Mould Doctor: why now is the time

Roy Seaman spoke to Graham Stark, Director of Mould Doctor, to discover why the market for treating this problem is growing so rapidly, and why there has never been a better time to invest in this rewarding franchise.

R: Is there a reason for the Mould Doctor business accelerating at the rate it is?

G: I think there are two reasons. Firstly, increased tenant activity and increased legislation favouring tenants to get class-one heath hazards such as mould treated and dealt with properly. Secondly, the way people are now living is to seal rooms up, because the cost of heating has become so expensive. So most properties become sealed boxes, people create moisture, particularly in an evening when families are having showers or baths, cooking, breathing. And so when that moisture is being generated, it tends to be the time of day when people shut their windows, so you end up with humidity being at a level where mould is breeding and being encouraged to breed.

R: What percentage of properties have a mould challenge?

G: Currently, the statistics state that it is between 20 and 25 per cent, within the rental market. We believe it is higher than that, because the numbers that are now coming to us are starting to exceed that.

R: Are there any particular areas of the country that could be expected to provide more work?

G: All in all, it’s a nationwide issue.

R: In relation to qualifying to own the franchise, what background or skills does a new franchise owner need to have?

G: More than anything, personal drive, because if they want to succeed, this is a business model than will succeed, because the time is right to do it. In terms of skills, a basic knowledge within the construction industry would be an advantage, an ability to wield a paintbrush. But neither of these are essential.

R: How long is the training likely to take, not only to be able to treat the mould, but also to effectively represent you as a business?

G: Basically there are three parts of the business: learning to diagnose what’s causing the mould, learning how to treat the mould, and the sales and marketing side of it. The three stages all take two to 2.5 days, some of it with us and some of it on site. The ongoing training will form part of our support, particularly in the first year of operation.

R: What is the cost of the franchise license, and the total cost of all the equipment needed to set up the business?

G: It is £15,000 for the license, and all-in-all about £33,000, but that is assuming people start with none of the equipment, and this figure could be much lower depending on circumstances.

R: So a relatively low investment. What sort of revenue can a franchise owner realistically expect in their first year of trading?

G: Our business model would suggest that in an area as widespread as we operate, (the pilot in Lincolnshire), would be £80-£100,000 year-one turnover. And in a more populous area, I would expect it to be higher than that, and in areas where housing is more expensive, to be even higher still. Net profit would be between £45,000 and £50,000.

R: Some may be happy to earn that money, but could those with slightly more ambition have a second vehicle on the road, so their turnover could increase?

G: It could increase as much as they want to push it. There’s no reason why they couldn’t operate more vehicles.

R: When is the height of the season for this work?

G: The phone starts ringing in October and finishes in May, but in a university town that would push on into June and July, depending on when students leave their accommodation. Though there is a quieter period, if you are working with local housing associations, local councils, etc, it goes all year round. The quieter season also allows franchise owners to easily take a summer holiday. Grass grows in the summer, but mould doesn’t!

R: Why is there no better time than now to get involved in this industry?

G: Because no matter what is said about us coming out of recession, there are still a lot of people living in fuel poverty, where every click of the central heating button is money going out their pocket, and they are therefore very protective about ventilating and not letting money fly out the window.

The business is changing to a degree as well, because not only are we getting enquiries from the rental sector, but also private homeowners are starting to call when they see the vans about, and realise what we have to offer to their own problems that need dealing with. So the whole housing industry suffers with mould to some degree, and it’s lifestyle dependant, not wealth dependant.

The other aspect that’s changing massively at the moment is the impact of the latest housing legislation on landlords, and the fact that landlords are being not only encouraged but in some areas forced to improve housing quality. This is a huge opportunity for people now because the legislation is never going to slacken. For example, the latest legislation is saying that energy rating certificates on properties must achieve at least an E rating from next April, and this may even be tightened in the near future. This is good for our business, because the more energy-efficient a house is, the more people have sealed it up and stopped any heat getting out, and it is effectively going to become a burning cauldron of mould! You could say mould is mushrooming!

R: Is the work rewarding?

G: It is a very enjoyable business, because you always feel you are teaching people something. An example was yesterday, when we went to the property of a young father with two children. He had just got back from his night shift and his wife was just off to start the day shift and he’s at his wits end because he has mould growing in the corner of his daughter’s bedroom. So you explain to him why the mould is growing: a humidity level over 65 per cent and a cold spot to condensate. A wardrobe in the room was preventing heat from getting to the wall and the bedroom was cold as it had no insulation. My infra-red thermometer showed the temperature on that wall was nine degrees. The opposite corner was 18 degrees, so a huge difference in temperature in the same room.

I explained that we would put in a quote to the estate agent to have the treatment done, and that he should reconfigure the room. The look of happiness that he understood how to make the problem go away was very rewarding, and this is just one example.