A Sparkling Success
Feat. BSCAI New Member of the Year, SparkleTeam
Florida-based SparkleTeam has emerged as a leader in providing LEED-based green and sustainable building cleaning services for South Florida's commercial office buildings and more. In business for 16 years and headquartered in Boca Raton, its area of focus has expanded over the years to include Broward, Palm Beach, and Northern Miami Dade Counties.
SparkleTeam President Arely Castellón and her colleagues have found that utilizing a LEED-based cleaning approach provides a safer, healthier and more effective clean for any service.
“Florida has always been a bit slow joining anything that's green and sustainable,” she said. “We decided to take a leading position in that, and that's what has made us stand out from the beginning.
“In the last 16 years, of course, the use of sustainable practices and green products has multiplied tremendously. Our goal was to adhere to the needs of LEED-certified buildings. As a result, we have always referred to our cleaning methods as 'LEED-based cleaning.' That way, whether it's a LEED-certified building or not, we clean the exact same way with the same type of products that have a Green Seal certification or any one of the third-party designations."
Castellón, who cut her teeth in the telecommunications industry, has found operating in the Sunshine State especially rewarding. There are opportunities galore. "In South Florida," she said, "we have a very large number of new immigrants. So, it presents an opportunity in that there is a good labor pool. But having said that, given the economy right now, everybody is struggling to get good people. We don't really employ our cleaning people, because we're a franchisor. But we hear about it through our franchisees that everybody is having a difficult time."
She continued, explaining the advantage of their model. “We find that when a person or a couple buys one of our franchises, they bring in members of their family, community, or church. It makes our business much more community-based, and with that comes a greater sense of ownership. When you buy a franchise, you can enter at any price point depending on how much you want to invoice. So, many of our people have expanded over the years."
"Expanded" might be an understatement. A number of SparkleTeam's franchisees have been with the business for more than a decade, some nearly 14 years. "We have franchisees who started billing $5,000 a month who today bill well over $80,000 a month," Castellón touted. "It's very exciting to help be a part of this growth and see them get so much smarter about their business. A lot of our franchisees have built homes, they're sending their kids to college, buying new cars, and going on great vacations. That gives me a great deal of pleasure. As they work hard, they're seeing the rewards. Spreading that success amongst their loved ones is making a big difference in their lives."
These accomplishments have not gone unnoticed by the industry. The Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI) recently named the company its New Member of the Year. Castellón couldn't be more thrilled.
"It's really great to be recognized by this organization that's helping us improve our business," she commented. "Our desire in joining was to meet other business owners and learn what they were going through … to share experiences and business knowledge. That's primarily why we joined, and that's what we've enjoyed most about our membership so far.
“We're part of a great peer group,” Castellón continued. “When you can talk and share and not fear that your competitors will get a whiff of what you're doing, it's just wonderful. We started cleaning a private airport, for instance. Well, we found [another member] is doing that, too, so we were able to share."
BSCAI membership has also helped SparkleTeam meet some of the ongoing challenges the industry has thrown at the firm. Chief among those has been trying to instill good business practices in SparkleTeam's franchisees. Castellón said, "Like so many other things in our lives, some people get it and understand right away.” Other times, she noted, it can take a little longer for things to click. With that in mind, Castellón and her team encourage their franchise to make the most of existing best practices and not reinvent the wheel.
She added, "Most of our business comes from referrals. As a result, it's really important to be active in different industry organizations. The opportunities out there are also our challenges. Taking time to consistently participate, be active, visible, and top of mind with potential customers, property managers and building owners, is all important. It's easy to get bogged down in the day to day."
Looking ahead, Castellón said SparkleTeam is always looking to cross over into a higher level of revenue. The ultimate goal is to have a more balanced portfolio. "You never want to be dependent on any one or two large customers," she said.
Castellón concluded, "We've been able to demonstrate to our market that we're not a traditional company, yet we service a lot of traditional property management companies and large facilities. If you look at the larger and even not-so-larger franchisors, a lot of them focus on the smaller customers – the ones that may require cleaning one or two times a week. Our concentration has been on larger accounts, with professionals who are interested and capable of managing a building or buildings. We will look to continue to diversify our base."