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Q&A: Cleaning Expert Shares Insights Into Housewares Niche

Growing up, Melissa Maker was not a fan of cleaning. After graduating with a degree in business administration and trying her hand in the corporate world, she decided she wanted to start her own business.

“I wanted to start a business that was fun, pretty, exciting and trendy,” Maker says. “After considering many ventures, I felt like the universe kept sending me signs that there was a big need for cleaning. It was the opposite of anything I wanted to get into initially.”

Today Maker is an entrepreneur and author that is highly regarded and considered a cleaning expert. In the February issue of the magazine, Hardware Retailing spoke with Maker to learn about her journey and share her unique insights in the cleaning category with retailers.

Hardware Retailing (HR): Can you share a little bit about yourself? What do you think has led you to where you are today in your career? 

Melissa Maker (MM): My journey into the cleaning industry is one of those strange, funny stories. I graduated from business school with a degree in business administration in 2005 and took a job at a commercial bank. However, I quit one year to the day after I started that job and I began looking for a new opportunity.

I noticed that after my friends graduated college and were living in their own homes, they didn’t want to invite people over because their space was messy, unorganized or just in need of some dusting.

From these reoccurring observations, I decided I needed to start a cleaning company that would offer clean, consistent and honest service in the Toronto area.

Opening a cleaning service business was a crazy move, but I started cleaning myself and completely immersed myself in the topic, learning everything I could about cleaning. At first I didn’t enjoy it, but over time, my opinion started to change. I was focused and excited to build a business, even though I was cleaning toilets and waitressing to pay the bills.

In 2011, my husband suggested I create a YouTube channel to share our videos. YouTube was still growing at that time so we didn’t realize its power. This platform launched Clean My Space into a global company that far exceeded my initial goals.

Through our YouTube channel, we create videos that are helpful and make cleaning fun. A lot of people in the cleaning space appear prim, proper and perfect. That’s not me. I’m a realist about it. I poke fun at myself. We don’t live in a perfect home.

My goal is to show people the quickest, easiest way to clean so they can move on with their lives and do the things they love.

HR: You’ve also written a self-help book called ‘Clean My Space.’ Can you tell us about how the book came about? What are some tidbits you’d like to share about the book? 

MM: I wrote the book because there was a definite need for an overhaul in terms of cleaning information. The books available on the topic were almost biblical in size and intimidating. Consumers want an easy, condensed explanation of how to do different projects. 

My idea with this book was to be the voice of this generation. Let’s figure out how to clean. We might not love cleaning, but we have to do it. It’s a very easy to follow guide.  

Cleaning is a life skill, so I want to teach them the proper products, tools and techniques to get the job done.

HR: Why do you think cleaning is important? What would you suggest a retailer to do to make the category more interesting? 

MM: Cleaning is really a tip of the iceberg. Oh my space looks clean. The underbelly of cleaning is the emotional stuff. One of the biggest arguments among couples is about cleaning. People argue about it every single day.

Cleaning is something couples argue about; husbands and wives hold resentment over. I don’t want to spend four hours doing it. Cleaning can create so much order, pride in a home and a space. But it can also stress people out. 

If a retailer thinks about how to make cleaning more accessible and easy for everyone, it can go from being a dreaded chore to a celebrated as a success. 

HR: What are the products you find most effective to have in your arsenal of cleaning supplies? What products should retailers have to round out the cleaning category? 

MM: I think that’s a great question. The foundation of a great cleaning kit always starts with really good quality microfiber cloths. I also keep a mop, a mop bucket, a scrub brush, a vacuum, spray bottles and a squeegee. Products I really love are dish liquids, but I also like to make a lot of my own cleaning products. 

HR: For a consumer, what is the experience like shopping for cleaning products? How can a retailer make it easier to shop and discover new products? 

MM: When consumers go to a cleaning aisle, they often have a deer in headlights look. There are so many different cleaners. People don’t know what to buy. It’s overwhelming. With so many options, they don’t know what to get and then they’ll buy the brand they recognize from TV instead of trying something new that might work better.

Retailers could have someone with lots of cleaning product knowledge go through the aisle and hang informational signage on different products, stating different qualities and opinions on the product. This gets different products on the customers radar. With a little coaching, people are willing to try new things.

For even more success, I recommend continuously teaching employees how to use cleaning products. We have products we like. Once they know how to use something, they’ll be able to recommend it. 

About Renee Changnon

Renee Changnon
Renee Changnon is the retail outreach coordinator for NRHA. She meets with retailers in their stores and at industry events and introduces them to the services NRHA provides. Renee previously worked as a member of the NRHA communications team. She earned a degree in visual journalism from Illinois State University, where she served as the features editor for the school newspaper. After college, she implemented marketing and promotions initiatives at Jimmy John’s franchise locations across the country. She enjoys exploring books with her book club, Netflix marathons and hosting goat yoga at her apartment complex. Renee Changnon 317-275-9442 rchangnon@nrha.org

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