I met up with Katie Straubel on a sunny Wednesday morning at Ginger & Baker for coffee and a conversation. I wanted to know what keeps her buzzing as Queen Bee of her business, Clean Bees Homekeepers, and the role LoCo Think Tank has played in her journey. After chatting a bit about the $8 nitro coffee (really? The velvety foam is worth five dollars more? It just might be…) we dove into the interview proper.
The first question I like to ask our members is: What does your business offer, and in what unique way does it empower our greater community?
“I am fiercely dedicated to helping people love their space,” Katie pronounced. “Our culture isn’t particularly kind to dual income families with kids. Most of my clients can clean their own house…they just want to own back a little slice of their time. Yes, it’s about a clean house, absolutely, but it’s also about peace and serenity and the ability to just not have every weekend taken up by this tedious task.
Katie said her housekeepers clean “the way I like my house cleaned.” And how’s that?
“I’m the pickiest human on the planet…I need somebody who's paying attention to the stuff that I don’t want to do,” but in essence, don’t want to take time for. “I don't wanna do a baseboard, I don't wanna do the blinds, I don't wanna do a light fixture. Yeah… I don't wanna clean my [own] house like that. I wanna enjoy my home [but] I don't want it to feel like a second full-time job.”
She went on to say “There's a lot of cleaning services out there who specialize in something quick and superficial… At Clean Bees, we really focus on a comprehensive service.”
This attention to detail comes through in everything Katie does professionally, from growing Clean Bees Housekeeping to recently opening the NoCo Hive Collective, an office and event space. Katie’s mother and maternal grandfather were both custom home architects.
“I think the love of a beautiful home and a well-designed space kind of radiated in my family lineage, if you will.”
Now Katie has a 13-year-old son, Tristan, with her husband, Mike, who also runs his own business.
“I am my own client, you know?” she said. “I have a busy life. I run two businesses. My partner Mike, runs a business. My gosh. We have a [son] who's involved in five sports! I don't have time to clean my own house.”
I asked her to tell me more about the new NoCo Hive Collective. It seems to me that expanding her business to include the event space was a natural progression of this passion for providing others with a well-designed space.
“I call it the mullet of event spaces,” she laughed. “Business in the front, party in the back… which is funny cuz my son does have a mullet.”
Joking aside, by day the space is reserved for business meetings and co-working, by night (and weekends) the front area is perfect for small parties. Day or night the design is “Sleek, modern, open concept space filled with natural light, a fully stocked kitchen, seating for 30,” as described on the website.
“I wanted to help other people host great events. I've thought about every detail, every piece of serving wear, every piece of linen, every crockpot, you name it. It's well stocked and well designed and it's meant to just walk in again and be easy. People can jump on the website, see the availability calendar, reserve it right there, and they can literally walk in with their party and everything is ready for them. It's designed to be easy. [You] notice a lot of other event spaces are clunky and cumbersome and really expensive…. But not here!”
LoCo is helping Katie celebrate the opening of this new space with our “Join-Me June” Business Owners’ Social on June 22nd. I’m excited to check it out myself! More info on her rentals can be found at nocohivecollective.com.
When Katie moved to Fort Collins over twenty years ago, she left behind her work in the restaurant industry in Orlando, Florida.
“I started cleaning houses on the side and found that I was really great at it [with my] great eye for detail. As time passed, I built a business from there and I think it really is important that business owners have done the work. It makes for a much better run business.”
Katie doesn’t recall a particular “Aha!” moment when she decided to start her own business. It developed as a natural extension of who she was and what she was already doing. I asked her a question using a phrase our founder, Curt Bear, is fond of: “What’s your ‘secret sauce?’”
“I believe that we kind of take ourselves with us,” she said. “You're not suddenly a new person when you open your business as you are when you worked for [someone else].”
That same natural process led Katie to become a LoCo member and grow relationships that she holds close to this day. She values what she has learned about herself in the monthly peer advisory meetings.
