RAYNER DAVIES went from being a single teenage mum on benefits to a hugely successful businesswoman after setting up her cleaning company.
The firm, which she set up on a shoestring 11 years ago, now turns over a whopping £4million a year.
She was 16 when she fell pregnant with son Cameron, 19, while studying for her GCSEs.
And after daughter Demi, 17, came along two years later, she struggled to make ends meet.
Rayner, 36, who lives in Bridgend, South Wales, with finance director husband Ashley, 40, set up A&R Cleaning Services because she wanted to give her children a better life.
She says: “I was 16 and skint when I fell pregnant with Cameron. After he was born, I moved out of my parents’ home and into a rented house.
“But living on £110-a-week benefits, I had to borrow money from my parents to pay for my gas and electric bills.
“When Demi was six months old, I got a job as a carer for the elderly, working 16-hour shifts while my parents helped with childcare.
“Once the bills were paid, there was nothing left in the pot.
“My relationship with the children’s dad ended when Demi was almost three and I was determined to give the kids a good life.
“On rare days out, I was fed up of having to rely on my older sister Stephanie to pay for our lunches.
“I started ironing for a living, charging £12 for a black bin liner full of clothes. I’d get up at 4am to fit it in before sorting out the kids for school, which was exhausting.
“Some of my customers asked me to clean their houses and I realised there was huge demand. So in 2011 I stopped ironing and concentrated on cleaning.
“Within a few months I was earning £200 a week and could afford to give up my caring job.
“I knocked on doors to find new clients and put an advert in my local paper. I took on new clients — the elderly as well as working mums who didn’t want to waste their weekends doing housework.
“In the first year I made just £6,000 profit. But it grew year on year and with extra staff on board, we began cleaning offices, schools and doctors’ surgeries.
“It was astounding how the business grew and by the end of 2018, our turnover was at £1.2million.
“Now we focus on commercial cleaning, which includes solicitors’ offices, banks and car showrooms.
“Some people think all cleaners do is go round with a cloth and mop but there is science and skill involved.
“We have 300 staff and our cleaners go through training at least every six months. I won’t hear anyone call themselves ‘just a cleaner’.
“Some of our staff who started out as cleaners are now managers.
“I see my business as my baby and it doesn’t matter if you are a cleaner or a banker — if you have the motivation to succeed in any job, you will.
“Growing the business means I haven’t always been there for the kids but I want to show them they can achieve anything if they work hard.”
‘I sleep well knowing everyone is paid fairly’
ANTOINETTE DANIEL, 46, set up Just Helpers Cleaning Agency eight years ago and has gone from earning just £10 for her first job to turning over her first million.
The former teacher, who is single and lives in Worthing, West Sussex, says:
“I was 38 when I first cleaned for a paying customer and received a tenner in cash.
“The money allowed me to get my next job and paid for my travel.
“After that I got three tins — one to cover my tax bill, one to pay for travel and one for earnings left over.
“Since then, I’ve matched over 200 women with more than 1,000 clients across 121 postcodes. We have an admin team of six based in London and Bulgaria.
“My cleaning business came about because I had sold my house to pay for a diploma so I could get involved campaigning against human trafficking.
“When the money ran out, I needed a side hustle to help me pay my bills.
“I was a PE teacher for 12 years, so when I announced to a room full of middle-class friends at a drinks evening that I was going to be a cleaner, everyone told me I was out of my mind.
“That’s except for one guy who was a friend of a friend. He thought it was fab idea and recommended me to a neighbour for my first job.
“I got the idea of cleaning because it’s my happy place. I’ve always liked living in a clean, tidy home. Ironically, because I’m so busy running the business, I’m lucky if I manage to clean for two hours a week.
“When I do it’s my opportunity to switch off, dance to music, get happy and allow my brain to declutter.
“What should have been my side hustle turned into something else. I kept getting recommended for jobs and had to turn people away.
“After three months, I wanted to grow the business, so I found my first colleague through an ad I placed on Gumtree.
“If we cleaned a house shared by students, we’d toss a coin to see who got the worst bathroom.
“At that point I was making around £100 per week and recruiting meant I quickly doubled that. But we spilt all the money down the middle.
