Student Maid Founder Balances Expansion, New App and Speaker Conference

By Caitlyn Finnegan

Kristen Hadeed has spent the last five years molding her cleaning and concierge business, Student Maid, from a lean startup into a full-service industry leader. Now, the company is preparing to expand to Pensacola with its first remote office opening May 1.

“About a year ago we were considering Tampa but at the last minute we decided not to go; it just didn’t feel right,” Hadeed said. “Now we are so glad that we waited because this opportunity is perfect.”

A deal with a major resort in Pensacola will ensure a steady flow of work for the new office, a service demand that Hadeed estimates will require hiring more than 100 employees in the first year alone. Rachel Rowan, one of Hadeed’s original employees and a Pensacola native, will serve as the manager for the new branch.

Student Maid currently employs between 50 to 70 students throughout the year, with the total number jumping to more than 300 students during the peak moving seasons.

The company’s office in Gainesville, located at 3200 SW 42 Way, features a smoothie bar, impromptu Nerf gun wars and occasionally an in-house DJ. Hadeed says a focus on maintaining a fun and engaging workplace is the key for helping employees work on both personal and professional development.

“The cleaning industry has a very poor job retention rate; the average is about two months,” Hadeed says. “Student Maid’s average is two years. I believe our culture is key to that.”

Besides working with Student Maid full-time as the company’s CEO, Hadeed regularly mentors other entrepreneurs in the community through Chamber of Commerce events and other special projects like the upcoming Hackerhouse experience. While working on a mentoring team with Josh Greenberg, one of the co-founders of Grooveshark, the duo decided to launch another business idea: MaidSuite.

“After trying more than 30 online programs and not finding one that worked for our business, we decided to create our own,” Hadeed says.

Dubbed a “full-service industry solution,” Hadeed says the software will allow managers and business owners to schedule employees, invoice bills and manage payroll and customer service all in one simple, intuitive application. With two full-time developers already on board for the project, Hadeed and Greenberg plan to start marketing the product to other businesses towards the end of the year.

“The cleaning industry is not glamorous or well-respected,” Hadeed says. “I want to help those people out there who are struggling because it is such a difficult industry.”

Hadeed is also working to start Gainesville’s very own speaker conference; FreshSpark. A mashup between the TEDx conference format and the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, FreshSpark will bring 12 internationally known speakers to Gainesville on July 19 at the Santa Fe Fine Arts Hall to speak about the secrets to success. Speakers such as John Spence, Simon Sinek and Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year, Jason Lucash, will each share the number one thing that has led to their success and provide the audience with tangible tips they can apply to their own businesses.

The conference will also feature a startup showcase and a food truck rally for lunch.

Faced with the challenge of balancing several different projects, Hadeed says the constant push of deadlines helps keep her focused and ready to tackle the next project.

“There are still weeks where I work seven days a week and find myself working until 2 or 3 a.m. in the morning,” Hadeed says. “But it never feels like work, I love it.”

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