MOLLY MAID CEO Aaron Abrams and franchisee Linda Poirier reflect on the brand’s innovations over its more than four decades of franchise success
By Stefanie Ucci
It was 1979 when MOLLY MAID first opened its doors and started sweeping floors. Founders Chris and Adrienne Stringer were living in Upstate New York at the time, and discovered an advertisement for a cleaning service that piqued their attention.
Then it dawned on them: this was the perfect business opportunity to bring back home to Canada. The married couple quickly got to work on creating a cleaning business based in Mississauga, Ontario. A year later, they joined forces with Jim MacKenzie and a group of investors (all are still involved in the company today) and started franchising across the country. Today, it has more than 80 franchisees in Canada who have cleaned more than 10 million homes across the country.
As a residential cleaning service, MOLLY MAID is well known for its recognizable navy blue and bubblegum pink branding on its cars, uniforms, and more.
The cleaning options for clients are vast and the opportunities for franchisees are even greater. Just take it from president and CEO, Aaron Abrams, who glows with pride when speaking about the iconic cleaning business.
“We’ve got what I would say is the strongest operating system in the industry and most importantly, we have the very best franchisees in the residential space,” says Abrams. “That, coupled together with the incredible coaching and support from the head office team, creates what I know is the recipe for our success.”
Squeaky clean services
The original concept for MOLLY MAID was to cater towards working families, as Abrams notes there were a lot of women entering the workforce at the time of its inception. That created the need for cleaning services to help lighten their responsibilities within the home. Then, more senior citizens started using the service, requesting monthly cleanings.
Today, customers can choose from cleaning on an ongoing or one-time basis, for seasonal changes, move-in or move-out circumstances, in apartments and condos, or for seniors. The Green Housekeeping Program offers eco-friendly cleaning solutions, and the Healthy Home Cleaning System was introduced in May 2020 in response to the pandemic.
“The most impressive thing about our business is how our franchisees rallied together to come up with the Healthy Home Cleaning System,” explains Abrams. “It was our way to continue providing service so that our clients could continue to get their homes cleaned and our team members could continue to work safely. It proved to be so successful that demand has never been at the level that it is now.”
It’s brands like MOLLY MAID that power through and innovate in the face of disaster to achieve success. It’s all in being an iconic brand.
An inner calling for cleaning
So, who is the ideal franchisee for MOLLY MAID? As Abrams notes, when it comes to whether there’s any vital background experience franchisees must possess: “Absolutely none whatsoever. We can teach people just about anything, as long as they want to learn and bring the right attitude.”
And that’s exactly the case for franchisee Linda Poirier, who’s a long-term franchisee after having started with MOLLY MAID in her early 20s.
Based in Cornwall, Ontario, Poirier was originally working in a retail environment when she had a customer come in asking for a very specific garment pairing: a navy blue blazer and pink blouse. It was the uniform for a new MOLLY MAID franchise.
Recently back from maternity leave with a young daughter to raise, Poirier was ready for a jump out of retail into a career that could offer her more time to work from home and raise her children. She made the jump to MOLLY MAID shortly after.
“Within a short period of time, I went from becoming a Home Service Professional to an assistant to the franchise owner. Then when she told me she was selling, I applied for the franchise myself. Six months later, I was building my own business in Cornwall,” explains Poirier.
Now with more than three decades of franchise experience under her belt, Poirier adds that the brand just feels like a part of her family—and a part of her family’s family, too.
“I feel that since day one, MOLLY MAID has been a really strong brand. I’ve always been excited to be part of it. Knowing that there are over 80 other franchises in Canada doing the same thing as me gives me a feeling that we’re all in this together and we’re not alone. We can network, and share experiences and knowledge.”
And her now grown-up daughter is reaping the MOLLY MAID benefits, too. “When my daughter went to university, she said to me, ‘Mom, I realize now that whenever I was little and I would say you’re always busy doing this or that, I’m thankful because I’ve learnt so much from having a business in the house,’” explains Poirier. “So the kids have life lessons they can carry with them in their own businesses or careers, too.”
Sweeping the boards with awards
Poirier’s passion for MOLLY MAID shines in both how she speaks about the brand and how she’s flourished over the decades. It’s how she won dozens of awards for her business!
From 11 internal awards, recognizing her franchise for Quality Service Value, Employer of Choice, and Sales Growth, to joining the President’s Circle, Poirier is a well-respected franchisee. But don’t just take it from MOLLY MAID. She’s also won a Consumer’s Choice Award—every single year! “I want to feel that I made a difference in the lives of my employees, my clients, and my community.”
Abrams adds, “I can assure you she’s hit on all three of those. She’s just the model franchisee, and is so passionate about MOLLY MAID.”
And Poirier emphasizes with a laugh: “I want to know that I ‘maid’ a difference!”
Fresh franchise opportunities
As for the future of MOLLY MAID, Abrams explains that it’s recently gone back to its roots: establishing a franchise model that allows for an owner-operator cleaner.
Established during the pandemic as a result of massive influx in demand, the Neighbourhood Franchise Model allows franchisees to take a step back from their role of solely running the business. “We’ve gone back and re-established the model that will allow our franchisees in smaller markets to run the business by cleaning themselves and hiring people to support them,” says Abrams.
The Neighbourhood Franchise Model is ideal for those in less populated areas, like Cornwall, and allows franchisees to start earning an income as soon as they clean their first home. Traditional MOLLY MAID franchises are suited for densely populated cities in urban and suburban areas.
Regardless of which option new franchise owners go for, the training from the support office is robust: “Two and a half weeks of training content before they arrive on site for one week intensive training at support office in Oakville, Ontario,” says Abrams. “Then once they leave, there’s still some ongoing training that goes on with their franchise coach. About three weeks later, they take over their business if it’s a transfer or they start their business if it’s a new franchise. Their franchise coach joins them in the field during this first week to help them navigate through the early days.”
Ongoing training includes online Zoom calls, training content on the corporate intranet, operating manuals, videos, and of course, the ability to connect with fellow franchisees and learn from each other’s knowledge, especially at regional meetings and Convention.
So what advice do MOLLY MAID’s proud CEO and top franchisee have for those considering a franchising career path?
Abrams advises potential franchisees to take advantage of the resources around you. “There are so many, whether it’s franchisees who’ve achieved success like Linda, a neighbouring franchisee, or one across the country. If you surround yourself with the right people, you’ll tend to find success in whatever way you want to.”
As for Poirier, she recommends choosing a service that you love. “For me, it was house cleaning, and getting to meet and work with people. Make sure you have guidance from experts that are focused on making your business grow and are excited to celebrate your successes with you.”