Twin Cities Concierge Keeps It Nice And Personal
“I am a one-woman show and I am not interested in the big money. I like helping people.”
This is the first thing Diane Schmidt of Twin City Concierge says when asked about her business, which shows up first in a Google search for Twin Cities concierge services. (She was savvy in choosing a name.) She’s run her own business for several years now, after incorporating the business in 2007. She had been dabbling in it for a year while working for a logistics company and had a realization. “I found myself doing all the catch-all things that other people couldn’t take care of. As I did it I thought, ‘You know, somebody needs to do this for everybody.’ ”
She jumped into it full time, living off savings for a few months while building up her business. Clients came through her personal network and through people who found her doing a Google search.
2012 – $55,000
2013 – $58,000
2014 – $62,000
“My name shows up highly in search engines, and that’s paid off for me,” she says.
Although the emails arrive regularly, she doesn’t want to scale up her business too much. She works with about 40 clients, some of whom she visits on a weekly business, another four whom she tends to monthly and some others who require occasional visits for seasonal work. She doesn’t go into the field on Mondays and Fridays, staying in the office and managing things from there, and working with clients in their homes the middle three days of the week. “I start at 7 in the morning those days and get done at 3:30.”
She relies on vendors to handle specific client needs, and has specialty arrangements with a cleaning company, handyman, landscape service, weeding service and delivery service. She keeps a part-time person who handles the St. Paul area on call, and another who is based in downtown Minneapolis; that’s the extent of her back office.
She makes it clear that hers is not a cleaning service. “We’ll come in and do a walk-through in somebody’s house. We’ll come in and tidy the kitchen, dishwasher, change the sheets, sweep up a little bit, water the plants. Just clean up a little bit so it’s not a disaster when you get home.”
While she has plenty of business, it was a slow build at first, which she attributes to a Minnesota reluctance to asking for help.
“The concierge business started on the West Coast and it kind of skipped over us and went to the East Coast. It’s not really big in the Midwest, and I think part of that is the work ethic here. It’s almost thought of as a bad thing to need help. People need to get over that, because everybody needs help with something,” she says.
She drops client work into two categories: helping someone in their everyday life, or helping them with a project. The everyday-life people are her long-term clients who just need an extra set of hands to keep things running smoothly. But project work is where she often gets her new business, which can turn into a regular customer. “Maybe they’re selling their house, they need help decluttering, they need to tap into a tried-and-true group of vendors—the handyman we use, the garden workers we use, the painters. A lot of my work will start out that way and then turn into maintenance-based [clientele].”
She’s starting to get requests from companies to serve as an on-site concierge for their employees. She’s in the process of figuring out the economics for those opportunities. She’s tempted, but she’s loyal to her roster of clients and doesn’t want to move too far away from providing that direct personal touch.
“It’s the little things that add up, and if you could just give that list to someone to take care of, things would be better,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to relieve the stress for someone.”