Apollo Wales

Apollo Wales cleans up

Chris Birch and Jack Powell started cleaning student houses for some extra money whilst studying at University, now their fast-growing cleaning business employs over 200 members of staff.

Apollo Wales was formed as a secondary income for business partners Jack Powell and Chris Birch back in 2004 whilst they were studying at university.

The pair started out cleaning student houses when students had moved out and in time they became a preferred company for many Cardiff-based letting agents.

Today, Apollo Wales has grown rapidly and now offers its cleaning services to commercial and domestic clients locally, nationally and internationally.

The business employs in excess of 200 staff (including subcontractors) and is currently looking to take on a further five more in Cardiff alone.

Chris told BQ: “Since Apollos launched as a company we've gained contracts with some of the UK’s biggest construction companies and other companies such as Morrison’s, Asda, Tesco, Wilkinson, IKEA, Barclays Bank, Schuh and many more.”

But getting to this stage didn’t come without its challenges. Launching a start-up is always quite challenging and Apollo was no different.

Luckily for the pair, they were able to tap into the support of Business Wales, a business support programme headed up by the Welsh Government.

He added: “Business Wales has given us a lot of advice and support throughout the growth of Apollo Wales and without them we would've struggled to find the right information and advice.

“They have given us advice on staff, temp contracts, maternity, disciplinary, apprenticeship schemes, tendering and international trading.

“The exceptional service Business Wales has provided us with is without a doubt the stepping stone we needed to create a successful business.”

Not only did the support from Business Wales help provide them with the skills needed to run a successful business but it also helped them grow in confidence.

“When starting up we missed a lot of opportunities throughout thinking that we weren't good enough and that we would make mistakes due to being a new company,” he adds.

“We stopped listening to other people’s advice that was putting us off certain projects and learned that not everybody's advice is best.”

Ignoring the doubters and giving it their all paid off and before they knew it Chris and Jack started seeing work roll in from across the country.

Asked what he put this growth down to, he says: “Putting the right processes in place from the very beginning rather than introducing new things along the way.

“It's minimised our ongoing workload and it's meant that we've streamlined a lot of mandatory processes.

“We also take great pride in saying we treat our staff with the upmost respect and offer them incentives, progression packages, management training to NVQ standards and pay more than the minimum wage as our staff is what keeps the cogs turning and we like to look after them.”

And asked what his proudest achievement to date has been, he added: “The moment when we realised that our little idea to make some money during Uni now employs people who socialise and work together.

“We’ve made a little community of people who all work together for the customers we find and that moment came when we were sat down together doing the monthly accounts and also realised that our turnover had multiplied by more than five in just a year. It was an eye-opening moment!”

Looking forward, the pair are now hoping to keep this momentum going and grow the business not only at home but also overseas.

He concludes: “Our future plans for the business is to introduce international trading to Dubai and expanding cleaning services in the south of Spain.”

Chris’ top tips for entrepreneurs:

  • Don’t feel obliged to take other people’s advice just because they’ve been in business longer than you.
  • Go with your gut. If it feels right, go for it. Never be afraid to walk away.
  • Build a Brand as well as a Business. Marketing is the key, but don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t do that for yourself.