Ovenclean turns up the heat!
Ovenclean has emerged as one of the hottest franchise opportunities of the year, proving an increasingly popular choice for would-be business owners from widely differing backgrounds and circumstances.
Rising customer demand is keeping franchise owners busy, supporting the development of multi-vehicle management franchises across the country and putting pressure on the Ovenclean team to expand the network to keep pace.
According to Chief Executive Julian Minwalla, turning up the heat on marketing has made the real difference. Within weeks of launching its new customer-focused website this summer, Ovenclean was experiencing massive increase in traffic with new enquiries up by 150 per cent. Advertising in national glossy magazines has raised the brand profile and word-of-mouth recommendation from thousands of happy Ovenclean customers is spreading the word about a fabulous service that until recent years, many had never even heard of.
"Ovenclean was the first company to launch a domestic oven cleaning service and the brand has now been around almost 20 years, so its track record is solid and its customer base is incredibly loyal," Julian says. "The business model is straight forward and well proven, operating overheads are low and the potential marketplace for Ovenclean services is just huge. Franchise owners have flexibility and control over their working hours, they can make really good money and love the sense of satisfaction that delivering a really well appreciated service brings."
Duncan's business takes off!
Duncan Chandler is one of Ovenclean's most recent recruits. A former financial manager who found himself redundant for the second time at the end of last year, Duncan launched his new business in March and has been amazed at how quickly it has taken off.
"I booked over 70 customers on my first weekend, equating to several weeks' confirmed work," he says. "New business continues to flow in and my diary has been fully booked weeks ahead ever since!" In addition to his domestic customers, Duncan is building a strong, regular income from cleaning student lets, some directly for the local university, others through local contract cleaners and letting agents.
"Word of mouth is a very important part of gaining new business," he explains. "Lots of my new enquiries come through satisfied customers, but also people see my van or spot the uniform and ask for a quote."
Duncan's hard work and proactive attitude is paying dividends. His business is growing well and he's enjoying the freedom, variety and huge satisfaction of his new lifestyle as an Ovenclean franchise owner.
"My life is a lot less stressed now - I seem to have found a virtually recession-proof business which has delivered control, flexibility and great satisfaction. It's very different from being a small cog in a large organisation. Previously I was demoralised and constantly looking over my shoulder to see where the axe might fall next. Now I will stand or fall by my own efforts. I feel more secure than I did in employment and feel so much happier about my future!"
Although keen not to run before he can walk, Duncan says he sees a definite possibility of expanding his business to at least a second van before long.
Julian Minwalla confirms that while plenty of franchise owners are happy to remain as "a man and a van" business, building a management franchise is nevertheless a route many in the network are already successfully following.
"There is no typical Ovenclean franchise owner, nor a particular format for expansion," he explains. "Some of our top earning franchise owners are individuals who manage a team of employees, others are husband and wife partnerships who find the franchise works well around home commitments."
Mike Watts little dreamed when he launched his Ovenclean franchise five years ago, that he was establishing the beginnings of a thriving family business, which would provide an excellent living for himself and his wife, as well as his two sons.
Mike had previously run a small shop in their village but when it closed he decided to look for something different - something that would give him the same independence, but with fewer ties than a retail business.
Mike's wife Jeanine takes up the story: "We spotted the Ovenclean franchise and thought it sounded interesting, but before taking things further, we undertook our own survey to find out how many people would be interested in using a domestic oven cleaning service.
"The overwhelming majority of people we asked gave a positive response, which encouraged us to visit the company's head office to find out more."
After their visit, Mike and Jeanine felt convinced that Ovenclean was right for them and launched their new business in June 2005. The business took off pretty quickly and after 18 months had become sufficiently successful for Jeanine to reduce her working hours at the bank and join the business part-time to handle administration and new sales calls. Shortly afterwards the couple's younger son, Daniel started to work for them too, providing extra back up for Mike.
"Today we have around 2,700 regular customers," says Jeanine. "We have two vans on the road and are busy six hours a day, five days a week. When we found we were regularly booked solidly for up to three weeks ahead, although it was great for us, it wasn't ideal for new customers who usually want their ovens done as soon as possible. So, we decided to offer our elder son, Byron, the chance to join the business on a full-time basis."
The couple has never looked back and Mike declares running his business is "the best job I've ever had!". The family's Ovenclean business has grown year on year to the extent that they have expanded to take on a second territory and are planning to put a third van on the road!
"It wasn't my intention to build a family business as such," Mike grins, "but we're delighted to have both the boys on board. I'm so glad that we're all working together now, with shared goals and a shared commitment to the future - we're looking forward with confidence to growing our fantastic family business, we all just love it!"
Reported by Megan Dunmore