Hi, I'm matt graves. 👋

I am a entrepreneur who acquires and grows employee-owned home service businesses built on "people-first" principles.

Follow the journey of Employee Ventures, as we set out to build local businesses a whole new way - where employee-impact lies at the heart of our mission.

I am currently the President of Cleen Detailing - a mobile car detailing business built on people-first principles, servicing Ottawa and the GTA

About Me

I grew up in suburban Ottawa with my three siblings and incredible parents. While my immediate family members pursued careers in he field of medicine, I had been deeply drawn to the world of business from a young age. From selling hot dogs during garage sales, to exploring the stock market, my early teenage years taught me that I wanted to be a business owner.

At 18, I was thrilled to be accepted into Canada's top undergraduate business school at Queen's University (go Gaels!). When I discovered that my tuition and out-of-city living expenses would exceed $25,000 per year, I quickly realized that my summer job as a lifeguard was not going to put much of a dent in my schooling costs.

And so, in my weekends off from lifeguarding, I started knocking on doors to offer window cleaning services to my neighbours. Within one weekend of cleaning windows, I earned more than an entire week of lifeguarding, and found immense joy in delivering an amazing experience to my customers. Above all, I learned that there was no ceiling to entrepreneurial pursuits - you earn what you deliver in value - and the more you grow as a person, the better your business will be.

As I started my first year of business school, this early entrepreneurial experience remained top-of-mind. While my classmates were preparing for interviews to get traditional summer jobs finance, consulting, accounting, and marketing, I spent my evenings and weekends at school learning what was needed to turn my window cleaning "side-hustle" into a "legitimate" business. From building my first website and advertising on Google and Facebook, to registering a business and hiring employees, I immersed myself in every facet of running a small business.

In the spring following my first year of university, I officially launched Ottawa Student Windows - a student-run window cleaning company servicing the Ottawa region. Over the next three summers, we employed over 15 students with livable wage, and surpassed over $150,000 in revenue. In our third year, I was offered the opportunity to help launch a technology startup out of Toronto called PropertySpark. In a world with business headlines dominated by the Uber's, Instagram's and Airbnb's of the world, I felt torn. On the one hand, I had built the foundation of great local window cleaning business, while on the other hand, I questioned whether I might find more meaning pursuing a technology startup on a bigger scale. I decided to sell Ottawa Student Windows to my general manager for $35,000, and immediately began Monday-Thursday at PropertySpark my 4th year of university traveling that I could explore the world of technology startups.

quickly learned that my tuition and living costs would be north of $25,000 per year. cost to attend university in that while launching my first officially-registered business. business university business school at Canada's top Queen's UniversitySince then, I've wanted to be a business owner from a young age, when I registered my first business at 18 yeas old and began cleaning windows for neighbours to help pay for my business school tuition at Queen's University. Fast forward three summers, and my small operation had surpassed $150,000 in revenue, and provided summer employment that paid a living wage to more than a dozen students.

As I approached my final year of university, I shifted my entrepreneurial ambitions from pursuing an "un-sexy" business like window cleaning, to the "sexy" world of technology startups. I sold my Ottawa Student Windows for $35,000 to my top employee, and joined an early stage real estate startup called PropertySpark, as a Co-founder and it's Head of Growth.

Within a year, we had an MVP of our product, got accepted into a prominent start-up accelerator, and raised equity from friends and family. We then leased an office in downtown Toronto, and hired half a dozen full-time employees. Talk about "sexy" start-up trajectory!

4 months later, we had a serious problem. Our focus on marketing and sales (over product development) led to our customers churning (i.e. cancelling) faster as we could sell. This meant our cash balance was headed for the red, and resulted in laying off the majority of our employees. I left the company shortly thereafter, when our CEO re-located the company to Mexico (to cut costs and begin a re-build).

The "sexy" start-up dream was over.

I came to the conclusion that whatever venture I chose to build next, I needed to see myself willing to pursue for for life. To me, that meant pursuing a mission which aligned uniquely to the skills, values, interests, and knowledge I had gained over my career.

I came to realize what I missed from running my "un-sexy" window cleaning business.

I missed creating a meaningful impact in the lives of front-line employees.

I missed building local careers by offering livable wages and a workplace culture that supported employees' personal and professional goals.

I missed bringing "big business" technology and management practices into the small business world, and constantly innovating for our customers and employees.

And so in 2020, I launched Employee Ventures with the goal of building employee-owned service businesses that champion "people-first" principles.

3 yeas later, we've made two acquisitions and have created jobs that pay living wage for over 30 employees.

Read on below!

Core values

Servant Leadership

The best leaders measure success by their willingness & ability to serve others. The more you give, the more you get.

Unquestionable Character

Do the right thing - even when it's hard. Treat others better than you would treat yourself.

Service Excellence

Be relentless in the pursuit of excellence - for your customers, your employees, and the communities you serve.

Legacy

To leave behind a group of enduringly profitable service businesses, filled with passionate employees who feel valued, fairly compensated, and inspired to move their company forward each and every day.

My first business (a window & gutter cleaning service). I grew it to 150k revenue within 16 operating months, and paid 10 employees (many of which were students) a living wage. In 2017, I sold the business for $35k to Borys - my friend & general manager.

Aberqlean

2016 - 2018

While completing my business degree at Queen's University, I partnered with a local custodian (Jamie, left) to launch a small after-party house cleaning service. I sold my shares and handed off the business upon graduating.

PropertySpark

2017 - 2019

In my final year-and-a-half at business school, I helped co-found a software startup, and was responsible for leveraging technology to build scalable businesses processes across marketing, sales. After 2 years, I realized my real passion was working in service businesses that operate with people (not code), and returned to my roots.

All Pro Painters

2021 - 2023

My first home service investment. I helped one of my best friends (Borys, pictured far left) acquire a 6-figure painting business in Ottawa. We implemented a Living Wage & people-first culture, successfully retained all employees, doubled headcount, and improved annual revenue & gross profit after 2 years. I sold my share back to Borys in 2023.

Cleen Detailing

2021 - Present

I coached the initial student founders in their first 2 years after launching Cleen Detailing. In January 2021, I bought 100% of the business and became Cleen Detailing's full-time CEO.

Over 3 years, our team has:

  1. Implemented a Living Wage policy (raising worker compensation by over 50%), while maintaining 50%+ gross profit margins.

  2. Grew annualized revenues by 400% - on on track to reach $1M in 2024 (up from $160k/year pre-acquisition).

  3. Built a new mobile detailing fleet system from the ground up, more than doubling our service speed for customers.

Over the next 5 years, our goal is to grow Cleen Detailing by 10 times, creating 150 jobs that pay a living wage, and becoming the first nationally-recognized home service brand that is not-franchised.

FAQ's

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