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Neu, Inc.

Neu, Inc.

2019 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest Bronze Prize Winner

2019 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest Bronze Prize Winner

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An image of the three owners of Neu, Inc.

Problem-solving for the modern housekeeper in the age of Airbnb

After learning about shared difficulties and cost burdens related to cleaning in the Airbnb host community, Kwame Boler, Rilwan Lawal, and Claudius Mbemba set out to introduce technology to bring cleaning into the 21st century and alleviate some of the industry’s biggest pain points. Their company, Neu, Inc., streamlines hotel cleanings for Airbnb and provides a turnkey experience by supplying sheets, towels, and toiletries and scheduling cleanings between guest stays. With two customer segments — vacation rental hosts and domestic cleaners — Neu operates in the flexible gig economy as a residential cleaning business.

How did the concept of Neu come about?

Kwame: While Rilwan and I were employed full-time at the Boeing Company, we were also Airbnb hosts on the side. It wasn’t long before we found that cleaning in between guest stays was a recurring problem. There were many occasions when a cleaner cancelled, leaving us to have to clean our properties during lunch before the next guests checked in. When we learned other hosts were having similar issues, we brought in Claudius and built out Neu to solve for these issues.

 

What value do you provide to your customers?

Kwame: We provide value for both of our customers — cleaners and hosts. For cleaners, they’re able to create their own schedules. And for hosts, we coordinate the jobs and provide a turnkey solution. This reduces the visits hosts have to make to their properties in between guest stays and keeps things hassle-free.

Since we supply the linens, we’re also driving efficiencies for cleaners who don’t have to spend as much time on-site washing linens. As a result, they can work more jobs in a lot less time to earn considerably more than they would on their own.

Rilwan: Domestic housekeepers face issues with feelings of shame for being in an industry that people don’t want to associate with, while also dealing with the misconception that the work is transient. We learned from cleaning ourselves that the work is incredibly technical and requires a certain cadence and level of repetition for it to be done well. Good cleaners possess a unique skill, and they deserve to be valued in this way. One of the things that we wanted to do with Neu was make cleaning “sexy,” the same way that Uber turned driving into a sexy career.

 

Why did you want to be an entrepreneur?

Claudius: I sought autonomy and wanted to dedicate my time to something I was passionate about. I like to give 130% of myself and working for someone else didn’t quite inspire that same effort. There’s a lot you don’t know when you first start out, but trust that you’ll figure it out as you get started.

Kwame: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I enjoy the challenge of complex problem-solving, and I’m always driven to take things to the next level. I believe if you’re doing something you’re not passionate about, then you’re being inhibited by those 40 hours a week that you’re sitting at your desk instead of doing something more impactful with that time.

Rilwan: My mother was an entrepreneur in Nigeria, and growing up in that environment fostered my entrepreneurial spirit. She dabbled in a lot of ventures, and I took the passenger seat, soaking up all I could learn.

 

3 Small-Business Tips for Success

Navigating the path for your small business is a constant learning process. Here are Kwame, Rilwan, and Claudius’ tips for success.

  1. Seek Out Resources
    Leaning on resources for information and guidance has been instrumental for Neu. Having resources to turn to can alleviate a lot of stress. Don’t let the fear of not knowing what to do hold you back.

  2. Embrace the Difficulty
    Rilwan expressed that being an entrepreneur “is supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would have their own business or company. Embrace the difficulty. If you go into it expecting challenges, it helps you regulate your emotions and stress levels because you’re better prepared to handle those challenges.”

  3. Focus on the Positive
    The partners have found that expecting challenges helps keep emotions and stress levels low and positivity high, because when challenges do arise, they’re anticipated and viewed as a learning opportunity.

 

FedEx Small Business Grant winners like Kwame, Rilwan, and Claudius are doing creative and exciting things in their businesses. See more inspirational winner stories and get insights for business success from past grant winners, plus other entrepreneurs and small-business experts.