Who the Heck Is Brian Gerwels?
You may be rightfully wondering who I am. Unlike other business services, hiring a carpet cleaner involves inviting someone into your home. It's always easier to invite someone into your home if you know a bit about them. I've created this page just to say a little bit about myself and how I got started in this business.
I've always lived in Elkhart County, Indiana. I grew up in Goshen. I graduated from Goshen High School and was a band nerd. After receiving my bachelor's degree from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, I returned to Goshen where I met my wife, Theresa. Theresa is originally from Michigan and came to Indiana to attend Goshen College. After we were married, we lived in Goshen for about a year and then bought a house in Elkhart.
Our house in Elkhart got the ball rolling on my first serious business venture. The house was a duplex and we lived in one apartment and rented out the other apartment. Over the next few years I added a couple more rental properties to my portfolio. Of course it sounds pretty high class to say your a real estate investor; in reality it turns out it looks a lot more like being a janitor. Being a landlord, did two things that helped propel me into the carpet cleaning business.
First, it made me realize how much I like having my own business. I remember a distinct event where I was cleaning toilets for one of my rental properties. I was actually enjoying it! Think about how absurd that is. Who likes cleaning toilets? I certainly don't, at least not ordinarily. I don't enjoy cleaning the toilet at home. But that toilet wasn't just any dirty toilet. It was a dirty toilet for business, my business, and that made all the difference. I know that not everyone could be a business owner, but for me it changes everything, including how I feel about cleaning toilets. For someone that has no interest in having their own business, I'm not sure I can adequately express this feeling. It probably just sounds cheesy, but for me it's life changing.
Second, being a landlord helped introduce me to carpet cleaning. Whenever someone would move out of an apartment, the carpets (among other things) needed to be cleaned. In the past, I would just rent a machine from the store, when I needed to clean the carpet. My wife and I even considered buying a machine, since it seemed like we had to rent one so often. In 2011 I bought a rental house in the historic district of Elkhart. When it came time to clean the carpet, I planed on renting a machine again, but the more I thought about it I decided to hire a professional. I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the job. I couldn't believe how fast and how clean they got the carpet. It only took the guy about an hour and he charged me less than $200. Looking back, I don't think the company did anything special, just a regular cleaning, but it blew my mind. I had no idea how well professional equipment could clean. All I knew about was the little machines people bought for personal use and the rental machines from the store.
This experience got me thinking about the cleaning profession. On the one hand, the carpet cleaner seemed to get good money for his time. Yet, at the same time it was a great deal for me. Once I factored in the value of my time and the cost of the rental machine, it was really an awesome deal.
I didn't start the business right away. I sort of mulled it over in my mind for awhile. In the summer of 2012, I started getting serious. I started researching the carpet cleaning industry. My wife and I had some serious discussions about whether this would be the right move. She was incredibly supportive. However, she had one major concern. She wanted to make sure that this wasn't just going to be a really expensive hobby that I give up on after a few months. She wanted me to try it out and see if this was a job I could really do. How do you test out something like this? One option was to try to get a job cleaning carpets from an established company. However, I didn't really feel comfortable doing that. It seemed like I'd be working under false pretenses. During the course of my research, I connected with two carpet cleaners who offered to help me learn and gave me the chance to try it out - Ross Trittipo and Torrey Whitaker. Each owns his own cleaning business in Indianapolis. Ross is the currently the owner of Middle Key and Torrey is the owner of Flooring Expressions. The two of them invited me down to Indianapolis to work along side of them. Indianapolis is far enough away that they didn't have to worry about me taking their customers and yet close enough that I could drive down in a few hours. They didn't ask for a dime in return. Actually, one of the guys even bought me lunch the first day. (A favor I have yet to return).
Meeting complete strangers is never easy. No mater how professional someone may appear, you just never know what kind of person you're going to meet. So, in all honestly, I was nervous about the experience. I was also a excited about the possibility of launching a new business. During the trip I learned so much that my head was spinning with knowledge. Who would have thought that there is so much to learn about carpet cleaning? Some of the stuff we talked about was actual cleaning knowledge – how to safely clean wool, how to remove red food dye, etc. Some of the stuff we talked about was business building strategies.
In the mist of processing all this new information, I also had to decide whether this was a career for me. My wife and I had to do a lot of serious talking, but in the end, we decided to move forward and start the business. In the summer of 2012, I bought a van and ordered the cleaning equipment.
The story doesn't end there. It's really just begun. If you'd like to follow the progress of this business, please sign up for my email list.