For This Industry, Floods and Droughts are an Opportunity

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The U.S. is home to an estimated 40,523 carpet and upholstery cleaning businesses, and the industry generates about $4 billion of revenue every year. But now, entrepreneurs within the industry are adapting to the consequences of two major natural disasters at opposite ends of the weather spectrum — floods and droughts.

In Colorado, enterprising millennial Jonathan Barnett founded Oxi Fresh nine years ago in Denver, Colorado, when he was just 21. He wants to help pioneer environmentally friendly carpet cleaning techniques. Already, Oxi Fresh operates 30 franchises in sun-parched California, which is desperate to conserve water in the face of a historic, and worsening, drought.

“The difference maker with us is that we use about two gallons of water versus our competition that uses 50,” Barnett said. “We’ve saved the planet 25 million gallons of water.”

And Oxi Fresh’s eco-friendly model is paying off. The company’s young founder says his franchises have completed more than 500,000 jobs and runs about 300 franchises in the U.S. and Canada. In fact, he says the company is growing so fast he’s had to cap the number of new franchises opening.

But unfortunately, droughts aren’t the only water-related issue for Americans to contend with. In Southern California, Vaca’s Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning wants to help homeowners and businesses deal with the effects of too much water. After intense July rainstorms, founder Rick Vaca says he received a deluge of calls from homeowners panicked over water damage. Vaca helped remove “hundreds of gallons of water” from a single house.

“We extracted as well as we could without pulling out the carpet,” he said.

Climate scientists say that in the decades to come, both the U.S. and the world at large will struggle to cope with both an excess of water and a dangerous lack of it simultaneously. Both Oxi Fresh and Vaca’s are coping well with California’s water challenges. And if extreme weather events like floods and droughts do in fact become more common, they could represent the future of their industry.

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