Inspirational Woman: Rachael Flanagan | Founder and Managing Director, Mrs Buckét

Rachael Flanagan Mrs BRachael Flanagan is the founder and Managing Director of Mrs Buckét (pronounced ‘bouquet’). She started the business when she was 18 years old.

Sixteen years on, Mrs Buckét turns over £4.5 million a year and employs over 250 members of staff across Wales and the South West.

How Rachael founded Mrs Buckét

When she was 17, Rachael earned pocket money by helping her mother clean the house while she was studying for her A levels. She loved the transformation from untidy to sparkling clean and found the work therapeutic.

While her friends dreamed about university life, Rachael spent more time thinking about earning money cleaning homes.

So, when A-level results day came, and she learned that she had failed her Business Studies exam, she was undeterred even when a teacher told her she would never run her own business. Instead, she aspired to work even harder and expand her cleaning work.

She named her company Mrs Buckét in a fun nod to the ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ character ‘Hyacinth Bucket’ – who insisted her surname was pronounced ‘Bouquet’.

She spent £20 printing 1,000 flyers and began leafleting her local area in South Wales. Her business took off and at 21 years old, she had 18 members of staff and won the Great British Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Her relentless drive continued and positioned her well above her competitors and led to Mrs Buckét winning over 35 awards. Rachael soon branched into the commercial cleaning world and in 2018 sold the domestic side of her business.

Her career has led to some unbelievable opportunities. She was personally chosen by the Prince of Wales to attend the 2014 NATO summit in Newport, attended by world leaders including Barack Obama.

She travelled to Downing Street twice for St. David’s Day receptions and met former Prime Minister David Cameron as a proud representative of Welsh business.

Keen to give something back to the community, Rachael also runs a professional network called Business and Bites for innovative young entrepreneurs and start-up companies.

The Company today:

Mrs Buckét turned over £4.5 million in 2021 – its most successful year yet.

This year’s phenomenal 55 per cent increase year on year, with revenues rising from £2.9 million in 2020, was aided by a major rebrand a year ago designed to push the company into new territories.

The company has acquired 46 new clients and 58 new sites since October 2020, including the prestigious Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bus, and national haulage company, Owens. 

Rachael has laid out ambitious plans to increase turnover to £12 million by 2025. 

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am Managing Director and founder of commercial cleaning company, Mrs Buckét.

From a young age, owning a business was my dream, but I was told I would never ‘make it’.

With the incredible support of my family, I went for it anyway. I began with £20 worth of black and white flyers and a mop, scouring my local area for any business I could. For a long time, I did it all by myself, working 60-70 hour weeks, cleaning people’s houses. After a while, I realised I needed to hire a few members of staff to offer a more efficient service.

From that point, my ‘team’ was born, and I’ve never looked back. I sold the domestic arm of Mrs Buckét in 2019 to focus solely on the commercial sector.

We’re now a multi-million-pound business servicing some of the biggest venues in Wales and the South West, including Wales’ famous Wales Millennium Centre.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Never! I wrote my first ‘business plan’ during my Business A-Level (it wasn’t actually a requirement of the exam – which I ended up failing!) and my second on a train back from Swansea after winning Young Entrepreneur of the Year when I was 21.

While, of course, planning is a critical part of our business strategy nowadays and is something I would wholeheartedly recommend at any stage of setting up and growing a business, there is something to be said for having room to be flexible. Nothing will ever go fully to plan, so being able to be agile to change is crucial for any successful business.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

There have been challenges at every stage of the business, and there will be challenges for as long as Mrs Buckét exists. The past (nearly) two years have shown us all that no one truly knows what is around the corner.

In the early days, the biggest challenge was certainly the hours I had to work. I rarely saw anything below 60 hours a week. And this wasn’t just cleaning; I had to wear many ‘hats’ – from cleaning to accountant, marketer and HR – it wasn’t a straightforward process.

Then there was the time that money was tight, and I had to borrow money from my family to pay my team’s wages. The interest charged on my repayments by my business-savvy (and parent-savvy) dad was high enough to teach me to carefully manage my cashflow and avoid debt!

Nowadays one of our biggest challenges is recruitment. The UK, in this post-COVID era, is in a recruitment crisis and we are feeling the effect, albeit not as badly as some.

Still, if there is one thing we specialise in at Mrs Buckét, it is rising to our challenges, tackling them head on and turning them into opportunities.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

This is such a hard question to give one definitive answer to!

On a personal level, winning the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award changed my life and the trajectory of the business – that was certainly was a significant achievement.

From a business perspective, growing Mrs Buckét from a £20 to a £4.5m company is definitely something to celebrate. And underpinning all of this is the achievement of growing a fantastic team who make it all possible. 

I also must mention my family. I have a wonderful husband and two gorgeous children, who make all the hard work worthwhile.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

My parents say that from an early age, I had a real acumen for business. In fact, my first venture was selling sweets to local children when I was 8! I do believe this entrepreneurial spirit is what drives my continual enthusiasm, energy, and motivation. These traits are fundamental to my success.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Mentoring has been incredibly important to my personal development as a business owner and leader. I have been fortunate enough to have been mentored from the early stages of my career by some incredible people. I honestly don’t think I would be where I am today without them.

I have mentored people too, and this is something that I want to do a lot more of in the future. Not too long ago I set up ‘business and bites’, a mentorship programme for other young people who are in the same position as I was 15 years ago and may not have the support they need to take the plunge and run their own business. Over the coming years, I hope to expand on this and make it much bigger.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

The gender pay gap is something that continues to plague the working world. To battle it and ensure the gap is closed, pay transparency is crucial.

Employees deserve to know if they’re being paid the same as their counterparts so that disparities or issues can be tackled head on. Employers have a responsibility to ensure that inequalities of this nature are stamped out. Honesty, openness and transparency is the only way this can happen.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

When you’re 21, you want everything to happen tomorrow! You get frustrated when things don’t happen overnight, because you want to see the fruits of your labour blossom immediately. Good things take time, greater things evolve. So, my advice to myself would be: be kind to yourself, believe in yourself and have more patience. Without sounding clichéd – good things come to those who wait (and work hard)!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I want to continue to disrupt the image of the cleaning industry and position Mrs Buckét as an employer and a service provider of choice. We hope to almost double the size of the business in the next three years, so our efforts are very much focused on growth for the foreseeable future.

I am also all about work-life balance, for my team and for myself. A strong, happy, healthy, passionate team who love working for Mrs Buckét has to be the ultimate ambition!

About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.
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