New owner of Wendi’s Cleaning Service raffling $2K in cleaning services to benefit YMCA

AMHERST – For Janelle Ward, buying her mom’s company, Wendi’s Cleaning Service, was a natural progression.

“I became a mom,” she said. “My mom has owned Wendi’s for the last twenty years with her sister, my aunt. And when we had Thanksgiving, my cousins and I would have turkey and dinner and then we’d go clean some things. It was a family thing.”

Ward was an event coordinator for quite some time but the hours and her schedule were tough, especially with being a single mom. The process of buying Wendi’s started last February 2019.

“It was the perfect timing,” she said of buying the business. “My mom was ready to start retiring.”

Based in Amherst, Wendi’s Cleaning Service does commercial and residential cleaning. Ward said she enjoys her work immensely.

“There’s an art to it, actually,” she remarked. “We’ve been focusing on residential so much. I wanted to lean that way because of the customer service which is what I’m really good at. The personal touch – it’s what I was so familiar with at first.”

Over the last year, Ward started getting into the commercial aspect of the business. She said half the fun of the job is making a surface, a room or an entire building spotlessly clean.

“You get to buff and scrub and scrub and wax,” she said. “I enjoy that.”

As the new sole proprietor, Ward realized that taking over the business meant she would be active in all aspects of the business, from day-to-day operations to marketing and management.

“My mom has been very patient with me, taking one bit at a time,” she said. “My mom has also been good about releasing the reigns but she’s always been right there to guide me. She also knows that in order to be a strong business, you need to know how to adapt.”

Ward said that having “fresh eyes” on everything gives her a good perspective in evaluating the processes and her team.

“Right now, we have twelve employee,” she stated. “We had 19 before COVID.”

The coronavirus did add a bump or two to the road for Ward and Wendi’s. The commercial side of business got a little busier as people wanted to have extra cleanings on high-traffic touch points.

“We were able to do that,” she said. “But we didn’t have any new commercial business. It was already existing commercial businesses that wanted to up their cleaning. I had to close residential for six weeks because 90 percent of our business said, ‘No.’ They didn’t want us in their homes because no one knew what to expect.”

Ward said the company followed Gov. Sununu’s guidelines and the many changes that were updated as scientists learned more about the virus.

“People definitely got nervous to socialize,” she noted. “And I had just purchased half of the business. I had just given my mother the money for half of the business and then the pandemic hit. Everything was so uncertain.”

Ward penned a “letter of love” to her residential customers, thanking them and letting them know how much they were appreciated.

“We explained that we had to close for a while,” she said. “And the amount of people who came back gives me goose bumps. They came back with total love. We have given people credits on their accounts, and they would say, ‘No, that’s for you.’ I knew we were going to be okay then.”

By the end of May, when the governor had lifted restrictions, Ward said it was like someone just turned their phone on.

“It was crazy,” she commented. “I’d say we had 95 percent of our residential business back and we now have new commercial business.”

Blanketing the areas that Ward now needs to worry about- maintaining current clients while looking for new business- is no small task. So, how does she do it?

“Carefully,” she said with a laugh. “I’m confident in saying that when we get business, we keep it. I’m confident in our team. They are so well trained.”

Some of WCS’s commercial team members have been employees in the company for almost 20 years.

“They’re all so good at what they do,” Ward said.

The story behind the name ‘Wendi’ goes back to the time when Ward’s mother, Mary, was the accountant to the original business owner, Wendi. Mary bought the business, kept the name and now Ward has taken over and will do the same.

“Wendi did such a good job in establishing the company,” Ward said. “We didn’t need to change much. We did change the look of it, from a branding standpoint. It was a little dated. It featured a maid with a mop, so we needed to update that. But otherwise, the branding for us has been very important to maintain that and the integrity of what we do.”

As far as getting new customers, Ward utilizes the company’s abbreviation, WCS on every email that it sent. And as far as networking goes, she noted that the chambers of commerce in our area are a great place to meet people and make connections.

“With the Greater Merrimack/Souhegan Valley chamber, the people who work with them are a great resource,” she said. “Because they’re smart, they’re experienced, they’re kind. I like that our chamber has businesses that might be viewed as competition but they still help one another out.”

Ward said her focus for this year is to get a foothold in Nashua and Manchester from a commercial cleaning aspect.

“I want to broaden both ways,” she said.

Another obvious component that has shaken up practically every business out there is COVID-19 and Ward said her company is no exception.

“We are all about full transparency,” she stated. “That’s huge. And also gaining people’s trust. Right now, they’re no trustworthy of other humans walking around them. And now they’re saying, ‘Can you come back into our house and respect our wishes?’ So, my number one rule is if any one person wants somebody to wear a mask, then everybody needs to wear a mask.”

Ward also said before they go into someone’s home, they ask the client about any particulars, such as mandating that Wendi’s employees wear a mask and gloves.

“We write all the info on our sheet,” she explained. “As far as commercial is concerned, we really don’t see anyone.”

A client information sheet is kept on every customer. The team uses Jobber, a program that can be used on a tablet or iPad. And the team is always kept current on new trends or techniques. But ultimately, Ward said they get the job down with tried and true hard work.

“We are all about good, old-fashioned elbow grease,” she said. “We learn techniques and we learn how to do chemical cleaning and mechanical cleaning, so it’s like what process are we using and how hard to we have to scrub. We always see with our hands.”

Wendi’s does their version of a white-glove test at every job site.

“We go through with a microfiber cloth,” she said. “We don’t use sprayers and stuff because that’s not how we do what we do.

With COVID-19, Ward said they did lose some employees. In some cases, people don’t want to go back to work. She optimistic that she’ll bring new people on board soon.

“It’s really difficult right now,” she said, “to find people. I don’t know why. As far as business is concerned, a lot of businesses are saying the same thing. It’s hard to find help right now.”

Another exciting thing that Ward has been involved in is the YMCA. She has generously donated $2,000 of cleaning services for a raffle to benefit the ‘Y.’

“I’m a mom and a business owner,” she said. “It’s so hard to work and have a child without \childcare. I see it first-hand when I go into people’s homes. The parents are on Zoom and their kids are trying to do the online learning. So, the ‘Y’ is doing the ‘Educational Academy.’ I go there twice a week and work with a personal trainer. And I talked to the ‘Y’s Beth Covino. I wanted to do something for them.”

The raffle is for $2,000 of free commercial cleaning, provided by WCS.

“The idea is to get as much exposure as possible for the ‘Y’ and the Greater Merrimack/Souhegan Valley chamber of commerce,” Ward said. “And it’s to benefit the ‘Y.’ They’ll market it and the chamber is selling the raffle tickets. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

For more information about Wendi’s Cleaning Service, visit www.wcs-cleaning.com or call (603) 673-4266. For raffle ticket info, visit www.gmsvcc .org or call (603) 673-4360.