The Entrepreneur

Sometimes all an entrepreneur needs to hear about his or her venture is that he or she is on the right track and should definitely keep at it. For Darlene Duchene, receiving that sort of affirmation was all she needed to keep going strong with her entrepreneurial endeavor, Fish Window Cleaning.

The Pitch


“Fish Window Cleaning is the largest commercial and residential window cleaning business in the country. Our company is headquartered in St. Louis, with four franchise locations in Maryland. As of April 2011, I am the owner of Fish Window Cleaning in Annapolis.

“Our window cleaners are licensed, bonded, insured, come in uniform and are trained professionals. We focus on cleaning from the ground up to five stories, and we also clean gutters, chandeliers, screens, mirrors, ceiling fans and those hard to reach and maintain windows.

“My current challenge is with finding and keeping skilled window cleaners, which in turn makes it hard to grow the business. One aspect of this challenge is that our employees are doing manual labor and are required to do so whether it is 10 degrees or 100 degrees outside. Employees are paid by the job, not the hour, and they must have their own car to drive themselves to the job site.

“For the right people who are independently motivated and like to work outside, it really is a great job. You are your own boss and can schedule as many cleanings in a week as you would like to do. But my challenge is finding and keeping these professional window cleaners. Right now I post the job listing on Craigslist and on I hold group interviews to explain how the job works and bring back those who seem like they would be a great fit with the company. Still, I am having a hard time finding the right people.

“One thing I have been meaning to pursue is reaching out to firefighters — they often work 24-hour shifts and have 72 hours off. A lot of them are looking for things to do during that break, and since you can make your own schedule at Fish, it seems like it would be a good fit. Plus, they are familiar with ladders and can definitely carry the weight of the window cleaning equipment.”

The advice

Asher Epstein, managing director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

“That is always a good question: How do you find those people who are self-motivated to do the work? I have to say that it sounds like you are doing all of the right things. Since you aren’t looking to hire dozens of people right now and are just trying to get a handful of good window cleaners, I think the group interview is a great way to go about it. That way you are not spending too much time on each person, especially since the job will only be a good fit for a few of them. With Craigslist you will definitely get the most bang for your buck because it is free to post job listings on. And, if SnagAJob seems to be working and is inexpensive, I’d stick with that too.

“Keep finding new and innovative ways to get in front of your target employees. I think the firefighter idea is really fantastic. I would definitely recommend you try to tap into that market and for the exact reasons you said — they are free for days at a time, could make their own schedule, are good with ladders and can lift the equipment. That could really be a nice relationship to develop with a local department. You are definitely thinking about your business differently and turning the model upside down.

“You could also try to get hooked into the community college. Students would likely be interested in a job at which they can make their own hours. Overall, it sounds like you’ve got the right strategy and I really wouldn’t change much. Give it time and stick with it — it sounds like this is a very successful and proven model.”

The Reaction


“That is great to hear. I have no doubt that I’ll be able to grow my franchise with time. I will also be sure to tap into the firefighter market in the very near future. I definitely think I could be on to something there.”