Western Sweeping LLC

In 2020, a new female entrepreneur and her new commercial pavement sweeping company entered the virtually 100% male-dominated industry. Marie Miller of Western Sweeping LLC in Phoenix, AZ has been leading her business to soaring growth over these past two years, from zero to five new sweeper trucks and a field staff now consisting of her husband and 5 drivers.

It’s an extraordinary story of the rapid scaling of a pavement sweeping business. But, how did she do that? And, what may she envision for the fledgling company’s next amazing feat of small business success in the expansive Phoenix metro market?

Stunning Growth in First Two Years for Western Sweeping

Well, Miller has already achieved a spectacular growth rate throughout her first two years in business and gained the respect of her drivers and clients in a very rare female-owned business. That amounts to a career’s-worth of accomplishments.

Marie’s first sweeper truck arrived on her birthday in June 2021, so there was a lot to celebrate that spring and a bit of symmetry: new age, new spring season, new business, new truck, new future. The second new truck was delivered in 2021, also in June. Now, after just two years, Marie has added two more brand new sweeper trucks! Plus, a fifth new truck is scheduled to arrive soon after Christmas 2022. So, has it been all upside for Marie and Western Sweeping?

The Inevitable Downside – Early Struggles

No, it has not been all roses and buying shiny new sweeper trucks for Marie. She explains, 2021 started out really rough. It was hard to get our name out there. Lots of cold calling. Only a few people would try us and let us do their work. We were trying to reach the customers that weren’t happy with the breaking down trucks that caused poor service from their current vendor. Our goal was to be a company that had good trucks, with reliable newer equipment.

Reflecting Excellence Through Service Pricing

When I was trying to determine what our rates should be, It was really baffling to try to find out what our competition is charging. I couldn’t find rates for anyone. Having variable rates for different customers, if that’s what they were all doing, seemed like a nightmare for bookkeeping.

So, we decided early on that we were going to be transparent. If our work is excellent, people will be willing to pay for excellence. If we have any rate changes, everyone gets an email. I want to keep all the rates for everyone the same. So, our rates are posted online. That way, everyone knows they are all the same for everyone.

From the beginning, we weren’t the cheapest company. We were priced pretty high at first. People would not call us when they heard that. But, we were actively handing out cards on job sites and people saw how well our trucks were performing, and it kind of exploded. This year has been very busy.

My husband was driving a sweeper truck 60 hours a week. I was pregnant with our third child. We said something had to give, so we hired an operator in February. He has a lot of experience in the industry and a lot of contacts. He has been vital in this year’s growth, with his contacts. We’ve hired four operators and are about to hire our fifth and sixth in January.

Western Seeping LLC Sweeper Trucks and Equipment

We’re often a subcontractor under someone else’s ADOT contract. We work with teams as they do paving, sealing, repaving, milling, striping, etc. All our trucks can do trackout. The Tymco 600 is a regenerative air sweeper. In cracks, it does well at pulling out debris, whereas the typical mechanical broom just knocks it back into the hole. We envision our future being in the asphalt and milling support roles.

Our trucks are all X-Brooms and Tymco 600, which are most suitable for bigger needs. We recently bid on an SRP contract, which has some parking lot needs in that bid. If we win that one, we could add a smaller truck.

We were recently able to add a pickup truck with towing capacity to pull a sweeper and for onsite issues. My husband can take his tools and go to handle the truck problem. He can do 100% of the broom wear and 90% of the repairs on the sweeper trucks. That has really helped us. If he’s stumped, he can call the mechanic we also use. Having X-Brooms Support right in Mesa is a big benefit too.

What Sets a Business Apart in the Outsized Phoenix Market?

Along with the Millers’ aggressive approach to marketing directly on the job sites, strong pricing, etc., Marie attributes the company’s extraordinary growth rate to this simple fact: We pick up the dirt and don’t break down on the job site. Our operators are all highly skilled. We probably pay the most for skilled people. They’re professionals interacting on the job sites. The customers can rely on a good job being consistently done.

