Thursday 6 October 2016

2inspire Inspirational Woman: Rachel Ray, Founder of Bright and Beautiful

Rachel Ray is founder of Bright & Beautiful an award-winning concept in professional domestic cleaning services, providing eco-friendly cleaning, tidying, laundry and ironing; with the highest standards of security and service.

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?

Like many business owners there really isn’t a typical day but the week will usually include a number of days spent at our Bright & Beautiful Head Office in Altrincham. From here we run the Bright & Beautiful domestic housekeeping franchise network which provides ecofriendly cleaning, tidying, laundry and ironing and now has more than 50 franchises nationally, employing 460 people.
We have a fabulous team of women there, from Sue our Franchise Director, who has over 20 years of franchise experience, to Julie, our Quality Manager who was our very first Professional Housekeeper and now passionately upholds our exceptional service standards and ethics nationwide..  Something that I’ve been very strict with myself about is not letting work overwhelm me and that’s something that our franchisees also really appreciate about our culture.  I’m a great believer in that when you are happy, healthy and rested you are more productive at work so I will always make time for family activities, a lunch with friends or a trip to the gym. This has been easier to achieve as the business has been more established and as I have developed a Franchise Support Team at Head Office. They focus on helping franchisees develop their businesses and visit them around the UK.
A priority of mine is running Discovery Sessions in London and Manchester every month, which are taster sessions for people who are enquiring about our franchise opportunity. I also present sessions at our conferences and workshops which we run quarterly.
Technology has made life a lot easier of course and I will always have my phone with me to check emails and be available to the team during the day. There is definitely a fine line between letting technology become too invasive but I believe it really has revolutionized the way working parents in particular can manage their work and home commitments.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?

I was a business consultant for 15 years, managing a team of 60 and working in London and Australia. In 2007 I took a career break to have a family and when the time came to return to the corporate world decided I wanted to strike out on my own.  Having researched different opportunities - and also having come to hate cleaning and ironing while I was on maternity leave! - I found that there was a real gap in the market for an ethical, professional and family friendly homecare business that was designed for busy people.

The opportunity arose when my husband Rob, who ran a property maintenance business, was asked if he provided cleaning. Rob said yes and I visited the client to create the quote. With the help of my friend Julie and a budget of £200 to cover Julie's wages, uniform and cleaning materials, Bright & Beautiful was born!

I invested everything I had and learnt everything I could about maximising a business, from marketing to web design and my strategy from day one was to grow Bright & Beautiful nationally. Today we have a highly successful business model that is based around a franchise system that trains people to manage a team of specialist professional housekeepers.  

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?

It would have to be helping more than 50 other women and men to start up and run their own businesses that are now employing more than 460 people around the UK. So many of our franchisees had climbed the corporate ladder in their previous roles but had got to a point where the big salary and big office just weren’t doing it for them any-more. Since setting up Bright & Beautiful I have met thousands of women who have come to feel the same, sharing our stories of frustration and exhaustion. They inspired me to create, both for myself and for others across the country, a smart, profitable and ethical business opportunity that allows us to have a good career  but working from home being in charge of our diaries.
We now attract  people from range of backgrounds - current franchisees range from lawyers and teachers to marketeers and policeofficers - all of whom want a profitable career that they can run from home. By joining an already established and successful business team they are able to focus on running and growing their business without having the stress of the things that starting your own business can entail - setting up a website, finances, H&S, legal issues etc.
Importantly we as a business are also committed to supporting underprivileged women, both in the UK and overseas and I’m really proud of that. The business donates at least 10% of its profits to charity, working with Compassion International and other charities and to date has sponsored ten children and supplied equipment to over 40 families to enable them to set up their own micro-businesses. We are also working towards launching a school in Rwanda, using profits from the business, which will make an enormous difference to the amazing children and families we have met in that remarkable country.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?

It was a big risk, especially with two small children, to walk away from a well paid job to start Bright & Beautiful but, having worked in a corporate world for 15 years I knew I had to make this work.
We also launched right as the recession was starting to bite in 2007 and there was a real risk that services considered a luxury i.e. a cleaner would be affected. But we also knew, from our research and talking to other mums, that a difficult economy would actually work in our favour because of its effect on the labour market. As more women were having to go back to work and people were working longer hours, so their free time became ever more precious and they didn't want to spend it doing cleaning and laundry. 

What are your future plans for the business?

The domestic housekeeping sector is a growing one with a million more people today using a cleaner than ten years ago. While many companies have sprung up to meet this demand, what we offer is a real point of difference to clients, franchisees and housekeepers through the quality of our service and the ongoing training.
Bright & Beautiful has plans and an infrastructure in place to enable us to grow nationally in all regions, and aim to double the size of the business within the next 3 years. We currently receive over 100 enquiries per month from people interested in franchise opportunities; a figure that has doubled since 2014. We’re committed to remaining as eco friendly as possible and are continually looking for new and better ways to improve that - from car sharing to using non-toxic products. We are also growing our range of services to meet client demand to include a number of specialist home care services such as the care of antiques and woods; an ironing school and five star hotel standard laundry and bed-making. I am also spearheading a move to raise standards in the largely unregulated £4.7bn domestic cleaning industry, with many agencies and employers offering workers no holiday or maternity pay and little quality control.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Not much really! I’m a great believer in learning from your mistakes and the beauty of what we do is that as a franchisor, whenever we’ve done anything that hasn’t worked, we’re able to absorb that into our franchise training.  So whenever a franchisee comes to us with a problem or an issue, chances are we’ve faced and dealt with it ourselves in the past.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?

The world today holds so many possibilities and what I really love is that it is more widely recognised that a degree and academic success aren’t the be all and end all when it comes to having a great career.  Creativity, energy and positivity go a huge way in making dreams come true!  I also meet a lot of young people who are very practical and pragmatic about achieving their dream, so they may be working in a job that pays their rent and bills while at the same time sowing the seeds of their own business or learning how to progress to the next level of what they want to do.
And I also think it is important to recognise that dreams don’t die as you get older. I’ve always been committed to training and developing the talent within our business and that’s not just women and girls who are starting out in their careers but also older women who may have had a family or a challenging career and want to find a balance between having a career and a family or personal life.  We talk to women every day who had wanted to run their own business for years and are so excited to finally be making that dream a reality.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?

I’d say to anyone looking to start their own business within the franchise industry to find something you think fills a gap in the market and can get  really passionate about. It always makes me smile because people think I must love cleaning and ironing but I’m just the opposite – I started Bright & Beautiful because I didn’t enjoy doing it but couldn’t find a professional, ethical and eco-friendly housekeeping company that I could employ. I’d also advise people to talk to as many people running their own businesses as they can to really appreciate the building blocks of running a business. You really need not to be daunted by learning about everything from running your accounts and managing HR to marketing and social media.

What or who inspires you in business and why?

I’d really have to say it is the women I work with here at Bright & Beautiful. From our Head Office team who are so dedicated and supportive,  our brilliant franchisees and our Professional Housekeepers who take such a pride in their work. Whenever I meet with and talk to them, at training sessions, at our annual conference or just on the phone, I continue to be really inspired by their personal stories and journeys and very proud to be working with them.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?

I love Henry Ford’s quote: “Quality means doing it right when no-one is looking.” If you’re going to start a business you need to be as dedicated as he was to getting it right, otherwise what’s the point?

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