Julie Zuercher never intended to be an entrepreneur let alone the owner of a growing hand sanitizer business, Sparkle Janitorial Services.
It just sort of happened, said Zuercher, 42, of Morgantown, who earned a social work degree from Shepherd University.
Through a contact in the construction business, she bought into a fuel supply business that owned a small cleaning products distribution business.
Rather than continue in the fuel business, Zuercher, the mother of three children ages 10 to 15, opted in 2018 to put her time and energy into the cleaning products business.
“I thought I could make enough money,” she said.
The first year in business was tough and Zuercher held a part-time job with the Morgantown Area Partnership to help make ends meet. But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March.
Suddenly Zuercher found herself very busy shipping hand sanitizer and her other cleaning products across the country. In the span of a month, she found herself going from 10 accounts and one school district to 500 accounts.
“I called my supplier in Steubenville (Dynamic Development Inc.) and told them we needed to ramp up the hand sanitizer,” she said. “We weren’t sleeping much.”
These days Zuercher is working out of Cove Run Customs warehouse space in Clarksburg packaging the hand sanitizer, as well as an all-purpose cleaner and degreaser, carpet cleaner, an aluminum brighter and wheel acid remover, a tar remover and a highly concentrated bulk laundry detergent that can remove dirt and grease from clothing.
She is temporarily employing four Cove Run employees who otherwise would have been laid off, as well as three high school students.
“Our product line is pretty diverse,” Zuercher, who said she now works 60 hours a week to meet product demand. She also still has her part-time job with MAP, where she recruits new members.
But it’s the demand for the hand sanitizer that Zuercher is finding difficult to keep up with.
Zuercher said it’s typical that they ship 275 gallons of hand sanitizer three times a week. A gallon of Sparkle Janitorial hand sanitizer is $38.
“I am shipping a lot of my product regularly to Florida,” she said.
The next steps for Zuercher and her company is to move into new space in Westover sometime in July and hire an administrative assistant. She declined to disclose the location until a lease has been finalized, but said she will share the space with another small business.
“We will have a showroom and a warehouse,” she said.
“We’ll see where it goes from there. Two months ago I had no idea I would be here.”
Zuercher is also beefing up Sparkle Janitorial’s website to handle internet orders. The site will also be linked with UPS, she said.
“My ultimate goal is to run a successful business,” she said. “I want to be able to give back.”
What advice would she give to other wannabe entrepreneurs?
“Don’t take the easy way out and don’t compromise on customer service,” she said. “Listen to your customers.”