Hamilton brothers turn CERB into pandemic-proof business
When faced with the financial uncertainty of a global pandemic, two local brothers decided to turn their Canadian Emergency Response Benefits (CERB) into a profitable pandemic-proof business.
In March, when COVID-19 reared its ugly head in Hamilton, brothers Aidan and Jackson Porter found themselves laid off from their restaurant positions.
“I was so tired of sitting at home,” Aidan told InTheHammer. “We really just wanted to have something to do and if we made a couple bucks, so much the better.”
Aidan toyed around with the idea of lawn maintenance and landscaping — a trade that would allow for physical distancing — but felt the market was already too saturated.
“I did some window cleaning for my summer job last year and thought it was pretty fun,” he said. Also, he noted, everyone needs their windows cleaned and with people home more now, they are noticing just how dirty they are.
And so was born Porter Bros. Window Cleaning.
Aidan, who is a recent graduate of Niagara College, enlisted the help of his younger brother Jackson, who is set to start at the University of Waterloo in a few weeks.
“I was laid off from my restaurant job too,” Jackson said. “So [Aidan] trained me up and we got to work.”
The pair took some of their CERB payments to put towards purchasing some of the tools they would need to get started.
“There’s not a ton needed so start-up costs are pretty low,” Aidan said. They picked up ladders, window cleaning supplies and a leaf blower for cleaning out gutters (a service they also offer on top of window cleaning).
They also relied on BarterPay Canada, a Hamilton-based business-to-business barter exchange system that was founded by the Porters’ father, John.
They took out a small loan of BarterPay credits and used them towards developing branding and marketing materials.
To pay off their ‘loan,’ they cleaned the windows of several businesses in the BarterPay system.
“It was really helpful to use BarterPay,” Aidan said. “It really kept costs down.”
Both Aidan and Jackson credit their father’s entrepreneurial spirit for their decision to push forward with developing a business of their own.
“He’s a big inspiration to us,” Jackson said.
When things started picking up, Aidan and Jackson brought their younger brother, Tommy, onboard to help with the ever-increasing workload.
“We work as a team,” Jackson said. “Sometimes [Tommy] needs a little more direction but he’s coming along well.”
Since May, the brothers say they’ve tackled more than 250 homes.
“It started with us just going door-to-door and handing out flyers in our neighbourhood,” Aidan said. “Then word of mouth really got around.”
Once they started gaining traction in their immediate community in Niagara and Stoney Creek, they gained some media attention.
The Porters were featured in a profile in the Hamilton Spectator and in Niagara this week.
“After that, it just took off,” Aidan said.
“We’re doing three to four houses a day,” Jackson added.
With Jackson heading to school in September, Aidan says he’ll be looking to bring others on board to help fill the void and keep things humming along until late in the fall.
Aidan says that in the fall, the focus for many of their clients will likely be on gutter cleaning but the brothers will also be offering a service where they put up Christmas lights for customers.
“After that, we’ll take the winter off and get back at it in the spring,” he said.
So what exactly makes window cleaning fun for the Porters?
“It’s just so, so satisfying,” Aidan said of the process of applying the soap and squeegeeing it off.
“It’s not super taxing,” Jackson adds. “Once you get over your initial fear of heights, moving the equipment around can be tiring but it’s not bad.”
“It’s also cool to be working with your friends,” Aidan said.
Photo courtesy Porter Bros. Facebook page
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