“I guess it's been since 2016, I've been a member. We've done two kinds of personality tests: the DISC assessment and Hallos. I think, you know, my secret sauce is that I just take myself everywhere I go and I am highly organized. My Hallos [report says] I’m a 78% achiever, [which translates to] a high orange. I'm disciplined. I'm direct, I'm enthusiastic. I'm highly results driven. I'm obsessed with processes and procedures and efficiency. Businesses are in a constant state of change - there is nothing stagnant for long. So my secret sauce is that I am constantly pushing the boundaries and solving problems at all times.”
In the seven years that Katie has been a member, I was curious about the kind of input her peers had in her business journey. What specific issues did they help her process?
“The first issue that I really needed help with was kind of the metric side of things, whether it was the books and the financials, KPIs, scorecards. That was my first thing that I really needed help with and it was awesome to be sitting in the group with some businesses that were decades ahead of me.
I used to joke that I was gonna make a bracelet that said: What Would Dave Do? Because Dave Hudson was my business idol. He owned Recycled Cycles. He ran his business like it was a math problem. He had a metric and a scorecard and a number for everything. And I just never thought about a business that way.
I think back about all the things that my group has helped me with…the purchase of not one, or two, but three real estate properties. Two businesses and one home (thanks Mike Lebate!). They've helped me through challenges: changing my organizational chart around as my business grew and changed, developing maturing roles, responsibilities, and operating procedures. It's so cool to be in the group for that long. You know, I actually chatted with Curt about this.
One of my favorite things I don't think you can get from a group if you only join for a year is that I watched the long-term relationship with my fellow members. I'll go back to Dave with Recycled Cycles. Watching him, [go through] the last five years of his business and then sell, was such a cool thing to watch.
And then to have it come full circle - the new owner is in our group - to watch an entire other human being run the same business, I just, I love, I love watching that. That's fascinating.”
I agreed that learning from the examples of fellow business owners is one of the really cool things about LoCo. And the more I visit chapters and get to know members, the more I learn as well. The LoCo Experience podcast is another place to access stories like these. Every Monday, we share a new episode featuring a conversation Curt has had with a different business leader in the community. I’m inspired by getting to know the people behind area businesses I’m familiar with, and being able to relate to their personal stories. Katie was one of Curt’s guests in March of 2021. You can find her Experience #19 on thelocoexperience.com.
So what has changed since then? What is her perspective now in her continuing LoCo membership?
“The coolest thing is that, you know, some of our long term members have turned over and we do have a handful of new people. Now I get to give back. Right? There were people who were in our group that helped me in ways through the journey that I…I don't even know if I could articulate it. Running a business is hard.”
“It's relentless,” she went on, “and it doesn't ever really get easier. And it's never done. It's never done.
“But that's probably part of what you love about it too, right?” I asked, thinking of her “Hallos Orange” temperament. The continual, never-done challenge.”
She nodded. “You think you solve a problem and then you go onto the next one and then 30 other problems. You have to go back to the one you thought you solved three years ago! It's been cool to be in a group, watching other business owners do the same thing across a variety of industries.”
“And now we have a new member in the group. And this is the first time we've had somebody who really needs the same level of help that I did back in 2016. And so it's kind of cool to now give back in that same way.”
“That must be really gratifying,” I said.
“It is kind of gratifying. Yeah. It's deep. [It comes] full circle and I was like, wait a minute. Yeah, I know exactly where you're at and I can help you! I love that. It's been fun.”
During our conversation, I quickly became interested in hiring Clean Bees to do some of the detailed cleaning I don’t want to take time for. I asked her to share how her process works.
“Getting your house cleaned by Clean Bees is simple. During the pandemic, we had to figure out a way to quote houses when people didn't want to see you in their home, so we learned how to quote virtually. Everybody who wants a cleaning, whether you want repeat service or you want a one time cleaning, you just quickly show us around your house, either in person or virtually, we present quotes same day, then you choose from the 3 options provided. It's so easy to sign up.” You can schedule your estimate today on cleanbees.com.
I asked if I could grab a quick photo of her in our cute corner of Ginger and Baker before we parted ways. “Come here, you get in it too,” she said, “We’re friends now!” 😄