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Utah Business

Evirokleen CEO Jorge Dennis weighs in on his company’s growth, especially during the pandemic.

His father was a janitor, now he owns one of the largest janitorial services in Utah

Envirokleen, LLC is a family-owned and operated janitorial services company in Salt Lake City specializing in an array of cleaning services. The business was started in 1989 by company president Jorge Dennis’ father. 

In its early days, Envirokleen was nothing more than a family project to put food on the table while Dennis’ father was out of work. Since then, the company has grown to serve local businesses, hospitals, and state agencies alike. 

Dennis’ family emigrated from Sonora, Mexico when he was two years old. As he grew older and his father started the cleaning side job, he and his sister would help out. “I used to go every night with my dad and my job was to empty trash,” Dennis says, recalling the early days working alongside his family. 

It was not Dennis’ plan to stay in the family business. After high school, he attended Brigham Young University as a Pre-Med student before leaving in 2000 to serve a mission in Spain for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While in Europe, he discovered medicine was no longer his passion and switched to business once he returned home. 

He attended the University of Utah where he studied for his MBA with an emphasis in international finance. While in school, the need arose for him to return to the family business and Dennis became president of Envirokleen in 2007. He finally earned his Master’s in 2011.

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Despite his position and title, Dennis hesitates to address himself as an executive. “Never once have I told people, ‘I’m the president of Envirokleen,’” he says. Instead, he refers to himself as a janitor―a word he admits he did not appreciate earlier in his career due to the social stigma behind the work. Nowadays, he fully embraces it. 

“Our people have realized how essential they really are,” he says. Envirokleen is able to invest back into their workforce thanks to low debt and overhead, keeping their turnover equally low. Dennis attributes the company’s success to its employees, particularly during the time of COVID-19.

As Utah moved from a red zone, some businesses slowly began reopening under strict regulations. The overall impact of COVID-19 caused business trends and projections for 2020 to derail with some companies filing for bankruptcy or closing permanently.

However, not all industries took a hit during the pandemic. Aside from the medical industry, janitorial and commercial cleaning services expanded in revenue and activity since lockdown began. Researchandmarkets.com released a report in April valuing the cleaning and maintenance industry in the United States at $117 billion. It went on to say “the cleaning and sanitizing of public buildings has taken on a new importance with the COVID-19 crisis.” 

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Dennis says Envirokleen also experienced dramatic changes in light of public response due to the pandemic. “Over the last few months, what we’ve seen, is that a lot of the other spaces―retail, office buildings, schools―have all increased their level of service to more of a medical-level,” he says. With businesses reopening, Envirokleen advises clients on the best products and methods to use for maximum sanitation in order to maintain that medical-level quality.

Dennis says that the company provides an array of other services as well, helping to keep Envirokleen competitive. He prides himself on having a business model that focuses on accentuating the value of service through competitive pricing and diversity of products. And according to Dennis, services like these build lasting partnerships.

It’s also what makes Hispanic-owned businesses like Envirokleen a model for entrepreneurship. Dennis credits a strong work ethic and family bonds for his success. “Sometimes [a business is] born out of pure necessity like it was in the case of my father,” Dennis says. “Because of his work ethic, because of his sweat equity and working 18-hour days for years, this was able to get off the ground.”