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Wilkins Chimney Sweep is celebrating a successful first year as a franchise business.

The company, which has been trading in Newbury since 1865, beat its targets by awarding four franchises in its first 12 months of franchising. The new franchise owners are based in Brighton, Cambridge, Malvern and the Black Country.

Louise Harris, Wilkins Chimney Sweep Franchise Director, said: “We could not be more pleased with our first year’s results; we set out to recruit three franchise owners in year one and we now have four new members of the Wilkins Chimney Sweep ‘family’, we’re delighted.”

Louise Harris and her husband Peter Harris, who own Wilkins Chimney Sweep, chose the franchising route to expand their company following consultation with franchise lawyers and advisors.

Peter Harris said: “We knew we were ready to expand the business; chimney sweeps are in great demand with people using open fires again to escape rising energy bills, but we didn’t want the headache of running a national workforce, so franchising seemed the perfect solution. After years of being self employed ourselves we firmly believe that when it’s your own business you always go that extra mile for your customers and it’s that work ethic we want to see replicated across all our Wilkins Chimney Sweep franchises.”

Louise Harris added: “Although we knew there was a need in the market, we’ve been surprised by the amount of interest shown in our franchise opportunity. Our standards are high and we only accept the very best applicants, with around 75 per cent not even making it past the initial enquiry stage. It is very important to us that we choose the right people to take on our brand and become a Wilkins Chimney Sweep.”

Initially the couple expected the opportunity to appeal to those leaving the Armed Forces but have found this not to be the case at all, with the majority of applicants being post-redundancy or simply looking for a change of lifestyle, having possibly been desk-bound for many years.

The couple are determined to make Wilkins Chimney Sweep the most professional sweeping business in the country and as such insist that all their sweeps are insured, Police checked and professionally trained in line with HETAS (Heating Equipment Testing and Approvals Scheme) and APICS (Association of Professional and Independent Chimney Sweeps Ltd) accreditation standards.

Peter Harris said: “The majority of a sweep’s work takes place in people’s homes so it’s vital that the public know if they’re using a Wilkins sweep he is not only well trained, professional and fully insured but also trustworthy. Many of our customers are elderly and this means a great deal to them.”

To underline the professional attitude they take in running their business Wilkins Chimney Sweep has been accepted as a provisional member of the British Franchise Association (bfa).

Louise Harris added: “To be accepted as a member our business model had to be thoroughly reviewed, and we are proud to say we are now the only bfa approved chimney sweeping franchise in the country which gives our potential franchise owners peace of mind to know that they are looking at a professionally run organisation.”

The Wilkins Chimney Sweep is heading into 2012 in a very strong position with interest still being shown on a daily basis from potential new franchise owners.

Louise Harris said: “2011 has been amazing, if a little exhausting and now we’re focused on building on this initial success. Next year we would like to award another five franchise owners; generally our aim is for slow and steady growth, but we won’t be stopped until there are Wilkins Chimney Sweeps the length and breadth of the country.”


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