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This is What Happened at WellNest Since the COVID-19 Shutdown

We lost 90% of our revenue when the DC Metro Area went into quarantine during March 2020. Here’s how we managed through it and how we are looking to manage through 2021. Visit our website at www.gowellnest.com to learn more about WellNest and our Commercial and Residential Cleaning Services.

Transcription

Lisa Richter:

Hi, I’m Lisa Richter, and I’m here with Phil Harper, who is co founder and CEO of WellNest Professional Cleaning, which serves the Washington DC area. We’re here to find out what’s been happening with WellNest in the past several months. Phil, why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about WellNest?

Phil Harper:

So first of all, thank you for having me. So WellNest is a professional cleaning company, servicing both homes and offices throughout Northern Virginia. We have about 500 recurring clients, businesses split between homes and offices. And we started in 2016 simply because we identified an industry that we felt like needed some modern-day innovation. Since we started, we’ve grown to, pre-COVID, having nearly 40 full-time employees, a fleet of 16 vehicles, cars and vans, and clients throughout the area.

Lisa Richter:

So it sounds like you’re doing pretty great. And then the pandemic hit, and I’m sure like many of us, you just got thrown into the deep end. Walk us through what happened in March.

Phil Harper:

The shutdown in the DC area happened, I think it was March 15th, that weekend. And we get notifications on our phone when there’s a lot of activity with cancellations or rescheduling. And so that weekend it was just cancel, cancel, cancel, cancel, cancel. The entire weekend. And our commercial clients were emailing us saying, “Hey, no one’s going to the office in the next few weeks. Please don’t come.” Or trimming down the level of service because they started thinking about cost cutting. So it was really just that entire week of just cancel, cancel, cancel, cancel, cancel, which was quite nerve wracking, to say the least.

Lisa Richter:

When DC went to the shelter in place, that really impacted your business and correspondingly your revenues.

Phil Harper:

Yes. So we dropped 90% that weekend. We had only 10% of our business for the next couple of weeks after that.

Lisa Richter:

In addition to worrying about your family, I’m sure you were very concerned about your employees as well at that point. What did you try to do is to help them in the immediate aftermath of the shutdown?

Phil Harper:

So to help our employees when the shutdown happened, so initially after that first weekend where we lost 90% of our business, we needed to just figure things out. So we simply kept everyone on payroll cleaning the office, multiple times a day, cleaning vehicles, cleaning the fleet, doing other things around the office, basically.

Phil Harper:

And then also the jobs that we did have, spending extra time to focus on disinfecting and those types of things. And then once we sort of got our mind around what was happening, we implemented an employee relief fund. So we asked our clients to continue paying for their cleanings, even though they weren’t having them, knowing that 100% of that amount was going to be paid out to our teams in their paychecks to keep on payroll. We ultimately raised, we were very grateful, extremely blessed, raised nearly $35,000, which allowed us to keep our employees on payroll at nearly their full-time schedules.

Lisa Richter:

Around that time, in late spring, the federal government also rolled out some relief programs for small businesses like yours. The Paycheck Protection Program. Did you take advantage of that?

Phil Harper:

Yes, we did take advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program. So we actually received funding during the very first round, which was incredibly helpful, because at that point, the employee relief fund had started to wind down. So we were trying to figure out, what do we do next? So we received our funds and were able to keep everyone on payroll at a hundred percent of their normal 40 hour paychecks. So what we did was, instead of just paying them to stay home basically, we used the expertise that was on our team and we overhauled our commercial cleaning division during that time.

Lisa Richter:

So you’ve managed to make it through spring and summer, but now we’re looking at fall. Where are you now?

Phil Harper:

So after getting through the spring and summer, we’re just really proud to have maintained the majority of our team. The employee relief fund that we had and the amount that we raised was really indicative of the relationships that our clients have with our teams. And so we basically, knowing that we have such strong employees and such strong teams and such strong cleaning professionals, we want to take that expertise and carry it forward to the future.

Phil Harper:

We got certified in infection prevention, we built COVID-19 trainings. We did all those types of things to make sure that we were the experts in cleaning and infection prevention. And so knowing that that’s what companies are looking for, homeowners are looking for, they really want the cleaning professionals, the true professionals that aren’t just there for trash removal, industrial removal, the typical thing, but are really going to be a value add and an asset to their team in helping keep their workforces and their families safe and healthy during this time.

Lisa Richter:

So looking to the future, what are your long-term goals for the company? Where will WellNest be in 2021 and beyond?

Phil Harper:

So our long-term goals are really to be the experts in cleaning going forward. The cleaning industry just got completely changed. Historically it was low cost provider, trash removal, dust removal, bathrooms, floors, but now we’re a strategic partner, and that’s something that I take really seriously, that we all take really seriously, because we are a true value add to our clients in the sense of just keeping cleanliness and hygiene throughout their office and throughout their home. So we want to carry that expertise forward and really become known as the true experts in cleaning.

Lisa Richter:

Where can people go if they want more information about you or your company?

Phil Harper:

So to learn more information about us, the best place is our website. It’s gowellnest.com, G-O-W-E-L-L-N-E-S-T.com, but we definitely welcome and really encourage just reach out to us with any questions you have. We’ve made it a point to become the experts in COVID-19 and infection prevention and just overall cleanliness and hygiene. So if any questions at all, just reach out. More than happy to have a chat. Normally I’d say we’ll grab a cup of coffee, but maybe not till 2021, but we can definitely have a Zoom chat and talk some details and make sure that you’re fully knowledgeable on those areas that you’re looking to learn more about.

Lisa Richter:

Well, thanks for sharing your story today. Your transparency is really appreciated and very inspiring. I can’t wait to see you continue to grow and succeed.

Phil Harper:

Well, thank you for having me. I really enjoyed this conversation.

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