A real Girl Friday cleans up in business

[attach]1274[/attach]She used to see job ads asking for a Girl Friday when she was just out of school, and Erica Levene liked the phrase so much that she named her business after it.

The founder of Girl Friday Services Toronto, an eco-friendly cleaning agency catering to mid-and uptown Toronto, is a bit of a Girl Friday herself.

Levene studied broadcasting and fashion arts in school. She’s done everything from retail merchandizing to performing various administrative functions at the Real World Film Festival.

But it was her most recent experience working for a maid service that made her think of starting her own business, something she says she’s always wanted to do.

Though she says she liked her experience working for the cleaning company, she wasn’t so hot on the commission-based pay structure.

So when the economy tanked in 2009, the midtown resident decided to go out on her own. After being accepted into an intensive 10-week provincial self-employment business program for people on Employment Insurance, Levene honed her business plan and learned about marketing and financial forecasting.

Interestingly it was what she learned about social media and marketing in the course that’s helped her to get some of her first clients.

She says she never expected to get clients on sites like Craigslist and Kijjii, but she has, simply by answering posted ads for a cleaner.

The bonus for people who hire her in this way is that she’s bonded and insured, whereas not everyone posting on such sites may be.

“They’re in good hands.”

The entrepreneur says she’s talked to a people who have told her horror stories about their cleaning experiences, and suggests people ask potential cleaners for references and number of years of experience before hiring them.

Asking for a detailed checklist of exactly what the cleaner will clean and not clean is also a good idea, she says, as not every company or cleaner will do, say, high dusting.

And some customers can make assumptions about what she does. Once, when she was working for another company, a lady client thought she was going to clean her garage. Outdoor cleaning isn’t often included in residential or commercial cleaning projects, she says.

Levene uses natural products by Toronto-area company Nature Clean, and will even buy the products for clients who don’t have their own. Though she says more and more cleaning companies are going green, she doesn’t seem that concerned about competition.

The cleaning industry is a multi-billion dollar one, she says, and we’re so time-poor that the demand for cleaning services is high.

“People are willing to cut back on almost everything before they cut back on the cleaning,” she says of reports she has studied on the subject.

Clients will be able to get online quotes from Levene once she launches her website at the end of March. For now she’s blogging at