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Born with mild cerebral palsy, which affects the right side of his body, Andy Easter has always met each and every challenge with calm determination.
When his local college turned down his application for a place to train as a mechanic, his response was to secure a position with a local garage owner. Following a trial period of two weeks without pay, Andy had so impressed his new employers they subsequently supported him in gaining NVQ levels 1, 2 & 3 in Motor Mechanics, eventually equipping him to become an MoT tester.
Similarly, when Andy decided to become self-employed, he encountered and overcame further familiar barriers.
“Running my own business had been a long cherished plan of mine and I thought that working with cars would be perfect for me. I’d always loved cars and took great pride in keeping my own vehicles pristine,” he explains. “Valeting seemed the obvious choice and I felt a franchise would provide the necessary support to help me succeed. However, when I started to research my options, a familiar pattern emerged. Most franchisors I spoke to expressed doubts about my ability to succeed in a physically demanding role.”
Autosheen proved an honourable exception. When he attended one of the company’s informal Discovery Days, he met the Autosheen team, led by Managing Director Paul Fennell.
“It was a breath of fresh air,” Andy recalls. “We discussed the potential problems, but positively. Paul’s approach was ‘how can we overcome this together?’. I was impressed by his ‘can do’ attitude – and I think he was equally impressed with mine.”
Convinced that Autosheen was the right partner, Andy took what he describes as the biggest decision of his life and invested in a franchise.
“In some ways it was an easy choice for me,” he adds. “Apart from their positive stance, Autosheen also happened to be the UK’s best known valeting brand, with superb products developed by parent company Farécla, world-renowned manufacturer of surface finishing products, and had the best ongoing training and support package on offer.”
In addition to the comprehensive training course, uniquely accredited by the independent Institute of Motoring Industries (IMI) awards, General Manager Adrian Steihl also sourced specialist equipment to enable Andy to provide the required high quality valeting services, despite his weak right arm and hand. This meant that when Andy launched his Cambridgeshire business, he was fully equipped.
“Adrian and the team have provided unflagging support,” Andy says. “As part of my business launch, he and I went prospecting together, which helped build my confidence as well as my customer base.”
Another confidence boost came with the news that Andy’s previous employer had put him forward for a National Institute for Adult Continuing Education Award. He learnt first that he had been awarded the Regional prize, followed by the announcement that he had been named a National Winner.
“My initial expectations for my Autosheen franchise were quite modest, if I broke even at the end of the first year that would be pretty good as I knew I would need more time than average to process each car,” he concludes. “However, in the event, I’ve achieved a respectable profit and have built a regular customer base of people who use my services regularly and recommend me to others. I’ve been told that I am an example to people with disadvantages, but I don’t take much notice of that. I just want to get on, make a good living and hold my head up high.
“Next year is looking fantastic and I’m looking forward – with the continued support of my wonderful family and the superb Autosheen team – to growing my business, perhaps taking on an employee and tackling whatever new challenges that may bring!”
Written by Megan Dunmore