Founded by Chris Birch and Jack Powell in 2014, Chamber member Apollo Wales is a cleaning company offering services to commercial and domestic clients (locally, nationally and internationally). The business currently employs in excess of 200 staff (including subcontractors) and are currently seeking 5 more in Cardiff alone.
Originally from Ystrad Mynach and now living in the Vale of Glamorgan, Chris works as a part-time lecturer whilst also working for Apollo Wales. Cardiff-born Jack currently works part time for Apollo Wales while completing the final part of his degree.
Based in Cardiff Bay, Apollo Wales is a credit only operating company, which makes expansion a little slower but provides a more secure place to work for everyone. Jack and Chris have both previously been made redundant and decided to set up their own business to avoid this happening again.
What they did
Having been made redundant, Chris and Jack set up Apollo Wales after identifying a need for student house cleaning. The quick success and high quality standards meant that staff were very soon required as both partners were studying full-time degree courses at the time. Apollo Wales soon became a property maintenance company offering weekly cleaning services to homeowners and tenants in Cardiff.
Soon after, the business gained contracts with some of the UK’s biggest construction companies, offering exceptional post-build cleaning services. This led Apollo Wales to securing further contracts with companies such as Morrison’s, Asda, Tesco, Wilkinson, Barclays Bank and Schuh, amongst others. Recently, the business has been successful in securing work with IKEA and Capitol Cinema. Apart from these, Apollo Wales teams work throughout a number of independent Cardiff-based companies.
As a result, Apollo Wales expanded their operations nationwide and have staff working across the UK daily. Thanks to support from Business Wales, the business is now increasing their reach by growing its Southern Spain cleaning services and expanding into Dubai.
The business is very employee-focused, offering their staff incentives, progression packages, management training to NVQ standard, more than the minimum wage in pay and has a fantastic track record of quality.
What would they do differently?
We jump in with both feet, but it wasn’t like that at the beginning. When we first started up, we missed a lot of opportunities through thinking we weren’t good enough or we were too new at this and would make a mistake. If we could do it all again, we’d never miss any opportunity! We always listened to lots of people’s advice and that put us off certain projects. We learnt that not everyone’s advice is the best.
Their proudest moment in business
The moment when we realised that our little idea to make some money during university now employs people who socialise together, work together, etc. We’ve made a little community of people who all work together for our customers! That moment came when we were sat down together doing the monthly accounts and also realised that our turnover had multiplied by more than 5 in just a year. It was an eye-opening moment!
Do they use Welsh in their business? If so, how has this helped them
A lot of our domestic (housekeeping) clients are Welsh speakers or have children who attend Welsh schools so there was a definite initial demand for a Welsh-medium cleaning service. We encourage all our staff to have a basic understanding of the language and it is great to listen to them speaking Welsh fluently to each other and to clients on a daily basis. We employ staff from across the world with a variety of languages and accents being an everyday occurrence at staff meetings, and we’re proud to ensure Welsh is among those languages.
Describe the type of support (financial / non-financial) they’ve received from Business Wales / Welsh Government.
Apollo Wales first contacted Business Wales for advice on employing their first team member as they struggled to find up to date information on HR policies and recruitment procedures. (As part of your Chamber membership you have access to this information see here)
Business Wales advised Keith Walker, providing extensive support with the business’ growth and expansion plans, including help with marketing, accounting, book-keeping and creating packages. They also conducted a business diagnostic, highlighting potential avenues for further development of the business, and advised on franchising opportunities, which the business will be ready to undertake in the next 2 to 3 years. Apollo Wales have also benefited from a range of Business Wales workshops, covering topics such as mentoring, tendering, ‘how to set up’ and finance, among others. The office staff regularly benefit from BOSS.
Apollo Wales were able to create 15 new jobs in the business and are recruiting even further. The new roles will service their recent contracts with Morrison’s, IKEA and Capitol Cinema.
- 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
- if it covers your overheads, always take the work, most of our work came from word of mouth saying ‘yes’ in our first year
- build a brand as well as a business, marketing is key, but don’t be fooled into thinking your can’t do that for yourself
- Jack always says: ‘If you do something with enough confidence, people will believe in you.’
Article taken from https://businesswales.gov.wales/case-studies/apollo-wales