Written by Karen Bryan
Are you an entrepreneur? I am, although not quite of the magnitude of Richard Branson. My first stab at self employment was setting up Chorebusters, a domestic cleaning service in central Scotland. In 1996 I completed my business studies degree, as a mature student, at Stirling University. Our twin sons were nine years old, so I wanted to work locally during the time they were at school.
I’d ascertained that there was a demand for a home cleaning service. I worked for an existing cleaning franchise for a few weeks to get an insight into the business. I started off by doing leaflet drops in the target areas and quickly got my first clients. Within a few weeks I started to recruit staff. Initially everthing went quite smoothly and I was getting more clients through word of mouth recommendations. I was able to keep a tight rein on quality control as I was providing all the transport by taking my employees to and from the various jobs. However, as the business expanded to nine part time employees, standards began to slip as I had some of the staff using their own cars to get to the client’s homes. I ended up doing cleaning almost every day myself due to holidays and illness of the nine part time staff.
In the third year of Chorebusters, I thought that salvation had arrived in the form of a promised contract to clean offices for a large company relocating to Stirling. This would overcome the quality control problem as I could be around to supervise and simplify the transport arramgements. We’d been cleaning the flats leased by this company for staff moving into the area. The office manager had verbally assured me that Chorebusters would get the contract once the new offices opened, but this never materialised.
By that stage I was struggling to see a way forward. The minimum wage was introduced in April 1999, I’d been paying pretty close to that rate but had to increase the prices I charged to cover this. There seemed to be a limit that customers were willing to pay for a domestic cleaning service and I didn’t think there was enough of a differential for me to make a decent profit. So Chorebusters bit the dust.
I was still wracking my brain for a business. However I’d decided that in my next venture I wouldn’t have employees and it would have to be in a sphere in which I had a strong interest. In 2002 the Europe a la Carte travel site was born.
You may be lucky and strike gold with your first business venture. But, like me, it may take more than one attempt to be a successful entrepreneur.