An English graduate who worked as a cleaner to fund her university studies has set herself up in the business – giving away cleaning services for free.
Katie Martin, 21, from Kent, is hoping to establish her business Life Cleaners as viable social enterprise. Every hour she spends cleaning puts £1 into the pot for cleaning the homes of people who are terminally ill or disabled.
Katie took one day off work to graduate this week with a BA in English from the University of Portsmouth. She will be back at work tomorrow cleaning homes in her hometown of Hythe.
She said: “The idea of starting my own company was always in the back of my mind. My friends all used to call me Del Boy because I’ve always been really keen on setting myself up in business and earning my own money.
“I had a small cleaning service working for friends and family since before I started university and I’ve kept that up through my time in Portsmouth. It has been a small source of income for me for five years and my loyal clients wait throughout the year for me to return from university so that I can clean their homes.
“I’ve also got clients in Portsmouth, including student houses. In one of them every knife, fork, plate and pan would be dirty and you wouldn’t be able to see the worktops or even the floor, but I’m not fazed by anything.
“Last summer I was thinking about whether this could become a great business opportunity but I was entering my third year, which is full-on hard work, so I brushed the idea to one side. I just didn’t have the time.”
It wasn’t until Katie attended a career fair at university that she was introduced to the idea of social enterprise businesses, established to make money but also, critically, to give something back.
“The penny dropped,” Katie said. “I realised I could set up my own business with a strong social element.
“I attended the School for Social Entrepreneurs who allowed me to explore my own idea while listening to other social enterprise ideas. The other people’s ideas were all growing at fast rates and it seemed as though people and the business world like the element of giving something back.”
Katie set up Life Cleaners with the aim of providing free house cleans for people with terminal illnesses or who are disabled.
She said: “I charge £12 an hour and £1 of that goes into my free clean fund. The idea was close to my heart. I have had people in my family suffer from terminal illnesses themselves, and I know that anything which takes away some of the stress of everyday life can be a blessing.”
Now her time at university is over and the poetry and literature books have been set aside, Katie is dedicating all her time to growing her business. She hopes by this time next year to employ more cleaners and, through the £1 per hour levy, to be able to reach some of the most vulnerable with her own brand of charity.