VINELAND — Dalva Karpinski said her Vineland cleaning company increased the number of clients it has by 35 percent last year, an important trend for her 5-year-old business.
In today’s economy, however, that does not mean her revenues increased proportionately.
Fewer people get their homes cleaned weekly now, as more people shifted to biweekly and monthly cleanings to reduce costs, she said.
Meanwhile, Karpinski said, the sluggish economy increased her competition as more unemployed people started small cleaning outfits to create their own jobs.
She said a lot of people started doing cleaning under the table.
“It’s difficult. The downfall of the economy not only froze our fees, but with more competition, we actually had to lower our fees to be able to compete,” she said.
Karpinski, 49, of Vineland, who has seven employees, started her company in 2008 with very little capital and no employees.
A home cleaner herself, she was hoping to build a business that — as she got older — would spare her some of the physical rigors of everyday cleaning.
“Starting the business without money, we have revenue coming in, but every penny we got we had to put back into the business because we’re trying to build,” she said. “It took courage and wanting a challenge to start something from scratch … to prove to myself I was capable of doing it.”
Karpinski started out using her own equipment, including a home vacuum cleaner, which was not powerful enough for all-day use.
“I didn’t understand the mechanics of running a business. I thought I could grab the stuff and do the job,” she said.
This led her to invest more into the business, buy better equipment and eventually hire employees to work for her. The business bought a second vehicle a few months ago.
Most of her clients are in the Vineland, Millville and Bridgeton areas, although she has been planning to expand into Atlantic County, she said.
To focus on being a better owner and growing the business, Karpinski said, she delegated house cleanings to her employees.
Forreste Valenti, her office manager, said that established her role as a business owner for her employees.
“It helps the staff, too, because they respect her in a different way. When she was there cleaning with them, it was easy to see her more as a peer,” she said. “So that changed things a lot.”
A native of Brazil, Karpinski got into the cleaning business in an unlikely way.
She spent 12 years as an executive secretary for a government agricultural office, where she worked 12-hour days in a job so stressful it made her ill, she said.
Burned out by 30, she took a one-year leave of absence and decided to improve her English by going to the U.S., where she had a sister living in Mays Landing.
She began working for a cleaning business, met her future husband and continued cleaning for years.
Karpinski said she always found cleaning satisfying. At times, she had tried to find other lines of work, but came back to cleaning.
“I thought about looking, but everywhere I would look it didn’t seem right to me anymore,” she said.
Contact Brian Ianieri:
Absolutely Maid Clean
Location: 616 E. Landis Ave., Vineland
Owner: Dalva Karpinski, 49, of Vineland
Revenue: Not disclosed