When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and businesses and offices shuttered across Northern Nevada, John Santoemma and Elsa Calderon were concerned about their commercial cleaning company, CC Cleaning Services. “By the first week of April 2020, everybody started closing down and we had a sharp reduction in commercial clientele,” Santoemma said. “We probably lost 28% of our commercial clients. They essentially closed their doors and everybody was working from home. “So, we were kind of panicked.” It didn’t take long for that feeling to fade. By June 2020, the phones at Reno-based CC Cleaning Services “started lighting up,” Santoemma said. Clients, old and new, were calling for more than just routine cleaning services. They wanted COVID disinfection and sanitization done to protect their employees and customers from the coronavirus. Restaurants. Gyms. Warehouses. CC Cleaning fielded requests come from every kind of business that could not operate remotely during the shutdowns. Santoemma, who already had one disinfecting fog machine on hand, bought another last summer to meet the growing demand. “By June, we were back at our normal revenue level and then and then some,” he said. “And we’ve been on a steady rise since then. We finished the year stronger than the year before, which we felt fortunate about.” In all, CC Cleaning Services generated $1.3 million in revenue in 2020, a 30% increase compared to 2019, said Santoemma, who launched the company with his wife in 2014. And demand has not slowed in 2021. Santoemma said the company expanded from 48 employees to 62 and is looking to hire at least four more. He expects to hit $1.8 million in revenue this year. “I think we’re just fortunate to be in the line of business that we were in,” he said. CC Cleaning Services also benefited from the fact 60% of its revenue stream comes from clients in construction — an industry that didn’t stop during the pandemic. The company cleans and disinfects commercial and residential projects that are in the process of being built as well as the trailers on job sites and company offices. “Suddenly, there was a revenue bump there because they asked us to come clean the trailers, the sales offices, and superintendent offices every day,” Santoemma said. “Normally, that’s something we would only have done once a week.” Many of CC Cleaning’s clients that increased their service schedule during the pandemic have kept the cleaning pace, he added. UP AND DOWN DEMAND With Delta variant cases continuing to spread across the region, the coronavirus has changed what it means to clean — possibly for good.
A Bio Sealed team member uses a disinfecting fogger inside the warehouse at MicroMetl, a sheet metal contractor in Sparks. Courtesy Photo
Gone are the days of commercial cleaners simply wiping, dusting and vacuuming their way to a clean office, warehouse or restaurant. Businesses now are hiring companies with specialized tools and chemicals to disinfect their place of work. Just ask Chad Grayot, founder and managing director of Bio Sealed, a Reno-based disinfection company. Grayot launched Bio Sealed early in the pandemic after recognizing the need for sterilization and disinfection services as COVID-19 cases surged in Northern Nevada. He was one of many entrepreneurs forced to pivot into a new venture because of the pandemic’s impact on the economy. His company, Reno Hexayurt, which sells weatherproof temporary housing units for attendees of outdoor events and festivals, was abruptly paused after live events were wiped from the 2020 calendar. Quickly, Grayot saw strong demand for his disinfection service, which only grew stronger as the pandemic raged on. “At the height of it, we probably had 200 to 225 clients,” Grayot said. “We were servicing five to eight clients a day. Three out of five people would reach out to us and say, ‘Hey, we had an employee test positive, we’re shut down, can you come in and get rid of any unwanted pathogens or bacteria that are stagnant in the business?’ “So our company got dramatically busy.” So much so that Grayot was considering franchising the business across the state and West Coast. After looking into the time and sacrifices that would require, however, he dialed down his aspirations and kept his focus on serving greater Reno-Sparks.
One of Bio Sealed’s smart fogging machines sterilizes the offices at Northern Nevada Regional MLS in Reno. Courtesy Photo
With COVID-19 vaccines available and businesses tightening their belts after revenue shortfalls in 2020, Bio Sealed has not seen the same level of demand this year. In fact, the company saw business drop 45% over a recent four-month period in 2021, Grayot said. He pointed to bars and restaurants, a large segment of Bio Sealed’s business a year ago, as a client base that has “aggressively depleted” its service requests this year. “We don’t have four out of five of those clients anymore because they’re choosing not to do it because their overhead is so high and their income doesn’t have the budget to use the service,” he said. Bio Sealed has also seen a decline in demand from schools, noting that many have bought their own disinfection machines for their janitorial teams to use. Grayot and his team have even performed training exercises to guide schools on how to properly use the machines. He said Bio Sealed also donated a fog machine to the Northern Nevada R.A.V.E Family Foundation, which provides respite to families caring for children with special needs, and showed them how to use it. “It’s not that it takes away from our business,” Grayot said. “All it does is create a better community and more educated people that understand the need of disinfection.” LARGE-SCALE COMMERCIAL BUILDING NEEDS While some client bases are dissolving, others are exploding. Bio Sealed has seen a 75% increase in business from companies with large-scale warehouses and factories, like distribution centers and manufacturing facilities, Grayot said. Those companies, he said, see the benefit of investing in disinfection services to keep employees safe and operations humming, considering the risk of shutting down or being short-staffed because of a virus outbreak is far more costly. “A company that deals with a lot of different ends of a business cycle with their team members, they are implementing programs to keep their teams safe because of all the different dynamics that they engage in on a day-to-day process,” Grayot explained. In August, Bio Sealed also saw a 25% to 30% bump in clients with office spaces, according to Grayot. “We’ve seen an increase in the offices that, one, have an actual COVID case, and two, that actually want to do the service to protect their team members,” he said. “We’ve had some clients tell us, we’re all vaccinated now, but we still want to do this process. Just because you’re vaccinated against one pathogen, it doesn’t mean you’re vaccinated against them all.”