Welcome to Saturday Business/Freelancer Chat. Today we’re meeting another of our young entrepreneurs – Mohammed Zahir set up cleaning business, Sabka Cleaning while at University and now plans to expand it further. I keep saying that if you can start a business in a recession, and do well, then you’re going to do well overall, and I also think Mohammed’s final point, that in a recession you need to be able to differentiate yourself (whether a student or in another environment) and have plenty of interesting things to put on your CV, is a very valid one.
Mohammed’s doing what I did now, and working full-time while launching and growing the business. I know from experience how hard this is, but he has established good practices, learned about networking and gathered some mentors around him, all things that will help.
Family is obviously important to Mohammed, as it is with many of our other interviewees, but here it’s his father to whom he wants to give something back after seeing him as an inspiration. I hope he builds a business they can both be proud of!
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
My business is called Sabka Cleaning Services and it was established whilst I was in my 2nd year at university in Birmingham in 2009. We provide domestic, office & window cleaning services to homes and offices across Buckinghamshire and surrounding areas.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I have always been extremely self-motivated and always wanted to be in control of my own destiny. Since a very young age, I have seen my father fight the odds to get where he is today. This provided me with great inspiration, and having graduated from university recently, I feel it is now my duty to start giving something back to him for everything he has provided me with, and I believe starting my own business will allow me to do this.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
I believe starting a business at a young age is the best time as you have no commitments or expenses. Being at university, I thought this was the best time I would ever have if I was to ever go into business. Being a student, I wanted to start a business which would have low start-up costs but great potential. To earn some extra cash whilst at university, I used to clean student apartments, until one of my mates suggested I should turn it into a business. After looking into it a bit, I decided to take her suggestion and go for it!
Had you run your own business before?
My only experience of business before this was selling things on eBay (not sure that’s quite business). Occasionally, I would come across opportunities to buy things cheaper than the average market price so I would buy them in bulk/wholesale, and sell them on eBay. It was a good source of some extra pocket money, but it wasn’t a proper business like Sabka Cleaning Services so I gave it up when I went university and hoped to establish a “proper” business.
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going?
I launched Sabka Cleaning Services in Birmingham whilst studying full-time at university. Now I am living back with my parents in Buckinghamshire and looking to grow the business. I have been fortunate enough to have landed a graduate job only a month or two after graduating from University and I am looking to grow my own business whilst working full-time.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
Before starting Sabka Cleaning Services, I read numerous books and watched endless programmes on other entrepreneurs and I learnt a lot from doing so.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
Whilst at university, I came across opportunities to buy other, already established small/ medium-sized cleaning business. At the time, it didn’t seem like a risk worth taking, however, in hindsight, I wish I had purchased them as I would have had a much larger business now.
What are you glad you did?
I am glad I networked and sought mentoring from the right people, and read the right books and watched the right programmes when in need of inspiration. No stage of the business is particularly easy, and even though you may be self-motivated, there will be challenging times where you may want to give up. In those times, it is the people you network with and the things you turn to for inspiration that will keep you going that little bit further.
What’s your top business tip?
My top business tip comes from my personal experience, as I didn’t used to be too confident in meeting new people to sell my cleaning business to them. However, over time, I have learnt to focus on the end goal, and not focus on the hardship you have to face in the process of getting to that goal. If you’re not comfortable with doing something, keep doing it anyway! Eventually, there’ll come a time where you become accustomed to it.
My other tip would be to seek a mentor when starting up. The assistance mentors can provide is incredible and they are a fantastic source to get some second opinions from as friends/family aren’t always the people to ask.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
I would love to say we have grown much larger since we started, however there have been many changes (for instance, moving back to my family home in Buckinghamshire and full-time employment) which have led us back to the start-up phase. However, we are beginning to grow again – albeit slower than we did in Birmingham, but as with anything, it takes time, and I strongly believe we have a great future ahead of us.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
At present I am working full-time, and developing my skill set which will benefit me in my career and in business. Although this will leave me in a fantastic position later as I am meeting some amazing people at work and through business, the downside at present is that it means I have less time to commit to the business. However, in a year’s time, I hope to have grown the client base for my own business and hopefully have an office.
Mohammed’s added another question of his own to the end of my set: fair enough, as it’s a good one!
What would you advise other graduates?
With the current economy not looking too great, I believe entrepreneurship is the way forward for graduates and would encourage others to consider going down this route whilst also looking for a job. It is a fantastic experience and is a great thing to put under your list of achievements on your CV.
Good luck to you, Mohammed, as you enter into a busy, but hopefully rewarding, phase of your life, and we look forward to hearing from you in a year’s time!
The Sabka Cleaning website is available at www.sabkacleaning.co.uk and of course you can email the company and find them on Twitter and Facebook (where you can book cleaning services or make an enquiry).
Mohammed didn’t provide any further updates after this first interview. As far as I know the website is still live as of September 2013.
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my new book, Going It Alone At 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment.