Zac Copper Washes Windows, Fixes Fire Damage and Kills Coronavirus
Zac Copper '18 has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. He walked dogs after school when he was in second grade, sold trinkets at local farmer's markets in middle school, and created a part-time window cleaning business as a teen to make money for college.
"I was going around knocking on doors with my little squeegee from Home Depot cleaning windows for my neighbors," he said. "Entrepreneurship was very normalized with me growing up. My parents really pushed me to do my own thing and figure out a way to make my own money. I was always starting something or trying something out."
What began as a hobby has blossomed into Northbay Maintenance, a mostly commercial-based, full-service cleaning and restoration company in Northern California. The expansion commenced while Copper was still a student at Bradley — prompted by, of all things, the Jonah Hill movie "War Dogs."
"I watched that movie one night, where they win this government contract for guns and arms. I was inspired and was like, 'I wonder if the government puts out any contracts online for window cleaning?'"
Copper found a bid for a facility in Richmond, Calif., near his hometown. He completed the 100+ page application out of curiosity, confident that he didn't stand a chance of acceptance. One month later, he was awarded the third-largest bid for window cleaning in California in 2017.
The entrepreneurship major excitedly headed west to fulfill the contract, a semester shy of graduating. Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship Eden Blair and other faculty members mentored Copper and created a program allowing him to finish classes remotely while hitting the ground running with his business.
"I'm ever grateful because that was hugely pivotal for me," he shared. "It launched me into something I felt confident about taking a risk on."
Three years later, Northbay Maintenance has over 30 employees — including other Copper family members — and two booming divisions: general maintenance and restoration and remediation. The 23-year-old founder and CFO obtained his general contractor's license, allowing the company to take care of building needs beyond windows, from gutters to carpet cleaning to painting. But it's the restoration and remediation department that has really taken off in 2020.
One of the first in the area to use electrostatic sprayers to battle COVID-19, Copper and his staff conduct routine disinfection for high-traffic establishments like hotels, restaurants, schools and government buildings. Most importantly, they're keeping first responders safe by sanitizing local ambulances and police and fire stations after they come in contact with infected individuals.
Horrific wildfires in the region have also kept Northbay busy with their fire and smoke restoration services. Well-trained teams arrive and often start working in as little as 24 hours, assessing damage, cleaning and repairing structures, and dealing with insurance companies. The main objective is to get people back to normal as quickly as possible.
"I think the silver lining for us is it's so gratifying to be able to watch some of these homeowners and business owners get back into their properties after being away for weeks," Copper said.
"Sometimes cleaning windows can be kind of a thankless job, which is fine; I'm not looking for kudos. But with this one, you can see it right then and there — the owner coming back and just lighting up, excited that they're back to living. It's very touching."
— Wendy Vinglinsky
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Above: Photo by Nick Johnston