One morning, after a night of drinking, Rebecca Foley woke up hungover, dreading the household cleaning that awaited her.
Foley complained to her roommate Catherine Ashurst that she wished she could just pay someone to come do the cleaning for her.
That kernel of an idea, born from a hangover, eventually inspired Foley, who goes by Bex, and Ashurst, who goes by Cat, to launch Morning-After Maids.
They’ve been up and running for just two months, but already their idea has caught fire.
Since launching Morning-After Maids with a Facebook page and a website, the two women, who are based in Auckland, New Zealand, have been fielding requests for their services all over the world. They’re booked every weekend and already thinking about franchising the business.
Hangover Cures: A Clean House and Breakfast
If you’re having a party and you know you’re not going to want to deal with the mess afterward, you can request that Foley and Ashurst stop by the next morning to clean up.
They’ll also make fast-food runs for you, make you coffee, bring you energy drinks or cook you breakfast.
The standard cleaning rate is NZ$30, or about US$21, which Foley and Ashurst split. They also charge a NZ$20 to $80 booking fee (US$14 to $58), depending on the number of people you expect at your party. If you call for an emergency cleaning, they charge a fee of NZ$50 (US$36).
They charge NZ$10 to $40 (US$7 to $28) for mileage, depending on where you live in Auckland, and NZ$45 to haul your garbage away.
They’ll fix you traditional breakfast fare for NZ$20 to $25 (US$14 to $18) per person, or make a McDonald’s run for the price of food plus NZ$10 (US$7) for mileage.
With an average of three jobs per weekend — on their base rate alone — Ashurst and Foley can bring in between NZ$720 and $1,440 a month combined (US$510 to $1,022).
And this is their side gig!
“We wanted it to be affordable for everyone, so the university students can use us, obviously the rich and famous can use us,” Ashurst said.
“We didn’t want to be targeting just one market. We want everyone to think ‘Hey, we can use these girls for any occasion.’”
So far, they’ve done three jobs each weekend, ranging from two to four hours each. Their toughest cleaning session was a large house that was covered in mud after a party with 120 people.
“When we were trying to clean, we were just moving mud. It actually wasn’t cleaning,” Ashurst said, laughing. “It took us so long. There was dirt everywhere, alcohol everywhere. It was just revolting. But we got there in the end.”
More Than a Cleaning Service
Ashurst says Morning-After Maids is more than just a traditional cleaning service. If you want, they’ll even bring their dogs Patrick and Larry to liven up your morning.
“So many people are like, ‘Oh, why wouldn’t you just use a cleaner?’” Ashurst said.
“Do you really want some middle-aged woman coming in and cleaning up your house after a party? With us, it’s actually more of an occasion. We’re there to brighten the morning. We’ll bring Red Bulls, we’ll bring Powerade, we’ll go get you breakfast. We make the morning a bit happier.”
Ashurst says that difference made the business immediately successful — they’re promising to make your life easier, your day better and your headache go away.
The business is also built on a premise most people can relate to — the feeling of dread when you wake up hungover and look around at your messy house.
Ashurst, 33, and Foley, 25, are young and they’ve done their fair share of partying. Their non-judgmental attitudes go a long way, Ashurst said.
“People know that we’re not going to be judgy,” she said. “That’s not why we’re here.”
They hope to keep that culture intact as the business expands. Ashurst and Foley are in the process of hiring some additional staffers, because right now their business is limited to the work the two of them can do on Saturdays and Sundays.
Where Will They Take This Side Hustle?
Morning-After Maids is still a side gig for Foley and Ashurst.
Ashurst works full time as a fire safety consultant and runs the public relations aspect of their burgeoning side business. Foley works as a financial accountant, so she crunches the numbers.
For now, their expenses are almost non-existent. They pay for their cleaning supplies, which they get wholesale from a company that heard their story and offered to sponsor them, and they’ve paid for advice on things like trademarks and branding from a handful of professionals.
“We both still work 40-hour weeks (at our jobs),” Ashurst said after finishing a cleaning job on a recent Sunday afternoon.
“And for the management side of the business, we just do our meetings during our lunch breaks and then we’re doing any kind of administrative work that we need to do in the evenings and then doing the cleans on the weekend.
“There is no balance,” she joked.
Ashurst said she doesn’t know what they were expecting when they launched the business, but they definitely didn’t plan for it to take off the way it did.
What started as a side gig will likely turn into a full-time job for the two women.
“This is actually going to be life-changing so we’re just running with it,” she said. “We think it’s rare that startups get this kind of exposure. So we’re just utilizing it as best we can. I wasn’t anticipating giving up my day job, but now that’s in the cards. We’re just taking it day by day.”
They’re expanding slowly and cautiously, especially in the realm of franchising. Though people have been asking for franchising opportunities already, Ashurst said it will be a while.
They hope to first expand in Auckland, then throughout New Zealand. Eventually they plan to branch out to the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.
For now, though, Foley and Ashurst see themselves spending their weekends cleaning, doing food runs and making people’s hangovers a little more tolerable.
“Everyone drinks, no one’s going to ever stop drinking,” Ashurst said. “We’re very much a drinking nation and a social nation. All we’re doing is cleaning up after that. It was needed. It’s never going to go away.”
Your Turn: What do you think of their side gig?
Sarah Kuta is an education reporter in Boulder, Colorado, with a penchant for weekend thrifting, furniture refurbishment and good deals. Find her on Twitter: @sarahkuta.