Palo Alto Man Living in Car Starts Janitorial Company to Clean Up Industry

A Silicon Valley transplant is determined to clean up the janitorial industry with his new company.

Simon Brooks is the founder of Squiffy Clean, a six-month-old Palo Alto startup he created after cleaning up company spaces while living in his car. The company services commercial spaces in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Menlo Park and nearby areas.

Brooks, originally from London, moved to Silicon Valley two years ago with an idea for an educational word game app.

He gained momentum after he found a company overseas to develop the app, but things quickly turned south. He lost his $25,000 investment.

“I ran out of funds and before I knew it I was sleeping in my car,” said Brooks, who started living in his vehicle with two dogs.

At the same time he was a member at Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, a startup community space. Hacker Dojo leadership told members it needed more cleaning help in the afternoons. So, Brooks volunteered to clean in lieu of the $100 monthly membership.

He quickly received compliments on his cleaning skills.

“After eight months I just had comments coming to me pretty much most days: ‘Simon you should launch a cleaning company because you’re cleaning is real good compared to the night staff,’” said Brooks.

He brushed off the comments and continued focusing on his word game app, but soon he realized he wasn’t getting very far.

“After eight months I had gotten nowhere with my games and I thought let’s just look at the marketplace.”

As he began researching the industry, he learned about the dirty scandals that top cleaning companies have been involved in over the years.

Top janitorial company ABM paid $5.8 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit in 2010 brought by the government after 21 Latina workers said they experienced sexual harassment ranging from explicit comments to rape.

“The industry is rotten,” said Brooks.

So he decided to start his own company. Squiffy Clean launched six months ago after Brooks convinced a client to pay him in advance so he could purchase cleaning supplies. The service began with just himself and a friend. Now, he has 14 employees including himself.

Brooks says most cleaning companies pay employees minimum wage. Squiffy Clean pays workers $17 an hour and employees work in teams so no one is left alone.

Squiffy Clean so far has a handful of clients. Brooks says he is only paying his employees for now.

Brooks is still living in his car but is now alone, as both dogs have died.

He has less than a month to raise $10,000 dollars in business capitol on a Kiva fundraising page. He’s already raised 55 percent of the funds.

“Our mission is we are here to clean up the cleaning industry,” said Brooks.

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