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Meet the accountant who ditched the corporate rat race and now employs 500 people in £5m cleaning franchise

Mirror logo Mirror 19/03/2017

Credits: Manchester Evening News © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Manchester Evening News

A former accountant and business consultant who gave up a life of long hours and demanding work now employs nearly 500 people in a £5m cleaning franchise.

Mum-of-two Rachel Ray longed for a greater work-life balance while also fitting in household chores, and was inspired by her own situation.

It’s now been ten years since Rachel changed her life and with 50 franchises and a turnover of£5m, Ray is now looking at expanding her successful business model in Europe in the next 18 months.

In 2007, just as the recession was about to bite, Ray, a qualified chartered accountant, left her demanding role as a business consultant to start Bright & Beautiful, a professional domestic housekeeping franchise that provides an eco-friendly cleaning, tidying, laundry and ironing service, the Manchester Evening News reports.

She said: “I spent 15 years working as an accountant and business consultant in London and Australia. It was a job I really enjoyed as I worked with a lot of SMEs and I really got to understand how businesses worked. But it was also long hours and it was a demanding role.

“But after taking a career break to have children, I began to question whether I wanted to return to that corporate environment and instead become my own boss... the time seemed right to start up on my own.”

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Following her own needs for a housekeeper, Ray began to look at the opportunities available. She said: “The cleaners that came around to my own house were, to be frankly honest, poor.

“I wanted someone I could trust, someone who wanted to do more than just sweeping the floor, I wanted someone who was able to manage a home rather than just clean.

“I started looking into the cleaning market and saw that there was a real gap there for a professional housekeeping service.

“There was also a real demand especially from busy mums, especially as more women were having to go back to work due to the recession and they were working longer hours.”

Ray’s first housekeeping job actually came from her husband Rob’s property maintenance firm.

She said: “I actually didn’t have any cleaners on the books, but a friend of mine was looking for some part-time work so I asked her if she would like to do the job.

“My friend really enjoyed it and did a great job and the client was happy too.

“Soon after that we were getting booked up every week.”

Ray also decided she wanted to put a real focus on the ethical side of the business.

Having suffered from allergic reactions to chemicals when she was pregnant, she wanted to use non-toxic products, and decided to make this a core focus of her company.

She also made sure all staff were trained and had full employment rights.

She said: “I wanted to provide a good place of employment for the whole team; many cleaning agencies hire people on a self-employed basis where they have to fund their own transport and don’t get any holiday or sick pay – it’s not highly regulated and I felt agency workers were often exploited.

“Every housekeeper I employ gets 28 days holiday a year and has full employment rights. Not only does it help attract the best staff but it’s something that clients want to see too.”

After three successful years, Ray decided she wanted to grow the business further through a franchise model which she says will also help to empower women to start their own business.

The first franchise was launched in June 2010 by one of Ray’s employees, Faye Reddy, whose business is now turning over £500,000 a year, all in part- time hours around her kids’ schooling.

Now Bright & Beautiful has 50 franchises and growing.

Last year, the 47-year-old was named Outstanding Entrepreneur at the Northern Power Women Awards which aim to recognise, showcase and celebrate exceptional role models.

She was winner of the Best Business and Best Franchisor categories in the 2016 Best Business Women Awards, as well as being named winner of the SME Growth category in the 2016 Forward Ladies North West Women in Business Awards.

Ray was also shortlisted in the 14th annual NatWest everywoman Awards, the UK’s most prestigious event celebrating the achievements of women business owners.

While the business has grown steadily, it has also come with its own challenges, says Ray.

But having a strong management team, infrastructure and the ability to delegate has helped her take the business from strength to strength.

She adds: “The biggest challenge was getting the infrastructure right, and then having the right people on board to take the business to the next level.

“I’m happy to say I have a great team on board, which means I can delegate.

“That has led to me being able to concentrate on other aspects of the business and I don’t always have to have a hands-on approach.”

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