‘Recession-proof’ company seeks Connecticut franchisees
All his life Ivan Rudnitsky was striving to enter the corporate world.“I grew up with the mentality that you got an education, got a corporate job and then were set for life,” said Rudnitsky, the son of Ukrainian immigrants who fled as refugees in 1989 and settled in upstate New York.
Once inside the corporate world, he realized it wasn’t that simple. After climbing the corporate ladder and achieving an upper-management position with Wells Fargo, Rudnitsky yearned for more responsibility at work, but long hours away from family and the lack of breadth in his work bothered him. “The joy of work was getting lost,” he said. “It was not sustainable for me to continue down that path.” While Rudnitsky was feeling trapped in corporate America, he saw many of his Russian and Ukrainian friends starting their own businesses. “And they were doing better than me,” he said.
The amount of capital and risk associated with most start-ups concerned him, so he decided he needed a simple concept. “I went the typical route of Googling and reaching out to business brokers and existing businesses,” he said. Nothing seemed right, so he called his brother-in-law, who was head of sales for Enviro-Master, a hygiene company with franchise opportunities. “This had always been under my nose,” Rudnitsky said of the business. “Everything I was looking for was exactly what Enviro-Master offers.”
The selling points for Rudnitsky are what attract many looking to own a franchise. The business deals with limited competition, has repetitive cash flow and a diversified source of income.
Rudnitsky discussed the opportunity with his family and bought the Rhode Island franchise territory two months ago.
Enviro-Master brands itself as a hygiene company, not a janitorial service. It’s a simple concept — technicians visit businesses’ restrooms weekly and clean, sanitize and disinfect them. Additionally, the company offers paper products as a bonus, but they come at such a discounted price their savings often cover the price tag of Enviro-Master’s weekly service, Rudnitsky said.
Enviro-Master emphasizes that it should not be considered a replacement for janitorial services but a supplement. Rudnitsky compares Enviro-Master’s role to that of a dentist. Janitors are needed for the daily upkeep of restrooms just as people should brush their teeth every day. But brushing daily isn’t enough to maintain high oral health, with periodic dentist visits also needed. Enviro-Master provides that extra expert care with its disinfectant and sanitization sprays, he said.
Enviro-Master was founded in 2009 by Pat Swisher, who also founded Swisher Hygiene for which he was named “Forbes Up and Coming Entrepreneur” in 1994. Swisher sold his company in 2004 and took a five-year break to look for his next venture. The result was Enviro-Master, and he recently bought back his customer base from Swisher Hygiene to incorporate into his new company. Enviro-Master has collected its own set of distinctions, including being named as a top 10 United States franchise by both Entrepreneur and Inc. magazines.
Since buying back his customer base for Enviro-Master, Swisher is looking to fill 85 franchise territories over the next year. Some are in Connecticut, with a range of options also available in New York. Franchise owners thus far compose an elite and successful group, 85 percent of whom have an MBA. This is intentional. “We’ve never had a failure or had someone lose their investment,” Swisher said.
All interested owners fill out a financial application to ensure they have the initial capital to build the business, take a personality index test and undergo in-person meetings with Enviro-Master top management. Finally, both sides take 30 days to reflect and the ultimate decision is contingent upon everyone’s agreement. Between $200,000 and $300,000 is usually needed for new owners to get started. Dependent on how much effort they invest, owners typically reap 18 to 23 percent of their revenue after hitting positive cash flow, according to Enviro-Master.
The amount of company support offered to franchise owners is a large component of what makes this type of outcome possible, Swisher said.
Based on Enviro-Master’s 2015 numbers, a three-year growth rate of 771 percent was projected and Swisher has plans to take the brand international, as he did with Swisher Hygiene.
Franchise consultant Bruce Krebs considers Enviro-Master’s business model “a rare opportunity,” he said. “I’ve matched five clients with Enviro-Master and they are all doing extremely well.”
Enviro-Master’s appeal comes largely from how economic downturns and technological advances aren’t likely to affect it, he said. Everyone at all businesses will always be using restrooms, and that’s all Enviro-Master needs to be in business. The majority of Rudnitsky’s clientele so far comes from restaurants, but many industrial factilities, tourists spots and yacht clubs have also signed up. Rudnitsky admits he’s still in the throngs of starting up the franchise so it’s overwhelming, but the one thing he’s not worried about is finding business.
“I don’t think I have enough years left in my life to maximize my business,” Rudnitsky said. “It’s not sexy. It’s not an Uber start up, but it’s simple and it works.”
MBennett@hearstmediact.com, 203-625-4411; Twitter @Macaela_