Plus, we answer our phones. Just that following through on the scheduling, and prompt phone response makes a big difference in what the customers are used to for service quality. We deal with a lot of last-minute requests. The solution for customers is for us to answer the phone and get a sweeper there as quickly as possible.

The ability to be responsive makes the difference. I think we have that because we are such a lean team. I know exactly where everyone is and can get there fast.

From a Family of Entrepreneurs

So, how did Marie Miller end up as the owner and operator of a commercial pavement sweeping company? And, how did she grow the business from zero to five sweeper trucks in just three years? She explains, I was raised by a family of entrepreneurs. My family was responsible for lots of different types of construction jobs.

As a child, I became very familiar with construction sites by helping my dad. For example, I worked in his shops at his woodworking company from an early age. When I got married, we had a trim carpentry business together. My husband had had it since he was 18. He went to college to be an environmental engineer and I became a school teacher. We talked about starting a business.

A friend in Cheyenne, Wyoming told us about street sweeping. We found it to be a great opportunity. Phoenix was booming. We were in a time period when we had kids, and I didn’t want to teach anymore, and my husband was losing his corporate job because of COVID.

So, we started up in December 2020 with a business plan. The financing was really difficult. But, now I own and run the company and my husband is the Operations Manager. He oversees the trucks. I do all the dispatching, advertising, sales, office management, all the behind-the-scenes work.

Western Sweeping Business Model

What percentage of your business is working on construction sites, in industrial facilities, parking lots, or municipal or HOA street sweeping? “About 30 percent is asphalt repair and maintenance. There is actually a slight seasonal ebb and flow from winter to summer even here in Arizona. In winter, our work is probably about 40 percent trackout, hauling AB, dirt, concrete for companies going out of construction sites. About 20 percent of our business is for scheduled services for HOAs, and the remaining 10 percent or so is last-minute service calls.

Developing a Unique Company Image

What are points of differences in how you work with your target client base, differences that make your company stand out? To develop a unique identity for her company, Marie has solid brand building ideas for the future.

All the trucks have logos. We all have badging on all our equipment. The drivers’ reflective gear has Western Sweeping printed on it. Everyone has business cards. At this point, we don’t have signage, since we have the private land to run the fleet out of our home on our 3 acres. Currently, we can have everything on site.

Daily Sweeping Business Ops at Home on the Farm

Our trucks are running 60 plus hours per week, and evenings and weekends maintenance is being done. My two-year-old son has his wrench and drill, and my five-year-old daughter thinks she is a business manager. Our new baby was born last March, 9 months ago. So, our days involve moments when I’m feeding the goat, with a child under foot, while answering the phone all at once.

Potential Adverse Impacts to the Business’s Success

It’s hard to predict. The fuel cost has really affected our operational cost, how much we can pass on to the customer and how much we can absorb to keep pricing and costs balanced. Phoenix sweeping rates were really low. To be on the top end but still competitive and stay in that sweet spot has been the challenge.

We want to be friends with other pavement sweeping providers in the area and help make the industry here work for everybody. We’re not trying to put anybody out of business. We really have that excitement about wanting to work together with our peers. For example, we went to the X-Broom Christmas party and it was really fun. We’ve gotten to know each other and we give each other work.

Advice For Newcomers to the Industry from Marie Miller

It’s very satisfying to see that our hard work is providing opportunities for other families in the community as well as ours. We are currently able to provide satisfying jobs for four employees and will have more in the future.

Hiring local workers and seeing the rewards of that rolling out to my community so that people can maybe afford to buy a home in the future or raise their standard of living is very rewarding. To have a business that does well enough that we can do that means a lot to us.
Our employees say they don’t want to work for some big company — to be just a number. They want to be part of something more meaningful. To inspire people to start small businesses the way my family inspired me gives someone a purpose. That’s a very satisfying accomplishment for us.