Former hospitality worker Vrinda Sharma, 27, and her husband Sandeep, 33, run New Plymouth-based cleaning business CrestClean. The husband and wife team discuss the benefits of being a franchisee, starting off small and why they decided against opening their own restaurant.

Tell me about your business?
Vrinda: We bought into the franchise of CrestClean four months ago in April. We do commercial cleaning; offices, hospitals, educational institutes and factories, but mostly offices.

What spurred you to buy into the business?

We were reading the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad and were inspired. We'd been wanting to do something of our own for a long time so after reading that we got really charged up. I quit my job and started looking online, so I had that pressure.

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We had originally planned on buying into a small restaurant or a food trailer but when we started reading about it and reflecting on the stress Sandeep had as a head chef at a Japanese restaurant - and the stress of the restaurant owners - we decided against it, started looking for something low-risk, had the potential and also support.

Why did you choose to get into the cleaning industry?

We've both worked for luxury 5-star hotels back in India so housekeeping was one of our major options. We both completed a Bachelors in Hospitality in hotel administration in India so we felt this was something we could do.

Sandeep's quite particular about cleanliness - even at home - so it was a natural fit, and he really enjoys it. We wanted something that wasn't seasonal, something we could do together and something that we both would understand and enjoy, and then I thought, 'What about a cleaning business?'. We didn't have a lot of money at the time as we had just got married so we wanted something that wouldn't require too much money to start off with, and cleaning was the perfect match.

Tell me about your background, what were you doing in India?

We're from North India, we met and studied in Bangalore. Through university I was selected to do a two-year management programme through the Indian hotel chain Taj and once I started working at Taj Mansingh in Delhi that's when we decided to move to New Zealand, as it was so stressful. We moved to New Zealand, Tauranga, in 2013 and after three years moved to New Plymouth.

How much did you invest?

We spent about $40,000 to buy the business. We now have a gross turnover of around $100,000, so we're making a very healthy net profit from our business and there is plenty of opportunity to take on additional work as well.

There are so many things you don't think about when you don't have a business so I think for first time business owners buying into a franchisee is a good option.

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How are you finding the transition from employee to business owner?

It's great, especially when you're used to working for someone. We didn't really expect everything to change so much, but it has. You know when you own your own business is good but when you actually do it, it's such a big change.

Sandeep and I both worked really stressful jobs. Sandeep was head chef at a Japanese restaurant working 12 hours a day and I was working as a care assistant at a rest home, so now it is a breeze in comparison - we feel like we're on a long holiday. It's actually not too hard, especially because we have the support.

What's the hardest thing about running a business?

We're finding it easy but I think the most challenging part is that we need to constantly be self-motivating and be at places on time, and keep pushing ourselves to the limit - you have to do that yourself as a business owner, or if it's two of you; push each other. It's really easy to get laid-back about things but every week we have meetings, just the two of us, and decide on, and how to follow, procedures.

Vrinda and Sandeep Sharma's work vehicle.
Vrinda and Sandeep Sharma's work vehicle.

What are your long-term plans with CrestClean?

We are planning to increase the business in the near future. Once we master the basics, there are plenty of opportunities to up skill into specialist areas such as hard floor care and carpet cleaning.

What are the benefits of being a franchisee?

If you are born into a business family, you learn from your parents; you see them making mistakes, and you grow with a business mind, but for people like us with no business background I think it's always better to have a safety net. There are so many things you don't think about when you don't have a business so I think for first-time business owners buying into a franchisee is a good option.

What advice do you give to those wanting to start their own business?

You have to be persistent. In the beginning when everything is new it can be really hard but you have to stick at it. If you've decided on, or started something, stick at it - even if its failing at the beginning - for at least six months, and have patience.