The idea came to Brooke McFarlin while she was scrubbing the shower in her student apartment in West Campus Housing.
“I was like, ‘I would pay someone to do this right now,” says McFarlin, a freshman majoring in communication at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Now she and business partner Alayna Grover are trying to make that happen. Their app, College Cleaners, would solve the “don’t-wanna-do-that” issue and include an added layer of benefit.
Now in the early planning stages, the app is designed to connect college students who’d like help with household cleaning with students who’d like some extra cash.
“I’ve got a tight schedule most of the time, and I thought, ‘I bet there would be people out there who might be willing to sign up and help someone out by cleaning or picking up groceries or letting out someone’s pets,’” said McFarlin, who graduated from Blackman High School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Grover, a freshman in civil engineering, said her father is a software engineer who has developed apps in the past. He provides a connection to someone who might be able to design College Cleaners from a computer-code-writing starting point, she said.
In November 2022, McFarlin and Grover pair presented College Cleaners to three judges from local businesses during the Hatch It! Mocs Big Business Idea Pitch Competition, sponsored by the UTC Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
The College Cleaners idea didn’t win first prize, but the judges’ reaction to it was a confidence boost and convinced the would-be student entrepreneurs that their app could have commercial legs.
The two students are conducting an online survey to determine whether College Cleaners has a potential market and, if so, what features the market wants.
So far, most respondents think the business idea is a good one, with about 50 percent wanting to hire someone and 50 percent wanting to be hired, the pair said.
“We typically get positive feedback, but with me and Brooke face-to-face with each other, I’ll tell her all the negative feedback, too,” said Grover, who graduated from White House High School, about 30 miles north of Nashville.
Cost for each service will be variable. The service provider quotes a rate, and the cleaning customer can accept it, negotiate price or seek another service provider.
“Our idea, which might be most appealing and a good value proposition to (service provider) clients is that you can set your own rates. As the owners of the app, we’re not going to be regulating people’s rates. It’s going to be encouraging their entrepreneurial independence,” McFarlin said.
Background checks will be conducted on students seeking to participate as service providers listed by College Cleaners, McFarlin and Grover said. A rating system will enable app users to compare the experience on both sides of the transaction. Did the cleaner do a good job? Did the client pay on time or at the agreed price?
The decision to target the app to college students is not just because of the perception that students can be a bit lax on cleaning.
“It needs to be encouraged that we’re helping out one another. Not to say that the rest of the world can’t help out college students, but I feel like it’s just more beneficial to have college students helping out one another,” McFarlin said.