“It was never meant to be a big business and in my first year, the turnover was just over £7,000, which we earned through word of mouth.
“Within 12 months, I had five women working with me and I made sure they were paid a living wage.
“In 2015, a business coach gave me advice on how to grow the business and who to recruit.
“Within a year I’d turned the business into what it is today.
Over the years, my team have cleaned for everyone from the Bishop of London to the affluent Rothschild family.
“Society needs to know paying a tenner for a cleaner isn’t on.
“I’ve heard horror stories about women being sexually harassed in exchange for cleaning shifts.
“I sleep well at night knowing everyone is paid fairly for their hard work.”
‘Still get a buzz from putting on Marigolds’
WHEN Lisa Schoneville first set up her cleaning business she was so embarrassed about the profession’s stigma that she kept her venture a secret.
But two years on, the mum of two has come clean about her venture after its huge success has led to it turning over £250k a year.
She started out earning just £30 a week running First Class Cleaning Group with her husband Neil, 39 – and the business is now set to triple its annual turnover within the next three years
The couple live in Motherwell with children Zak, 14, and Lily, 13. Lisa, 37 says: “I left school at 17 and went to work as a cashier in a bank.
“By the time I was 21, I had worked my way up to branch manager.
“Once the children came along it was hard to juggle full-time hours with childcare. So I wanted flexible work I could fit around the kids.
“I left my job and set up my own business running sensory development classes for babies.
“At the start of 2019, I became unwell with pneumonia and pleurisy. For four months, I was too ill to work.
“Neil was working as a sales manager for a scaffolding company but we couldn’t afford to live on just the one wage. My parents paid for our weekly shop.
“I was prepared to take any job going to get us back on our feet but I decided I wanted to be my own boss.
“That’s when I came up with the idea to clean other people’s houses.
“My mum Sandra ran a small cleaning business back then and I hoped the work would give me a quick return, however small.
“Mum was supportive and joked about how she would come and work for me someday.
“I had gone from being a bank manager to scrubbing toilets and because I was worried that people would judge me, I told hardly anyone.
“I bought a mop and cleaning products from the supermarket which I kept in the boot of my car and began charging £11.50 for an hour-long clean.
“My first client was an elderly woman who I met through the local church.
“For the business to take off properly, I knew I had to put myself out there. I paid the kids pocket money to push leaflets through doors and I set up a business page on Facebook.
“My sister-in-law Amy came on board too.
“Within three months, we had 20 regular clients. I bought a domain name and built a website myself to cut costs.
“Two months on, I had taken on two more members of staff. Now I employ 17 people altogether and we do all types of cleaning, from domestic homes and holiday lets to corporate businesses and big industrial cleans.
“Like me, Neil is a director of the company and my mum got her wish – she looks after the holiday rentals.
“While I oversee the business, I still get a buzz out of putting on my Marigolds and getting stuck in.
“There is a negative stigma attached to the cleaning trade, which is wrong.
Without my cleaners, there would be no business.”
We did it…and you can too
HERE, the ladies reveal the secrets to their success.
BE BRAVE: Take chances and don’t be afraid to fail. Some you win, some you lose. On the difficult days, get up, dust yourself down and keep moving forward.
TRUST YOUR GUT: Ignore negativity because other people’s opinions don’t pay your bills. Trust yourself.
GET NETWORKING: People do business with people they know, like and trust, so ensure you invest your time in forming relationships with like-minded people.
LEARN FROM THE BEST: Speak to other business owners who inspire you – listen to them, shadow them and learn from them.
TAKE CALCULATED RISKS: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – diversify your services where possible so that you have more chances to succeed.
KEEP STANDARDS HIGH: Aim to be excellent at everything you do, even when no one is watching because it keeps you in the successful business mindset.
KNOW YOUR WORTH: Quality costs. Don’t be afraid to charge what you are worth. It isn’t OK to be paid a pittance even if you are just starting out.
CHERISH YOUR TEAM: Once you have built a business big enough and are hiring staff, reward your team because they’re the most valuable part of any business.
PICK ONE OF YOUR PASSIONS: Whatever your business, choose one you feel passionate about because that’s what will get you through the toughest days.
DON’T GIVE UP: When you feel like quitting, give it one more shot because it could be the one which changes your life.