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Thanks, Marie Kondo: How Perth startup FlashMop grew 250% ahead of its national expansion

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

FlashMop

FlashMop founder Megan Harrison. Source: Supplied.

It’s only been up and running for six months, but Perth startup FlashMop is seeing a serious uptick in business, partly thanks to the “Marie Kondo effect”.

Launched in October 2018 by founder Megan Harrison, FlashMop is an on-demand cleaning service, allowing users to book a cleaner at a moment’s notice and including an Uber-style reviewing system.

Since the beginning of 2019, the startup has seen 250% growth in its user base in Perth, where it now has 600 users.

It also launched in Sydney this week, where it racked up 300 additional users in the first two days.

Harrison tells StartupSmart she was working in mining health and safety in a remote community in Western Australia and flying in and out from Perth, when she became pregnant with her first child.

“I realised the lifestyle probably wasn’t conducive to starting a family,” she says.

“I started to think of ways I could create an alternative income stream for myself and use that pregnancy to start a catalyst to try something new with my life.”

I was just friends asking around for recommendations for good cleaners that got Harrison thinking about why it was so hard to find a good cleaner, and the seeds of FlashMop were sown.

“People want something easy and convenient,” she explains.

Harrison puts the uptick in interest largely down to the “Marie Kondo effect”.

The tidying guru’s TV series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo went live on Netflix in January, sparking an international flurry of decluttering.

“Everyone is really house proud at the moment,” Harrison says.

“It’s been wonderful timing for us … in conjunction with that.”

As they’re clearing out their clutter, “everyone wants a sparkling clean home as well”.

However, Harrison also puts some of her success down to her “common-sense approach”.

The founder has no experience in the tech space, and “just decided to have a crack”.

So, the product had to be simple.

“I’ve taken a really black-and-white approach,” she says.

“That’s probably got something to do with the end result, which has been a really user-friendly, basic app, which is usable for everyone in the community.”

A slow burn?

Now that FlashMop is live in Sydney, Harrison is planning a national rollout, starting with Melbourne within the next three months, and staggering launches in Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra throughout the year.

“That’s the beauty of this tech space or the app world,” she says.

“Now that I’ve developed and I’ve got that resource there, there’s no reason we can’t pretty easily roll it out.”

The biggest barrier to this, however, will be marketing.

Harrison doesn’t have much of a marketing budget, she says. So far, the majority of her exposure has come from word-of-mouth, Facebook and Instagram, and some media coverage.

“I have had to source anything and everything I can that’s free or very minimal in cost,” she says.

Despite a strong start, the founder feels she might be in for “a bit of a slow burn in terms of getting that real big exposure”.

But, she’s happy with that.

“It’s not going to be a million-dollar company overnight, and I know that,” Harrison says.

“Through word of mouth, hopefully, I can continue to generate a steady flow of bookings, rather than that huge exponential growth.”

Harrison has considered raising capital in order to fuel that kind of growth, but for the time being, she says she’s happy bootstrapping.

“At this stage, the whole thing has been self-funded and I like the idea of that, so I will try my best to continue to do that.”

That said, the idea of a funding round “has crossed my mind”, she admits.

“I’m open to bringing on investors if it means they can generate more marketing buzz,” she says.

“At this stage, I wouldn’t say I’m actively seeking it out, but I am open to it.”

Powering through

Harrison is now expecting baby number two in a matter of weeks. But she’s not expecting to take much time off.

“I’ll be powering through, I’ll have the laptop with me in hospital,” she says.

“I’m not someone that can sit still.”

For Harrison, in this period of her life when she would be pregnant and raising babies, “it would be challenging for me not to do something”.

This is partly just a personality trait, but it’s also something Harrison believes every woman has the capability to do.

“Every woman has wonderful ideas,” she says.

“I really hope that, if nothing else, my story can be a bit of motivation for other women.”

Harrison encourages other women to use their maternity leave to act on their big ideas and take their career in a new direction.

“It’s a huge stage of your life anyway, why not add another challenge to that and give something new a go?” she asks.

And if they choose to, her advice is to focus on the goal and stay positive.

“You’re going to go through ups and downs, it’s really about getting through those down periods, keeping that positive attitude,” she says.

She also advises founders to talk to people, and accept support from the people around them.

“Let people know when you’re struggling a bit and get that advice and support,” she says.

“There are going to be hurdles … don’t lose focus on what you’re trying to do and what the end goal is,” she adds.

“For me, that is to create a lifestyle for you and your family that could mean you can be home more with the kids.”

Finally, Harrison notes that even if the startup fails, there’s a lot to be learnt from the journey.

“I’ve had so much personal development,” she says.

Even if the journey stops here, “I can hold my head up high and know I’ve done a lot of self-development over the last couple of years”, she adds.

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is the editor at StartupSmart. You can contact her at [email protected].