A Real Family Affair

Ovenclean has served up a franchise for all the Watts family, with husband, wife and now two sons all involved

Little did Mike Watts know when he first invested in an Ovenclean franchise that after four years, his business would become a real family affair, first involving his wife Janeane and subsequently his sons Byron and Daniel. 'It wasn't my intention to build a family business as such,' he says, 'but I'm so glad that we're all working together with shared goals and a shared commitment to the future - we love it!'

Previously, Mike had a small shop in his village. When it closed he transferred his stock and for a while looked after the newsagent side of another store. However, he missed having his own business and realising he had lost interest in retailing, started to look around for something entirely different.

'We spotted the Ovenclean franchise opportunity and thought it sounded interesting,' explains Janeane. '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 - from family and friends, to neighbours and work colleagues - gave a positive response, which encouraged us to visit the company's head office to find out more.'

After their visit, Mike and Janeane felt convinced that this was the right franchise for them and launched in June 2005. The business took off pretty quickly and after 18 months had become sufficiently successful for Janeane to reduce her working hours at the Abbey Bank and join the business part-time to handle administration and help with 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 Janeane. 'We have two vans on the road and are busy six hours a day, five days a week. Currently, we are booked up to three weeks ahead, which is great for us, but isn't good for new customers who usually want their ovens done as soon as possible. Therefore a month ago we decided to take on our elder son Byron, full time.'

Mike describes his role as 'the best job I've ever had' and says that the satisfaction he gains from providing top quality cleaning services is immense. 'The look on a new customer's face is something to behold!' he grins. 'People have heard about the results we achieve, but are invariably amazed when they see for themselves how we can transform their oven back into looking virtually brand new - no matter how dirty it was when we first arrived!'

Things haven't always been plain sailing for the Watts family, however. Mike became seriously ill just after Christmas and was unable to work for a number of weeks. Despite the worry, the family pulled together and, according to Janeane, the business is now stronger than ever. 'Our regular customers were very supportive and understanding when Mike was ill,' she affirms. 'Many of those who held off booking an oven clean earlier in the year, rather than going elsewhere are calling us now that Mike is on the mend. I don't think we lost a single one of our loyal customers during that time and we've continued to attract new people too, so we're really happy with the way things have turned out.

'Year-on-year our Ovenclean business has grown. Although there was a short 'blip' when the credit crunch first kicked in, since then things have picked up in leaps and bounds - in fact, last month was our best yet! We're confident and delighted to have the boys on board, the next plan is for me to give up my part-time job and devote all my energies to growing our family business further...I can't wait!'

Reported by Megan Dunmore