For many decades, the corporate side of the commercial cleaning industry has been largely male-dominated. However, change is afoot as is the case with most businesses today. Diversity in the workplace has become an important issue, resulting in more opportunities for women in executive positions – something Stephanie Toomey has longed to see.
Like the majority of women who have achieved success in the cleaning industry, Toomey did not assume her position in the ‘boardroom’ by climbing the corporate ladder; rather, the president of Admiral Janitorial built the company from the bottom-up, with the support of her business associate, Jimmy Kastanis, and their respective families.
“I’ve always had a desire to be an entrepreneur,” says Toomey, who adds she originally didn’t foresee a career in cleaning despite very early exposure through her father who worked in the industry himself. But, “when the opportunity to operate a business presented itself, it made sense.”
That occasion came in the late ‘90s, when Toomey met Kastanis. Brought together by their decades of shared experience – Toomey began cleaning offices part-time at age 17 to help finance her education at what’s now the Ontario College of Art and Design University, while Kastanis has been involved in the industry since his early teens – the pair decided to pool their strengths and take the plunge into business. This marked the beginning of Admiral whose goal is to provide an exceptional customer experience and the highest level of service at a great value.
“It was an exciting time,” she says. “The prospect of starting a new business, no matter how daunting, is something you just don’t pass up.”
Combined with her cleaning background, Toomey’s strong work ethic, infectious can-do attitude and ability to develop and build relationships made her the natural choice to lead the fledgling company into the next century. She immediately channelled her efforts into drumming up business while simultaneously holding down a full-time job as an insurance adjuster and eventually juggling life as a new mom. Slowly, Admiral gained traction and in 2013, Toomey’s tenaciousness paid off.
“We needed a couple new jobs at the time, so I decided to mail brochures to a bunch of companies I found in a local newspaper,” explains Toomey. “Soon after, I received a call from a golf course in Oakville. Jimmy and I met with the regional manager who immediately saw the value we offer, the great pride we take in our work and that we genuinely want to take care of the cleanliness of other people’s businesses so they can focus on what matters most to them.”
That single meeting not only resulted in a contract with the golf course, which required Admiral to staff up and Toomey to jump into the business full-time, but it also marked the start of expansion into the recreation market. Today, Admiral provides cleaning to many seasonal sites. This is in addition to the other 100-plus locations the company services across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in the industrial, commercial, manufacturing and office building sectors.
TWO OF A KIND
Now with two offices, one in Mississauga and the other in Georgetown, Ont., Admiral is poised for even greater growth, though Toomey’s in no immediate rush to rapidly expand the business as she’s simultaneously focused on a second company, EcoGreen Janitorial Services Inc. Originally established in 2011 to offer eco-friendly services, Toomey has since refocused the company’s mission to better meet customers’ growing demands that go beyond green cleaning. Today, while similar to Admiral in that both pride themselves on their attention to detail, ability to deliver a personalized experience and proactive approach to cleaning, the two companies differ in their scope of services and business strategies. Admiral is geared to mid- to large-sized companies. Its offerings include janitorial and day porter services, floor cleaning and finishing, carpet and upholstery cleaning, window cleaning, odour control, and pre- and post-construction cleanup. EcoGreen takes care of start-ups and smaller enterprises and, as a result, offers more tailored core services. Its target clientele is primarily in Halton region, though the company has gained market share in the Niagara region thanks to Toomey’s knack for creating meaningful connections.
“The approach for each of these companies aligns with the size and scale of our clients’ business needs,” explains Toomey, who adds that EcoGreen also employs a line of uniquely designed natural cleaning products.
These include odourless cleaners and scented essential oils that have many benefits for human health.
“Beyond their strategies,” she continues, “it doesn’t matter whether you’re a client with Admiral or EcoGreen. We are with our customers every step to ensure their business stays as polished as they are.”
AN ADMIRABLE CAUSE
With a proven track record of delivering exceptional service, Toomey credits her companies’ success to her dedicated team, which is comprised of a variety of specialists. One such person is site manager Kastanis, who is adept in customer service, product recommendations and training, among other things.
“His skill set is truly remarkable,” she professes.
Also of note is the company’s sales team, says Toomey, whose extensive knowledge of the cleaning industry has played a pivotal role in Admiral’s consistent year-over-year business gains.
Besides her stellar staff, Toomey is grateful for her loyal customer base and the supportive communities within which she works. In an effort to give back, she sponsors kids who play minor league ice hockey – a cause she’s backed for the past five years.
“I saw kids that were knockout athletes but their parents couldn’t put them in hockey because of the high costs,” says Toomey, whose son is a member of the Greater Toronto Hockey League. “It was important to me that we help them out so they could play, too. This past year, for instance, we paid for a team’s equipment and jerseys.”
Outside the rink, Toomey spends time mentoring other enterprising women, whenever possible, that she has met through her local Mastermind Groups. Mastermind brings like-minded individuals together from different work backgrounds to connect and create opportunities for a higher level of achievement. Toomey originally joined to be in the company of other outstanding women but has found it to be even more rewarding.
“I have acquired tools and greater motivation to overcome obstacles to growth and have gained new business as a result,” she says.
Always striving to be the best she can be in a predominantly male-dominated industry, Toomey is currently in the process of obtaining WBE certification for both Admiral and EcoGreen. An acronym for Women Business Enterprises, WBE is a non-profit organization that is opening doors for Canadian women-owned businesses to large corporate and government supply chains across North America. To be eligible for certification, a company must be at least 51 per cent owned, managed and controlled by women, and willing to undergo a stringent on-site audit that can take several weeks to complete. Certified WBEs join a powerful business network and gain a marketing edge, allowing them to accelerate advancement of their companies.
“It’s another step in building the companies,” says Toomey.
And an exciting one at that for someone who hopes to inspire other women and serve as an example for the next generation of entrepreneurs.
“If you aim high, work hard and are passionate about what you believe in, no one can keep you down.”
Clare Tattersall is the editor of Facility Cleaning & Maintenance.
Photos by Miguel Hortiguela.