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In Perfect Harmony – January 24, 2013

BUCKS COUNTY HERALD ARTICLE 1-24-13Cleaning business prepares to turn 10

David Campbell

Debi Sarandrea didn’t get grounded in the Bermuda Triangle. Sailing to the Bahamas and back with her husband had the opposite effect:  It opened Sarandrea’s eyes to a new business venture.

Chatting up a fellow sailor, the owner of a cleaning service franchise, on her voyage back to her home in Maryland, Sarandrea planted the seed for Harmony Clean, which after nearly 10 years is still going strong.

In 2003, she teamed with her sister, Vicki Brown, a resident of Chalfont, who was looking for something to do after working as an art teacher at the local Montessori school her kids attended.

“I just came to her one day and said, ‘What do you think about starting a cleaning business in Doylestown?  There are certainly plenty of houses to clean and people who need help, and how about we do it using products that aren’t going to be harmful, that we would never use ourselves?’” Sarandrea remembered. “I would never want to hire someone to have to be exposed to these chemicals all day. And, of course, we would like to leave the home not smelling like bleach or Pine-Sol and let it be less toxic for the homeowner. And she said, ‘Okay,’ and that was the end of our discussion.”

The co-owners ‘test-drove’ dozens and dozens of products and they were off. Finding clients wasn’t an issue for Harmony Clean, though; finding employees was. “We’re very picky about our employees.” Sarandrea said. The company now boasts a workforce of 30. It will celebrate its 10th anniversary this June.

“We’ve had so much positive support from the beginning,” Sarandrea said. “It really felt like it was going to be the right thing to do and it was going to be a success.”

Using green products only made sense, Sarandrea said. She and Brown discovered Natural Products Expo East; an annual trade show showcasing everything natural, more than 20 years ago.

“We’d come home each year with a bag full of samples of food, personal care products, cleaning products – you name it,” Sarandrea said. “It was better than a Halloween goodie bag to us.”

So Sarandrea, a co-founder of the local Green Collaboration, and Brown figured: Why not pass some of the benefits onto their clients and employees?

“Our products are non-toxic and they’re earth-friendly,” said Sarandrea, who admitted green products may not be as powerful as some of the non-green cleaners, though they can do a comparable job with a bit more time and elbow grease. It’s healthier for them (the clients). I think the No. 1 priority is their individual health and that of their family. And secondary, it’s also healthy for the environment because we all want to do the right thing.”

For the most part, Harmony Clean services an area roughly 12 miles around Doylestown. Sarandrea has looked into the possibility of franchising the business, but as of yet, nothing is definite. “We have considered it,” she said.

Sarandrea is very pleased with Harmony Clean’s charity work for Cleaning for a Reason, a nonprofit group that provides free house cleanings to women who are undergoing cancer treatment. Harmony Clean will offer four free cleanings, once a month for four months.

“That’s really a time when they need to focus on themselves and their health,” Sarandrea said, “and the last thing they need to do is to be cleaning the toilets and running the vacuum. So we’re able to come in and give them that helping hand to get them through this time.”

Harmony Clean and Cleaning for a Reason have been working together for about five years. “It’s very rewarding,” Sarandrea said.

dcampbell@buckscountyherald.com

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