Ākina-22

Three words to describe The Fresh Desk? Fresh, hearty, hungry. It’s an infectious combo. So we are extremely happy to have them as participants in Launchpad Work.

Founded by Caroline de Castro and Nicole Oxenbridge, The Fresh Desk is a commercial cleaning company which was started in Wellington three years ago after the founders took a situation many of us have faced before, and did something differently to solve it.

After moving to New Zealand from Australia, the pair began applying for jobs to continue their careers here. However, they pretty quickly discovered that getting a job wasn’t as easy as they expected. In fact, even getting a reply from an application was hard to come by. It didn’t take long before, between them, they had applied for more jobs than they could count, but still hadn’t found suitable employment.

To make ends meet during this time the pair started cleaning at the house they were staying at in exchange for reduced rent. And whilst doing so, the idea dawned on them. There is always something that needs cleaning. And there are a lot of cleaners working in pretty tough conditions. Maybe they could start their own cleaning company, and give up the job seeking game. And maybe, just maybe, they could one day grow big enough to recruit new staff. And when they did, they would be sure to reply to every single applicant they got!

And it was that dream which made them apply for Launchpad Work. Through the program the Fresh Desk are looking to scale their business, especially into the Auckland market.

One of the things which stands out about the Fresh Desk is that this hunger for growth is equally matched with the heart to do good with their business. Because of this, very early on they decided that, on top of creating a successful cleaning company, they want to reduce the poverty rate in New Zealand. This is no simple task as it is a rate that is much higher than most are aware, and is an extremely complicated issue to tackle. While this might put others off, it simply fuelled the Fresh Desk’s motivation to make a difference.  

1 in 4 Kiwi kids, or 270,000, live in poverty. It stifles educational achievement, reduces labour productivity and earnings ability and increases the costs of healthcare and crime. 2016 data from the Dunedin Study found that poverty is the single greatest threat to child wellbeing. Its negative effects endure and escalate across the entire lifespan, and poverty has the single greatest direct impact upon New Zealanders’ health, educational and social outcomes. It’s a pretty big problem. But, the Fresh Desk want to change this.

To do so they have committed to paying their staff the living wage. And they are the first cleaning company in New Zealand to do this. They have also committed to employing those who have been marginalised or discriminated against previously in their employment. Refugees, LGBT, solo parents, anyone who may have struggled with employment because of prejudices held against them. The Fresh Desk is committed to justice in employment, and support them along their journey. It’s certainly not the easiest path for them to take, but with their commitment to their vision of fair employment for all, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Along their journey the team have jumped at the opportunity offered by the Ministry of Social Development to implement a flexi wage subsidy to do this, to help them with some employees. Flexi-wage is a subsidy which MSD grants to employers who commit to hiring employees who require support to gain the required skills for the specific role. Receiving this subsidy enabled the Fresh Desk to employ someone who may have otherwise remained unemployed, and spend the time with them they needed to upskill and help them maintain a rewarding role within their company.

And around all of this, they still manage to get a lot of work done, demonstrated by the seven day a week hustle they’ve shown throughout the program so far. Whether it be doing the cleaning, managing their staff, meeting new clients in Auckland, or even having a go at legal agreements, these two do it all. Which is why we weren’t surprised to hear that only a couple of weeks ago the team landed their biggest cleaning contract yet, and biggest by a considerable margin. If we were betters we’d quite comfortably put money on them landing an even bigger contract before the end of the program.

Over the next few months this team have an ambitious list of goals to achieve, and have already surrounded themselves with extremely strong mentors to guide them on this journey. Whether it be creating a new legal structure, better identifying their customers and how to communicate with them, or better defining the impact they want to make and how they are going to achieve it, these two have a lot of work ahead of them, and are climbing each mountain as if they had been doing it forever.