"To still be here 40 years later, and at the top of our game, is fantastic!” says Poppies Sheffield franchisee Nigel Bayliss
This year marks a milestone birthday for the UK’s first cleaning franchise, Poppies, as the brand celebrates 40 years of success. On 1 April, although unable to be together in person, the whole network popped virtual corks and raised glasses to commemorate their 40th anniversary.
The domestic cleaning franchise started its life in North East England in 1980 with founder Sue Rorstad. Today, a rich heritage combined with four decades of experience, sees the Poppies network enjoy annual turnovers ranging from £250,000 to over £550,000. Under the guidance of long-term franchisee turned franchisor, Chris Wootton, who took over in 2018, the brand has evolved into a forward-thinking, industry-leading business opportunity.
“To be at the helm of Poppies and see the brand through this momentous milestone makes me extremely proud,” says Chris, who also owns a Poppies office in West Lancashire. “It’s been my life for the best part of three decades and to now be a part of Poppies history is incredibly poignant. At landmark moments such as these, it’s great to look back at where we have come from, but equally as important to keep looking ahead. Our vision for the future is to continue building our relationships with clients and maintain our strong culture as a network of franchisees. That’s one of the reasons for the brand’s impressive success.”
Today, as one of the longest-established cleaning providers in the UK, the Poppies network turns over in excess of £5m. Through the brand’s commitment to provide a quality and consistent service to all its clients and a sophisticated internal support structure, the foundations have been laid for franchisees to flourish in the domestic cleaning sector, which is currently estimated to be worth over £4.7bn.
The Poppies network is made up of a diverse group of individuals who come from all walks of life. From the Tyne Coast to Exeter, bank managers, IT specialists, public sector managers and hot-air balloon pilots alike recognised the opportunity in the market, combined with the brand’s unique approach to both its staff and its client base.
Former supermarket executive, Nigel Bayliss, launched his Poppies business in Sheffield in 1996: “Even when I joined in 1995, 15 years into its lifetime, Poppies had a very striking brand presence. What caught my eye straight away was the ethics of the business. It wasn’t, and still isn’t, like any other cleaning company out there. We create an abundant atmosphere for our cleaners to perform at their best and reward them appropriately for doing so – that’s why we’ve been so successful. To still be here 40 years later, and at the top of our game, is fantastic!”
A brief history of Poppies:
1980 – Sue Rorstad launches Poppies
1983 – The first franchised-office opens in Durham
1994 – Sue receives an MBE for her services to domestic care
2017 – Poppies reaches turnover milestone of £5m
2018 – Franchisee turned franchisor, Chris Wootton, takes the helm
Present-day – A 22-strong franchise network including the first-ever franchised office - Poppies Durham - still going strong. Franchisees employ close to 500 staff in fulfilling, well-rewarded jobs and provide cleaning services to over 6000 homes every month.
“Right now, when the world is facing challenging times, I’m heartened by the kindness that I see all around,” says Chris. “Poppies is a business built on relationships, with clients and staff, and there is no better opportunity than now to re-kindle or strengthen those. Technology and social media mean that franchisees can share hints and tips, share best practice in video format and communicate regularly to help those who are isolating feel less lonely and vulnerable. Pulling together is how we’ll get through this, not just as a franchise network, but in our communities too. We always say our franchise networks are like an extended family and mine are pulling out all the stops to support each other with practical solutions and emotional pick-me-ups.
“One thing is for sure when the time comes for a 40th birthday party in the flesh, you can rest assured it’s going to be one heck of a celebration!”