate was the extent to which it would become a tech company. These days, having technology be a component of your business is almost inevitable. But Rocio didn’t realize just how much it would come to the forefront of hers.
RL: I was not planning to build a tech company. I had this problem, and I wanted to solve it really really bad. All of a sudden it became a tech company. I’m a true believer that technology makes things better and faster, and a lot of my struggles have been figuring out how to build what we need.
We needed to build an app, and I faced the challenge of deciding what to do on my own, whether to outsource or whether to hire. Since we are a startup our resources have to be well thought out. I’m afraid of making the wrong decision and wasting time and money.
I thought to myself, “How am I going to be able to run the company and focus on growth and develop the application?” My main focus needs to be on growth. Ignorance is easy to fix, so I started reading. I literally googled, “How to build an app for dummies.” I was trying to understand everything. Asking questions helped me a lot. I’m not afraid to say that I have this cool service plus an app, but I had no idea how to build it.
By accident, we became a tech company and by accident, I became a tech founder. If you are willing to put the work into it and ask the questions and ask for help, people are happy to help you.
Since that first Google search, Rocio has figured it out along the way and has spent about two years bringing her technology dream to fruition. Her app is scheduled to launch in the near future.
The last question from me has become a new personal favorite.
ALV: Do you think entrepreneurship is nature or nurture?
RL: Think it’s a combination of both. When I was growing up, I didn’t have any female figure to look up to and say, “I want to be like this business woman.” In my country, especially when I was growing up, society was still very sexist. Society still thought women should stay home and raise the kids. It was a different time. But how I grew up also had a lot to do with the entrepreneur I became.
When I was asked if I was an entrepreneur, I said, “I’m a hustler.” The question I ask is, “How can I make things better and how can I make money doing it?”
Being raised by a single mom and my grandma it made me understand the value of money and how you as a kid you can help out. I learned quickly that every single dollar my mom made went toward my education and all the sacrifices she made were to give me and my family a better future. Thanks to them, I learned about budgeting and prioritizing expenses. The two of them built this woman that I am today.