Charlottetown entrepreneur Postie Connolly went looking for a new business opportunity about a decade ago, one that would help put his three sons through university.
He also wanted that idea to be environmentally friendly.
Connolly found a company in Italy that makes ‘the vapour dragon’, a vacuum-like device that cleans just about anything for businesses, restaurants, car dealerships and homes, using only water and steam.
It has been a huge hit with glowing testimonials plastered on his website from business owners across Atlantic Canada.
Yet, Connolly says his eco-friendly business idea is still a well-kept secret. So few people know about it, especially homeowners.
At one time, Connolly was a household name across Canada among sports fans. He and partner Larry Resnitzky hosted the syndicated radio program Sports Wrap, broadcast out of Charlottetown across the country.
When the pair signed off for the last time on the radio show, Connolly, also a former high school teacher, launched his own company, selling alarm systems to businesses.
“It was only two to three years old and it wasn’t generating enough revenue for me to have three boys,’’ Connolly says of the alarm company. “My wife wasn’t working and with three boys in university so (my steam cleaner business) was founded out of necessity.’’
Connolly used the customer base he had with the alarm company and started selling businesses in Charlottetown — Dairy Queen, McDonald’s, Burger King and the Rodd Charlottetown Hotel, to name a few — his ‘Vapour Dragon’.
He began buying the machines from a man in Fredericton, N.B., who had the Canadian distribution rights. When he lost interest, Connolly bought the rights from him and launched his own company, P.E.I. Vapour Systems.
While past sales have focused on businesses like hospitals, hotels, restaurants, theatres and supermarkets, Connolly feels the time is now for the residential market.
Craig Jones, general manager of the Rodd Royalty Hotel in Charlottetown, can’t stop raving about the eco-friendly steam machine. And it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that he has a hard time finding the machine. Everyone in the hotel wants to use it.
“It just uses steam so you’re not sitting there having to put a heavy soap or heavy shampoo into the carpet. When we do our room care, we can steam the mattress and it kills and disinfects anything that could ever be on there. It cleans it and sanitizes it and the thing is we can sell (the room) that night because (the mattress) isn’t soaked.’’
It also removes any risk of bed bugs becoming an issue.
In the past, the hotel has used the standard carpet extractor to clean the beds as well as the floors. The problem with that is that is takes the guest room out of commission for two days.
“In the summer time, we’re running 98 per cent full. We’re sold out most days. I can’t afford to have this room off market.’’
The guest room Connolly used to demonstrate his steam cleaner runs $170 per night in August so having that room out of commission for two days will cost the hotel $340.
They also used the steam cleaner to remove a coffee stain in the carpet, gum off a chair, a red wine stain off another chair as well as hard-to-get-out stains like grout in the kitchen. The chairs that were steam cleaned were dry inside five minutes.
And the device is as easy to haul around and use as any standard Electrolux vacuum cleaner. Simply pour in the water, turn it on and within 20 minutes it’s ready to go. The machine produces heat at 280 degrees yet isn’t hot to touch and won’t cause burns, unless the user quite literally inserts their finger into the spray nozzle while spraying.
Car dealerships, like Brown’s Volkswagen, are using the machines on vehicles, especially for interior deep cleaning. Since surfaces dry in seconds, users choose steam cleaning for seats, consoles, dashes, cup holders, vents and door jams.
“The detailing department absolutely loves it,’’ said Tammy Roach at Brown’s. “We also like the fact that you don’t have to use any chemicals.’’
Larry Allen, at Stanley Villa Seniors Residence, says the steam cleaner has given his business an advantage because seniors are susceptible to chemicals.
“We clean wheelchairs, doorways, shower rooms, stainless steel items and the kitchen,’’ Allen said. “To my amazement, it took molds and mildews off the ceiling. Normally, we would use some toxic chemicals and descalers. We have eliminated using heavy cleaners.’’
Mike Hensman, head of maintenance at Rodd Royalty Hotel in Charlottetown, said it’s easy to sum up what the little machine can do.
“It literally takes clean to a whole new level,’’ Hensman said.
Just the facts
- Steam is a natural source using pure clean water to create a powerful cleansing force.
- Steam leaves no toxic residues on surfaces and won’t stain fabric. It also kills well known bacteria such as ecoli, listeria and salmonella.
- Commercial vapour steam cleaners range in cost from $1,050 to $2,550.
- Residential vapour steam cleaners cost $950.
- P.E.I. Vapour Systems owner/operator Postie Connolly has sold the machine to restaurants, golf courses, hotels, seniors homes/nursing homes, supermarkets, cleaning companies, research companies, car detailing, pest control companies, fitness centres, animal kennels, honey bee operators, theatres, schools and post-secondary institutions.
- Residential applications include vehicles, barbecues, carpet cleaning, showers, windows, bathrooms, mattresses, golf clubs, floors (not recommended for heavy use on hardwood floors), and stoves.
- Email Postie Connolly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Call him at 1-888-629-0048 (in Canada). Telephone support hours are Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. AT.
Craig Jones, right, general manager of the Rodd Royalty Hotel in Charlottetown, says the eco-friendly vapour steam cleaning machine the hotel purchased from P.E.I. Vapor Systems owner/operator Postie Connolly can clean just about everything inside the hotel, including mattresses. The best part, he says, is that the mattresses dry in minutes which means that room can be sold that night.
© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel