By David Odongo
Many people consider cleaning carpets and sofas more of a luxury than a necessity. But those who ignore cleaning them risk developing health problems.
Carpets, sofas or car seats cleaning is the market Nairobi entrepreneur Robert Okubo has tapped into.
His company, 200 Degrees, is a hot steam cleaning company with prominent clients like Nyayo National Stadium, IMAX Cinema, General Electronics, Parliament and many households in the city.
Okubo founded the company in 2011 after 15 years’ stay in the US.
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“I came home because I was growing older and I thought it is better to start a business here when I still have the energy,” says Okubo.
His company cleans carpets, sofas, cars and houses. The business has 22 employees and 12 casuals so far, and he plans to hire more when he opens an office in Mombasa.
“I get most of my clients from Facebook. Once I do any work for a client, they usually spread it by word of mouth, and that has really helped us grow,” says Okubo, who was last November featured in Forbes magazine as one of the young entrepreneurs from Kenya who has a chance of making it big in five years.
“So far, I’ve put aside about Sh2.5 million to set up the Mombasa office, and all I am yet to get is a partner with the local market knowledge, a partner who will put in very little money because I have all that is needed. I want to expand but I want to do it with the right people in Eldoret and Nakuru too.”
He charges as low as Sh2,500 to clean a carpet and up to Sh3,000 to clean the entire interior of a vehicle.
“I know my rates are much higher than many other cleaning agencies, but it is because I do a good job. My machines inject moistures at 200 degrees centigrade, and extract 90 per cent of the moisture, hence a shorter drying time for anything we clean,” he says.
But what makes him different from all the other cleaning agencies in the market?
“The average time for a carpet to dry after washing is two to four days. But when I used my machines, carpets, sofas and even car seats dry in three to eight hours. As you very well know, anything that takes more than 24 hours to dry is already spoilt. Once mildew grows on it, it can never be gotten rid of,” says Okubo.
He became a professional cleaner after he achieved an Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification at the Academy of Textiles and Flooring in California, US.
He says with his steam-cleaning machine, he does not need to use any chemicals.
“We use steam at 200 degrees. It kills all the germs and leaves your carpet without damages as washing powder or other chemicals would have done.”
His biggest challenge is the frequent traffic snarl-ups in the city, which affect his schedule.
“I can have a crew working in Runda, and they need to visit four homes across Nairobi before finally finishing at a home in Karen. When there is traffic jam, my crew may come in late at the clients house.”
To deal with the chaotic traffic in the city, Okubo recently bought four pickups to add to his fleet of three.