Is starting a business during a pandemic the craziest idea ever? Some people don't think so. Business innovation is soaring across the country despite a recovering economy. Here is another story of COVID innovation in Acadiana: 

Lottie Francis’ cleaning business, Malmak Cleaning Service, is her side hustle while she does billing work at Azar Eye Clinic. But that business, like so many others, has slowed some since the pandemic hit.

So she’s trying to fight back and find more opportunities. A solution? Take a chance and invest in an electrostatic machine and offer a deep clean, or a COVID clean, to sanitize and disinfect offices. It’s a machine that you wear on your back, and she’s hoping the $350 purchase can lead to more opportunities and more revenue.

“I saw it as an opportunity to increase clientele,” Francis said. “I started seeing on Facebook that some companies were doing it. Then I had another friend of mine. He was into flooring. He had the machine. He gave me some pointers on what to do, and that’s when I ordered the machine.”

If she can hustle up more clients through the investment, it won’t be the first time. She launched Malmak — named for her children, Malika and Makiya — after she got laid off following her move back to Lafayette from Houston in 2012. A friend who had a car detailing business knew how serious she was about keeping a clean house and connected her with a client who lost a housekeeper.

She found more houses to clean and then offices. A side hustle was born.

“I’ve been doing this for so long,” Francis said. “It’s a relationship instead of just a cleaning. My people are older. They’re real sociable. I go shopping, and we do stuff. It’s a little more than just cleaning the house.”

Francis also recently consulted with Corey Jack with Jack & Associates, who then connected her with marketing students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette who will do marketing work for her as part of a school project.

She had three employees but has dropped down to two after she lost an office client. But she’s hoping the investment can lead to three more office customers.

“The plan is to grow the cleaning service," she said. "I’m going to have the crew and I’ll be there monitoring and supervising and go in when needed. The plan is to not be doing a whole lot of cleaning myself.”

Acadiana Business Today: Why these Acadiana entrepreneurs are starting or investing in new businesses amid coronavirus

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