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Cleaning gran has no plans to hang up her duster
A BUSINESS which has been keeping North-East homes and offices spick and span for three decades is celebrating a milestone anniversary.
Poppies Durham was started in 1983 by former schoolteacher Elizabeth Richardson, to provide domestic help and carry out cleaning chores.
In that time, the Poppies team has cleaned thousands of homes for everyone from students and landlords, to university academics, footballers and even lords and ladies.
But 66-year-old grandmother of three Mrs Richardson has no intention of hanging up her duster just yet.
She said: “After my two children had started school I was looking to return to work but it was difficult get back into teaching. I heard about the Poppies cleaning franchise and thought it may be an opportunity for me.
“It was perhaps the hardest decision I have had to make in my life because I was starting with no business experience at all. It was a huge change from teaching but I’m still enjoying it 30 years later.”
Mrs Richardson is the longest serving Poppies franchisee in the country and now employs 47 staff with more than 200 customers on her books across Durham City, Washington and County Durham.
Most use Poppies for weekly house cleans, household chores and spring cleans and even for clearing up after fire or flood damage. But Poppies also has an impressive roster of commercial clients including Durham Business Club, the Durham Aged Miners’ Association and the Oasis factory in Washington.
Former Newcastle United footballer Robert Lee and manager Sam Allardyce were also Poppies clients while living in the area.
Poppies will mark its anniversary with a party at Durham Gala’s Theatre, when staff past and present will celebrate 30 successful years.
Poppies founder Sue Rorstad, who set up the original franchise in Newcastle, said: “Elizabeth is an absolute credit to Poppies. It’s a fantastic achievement to run any business successfully for 30 years.
“There are now 25 franchises across the country but the one in Durham embodies everything that is good about Poppies. Elizabeth is so good to the staff and customers and we are all so fond of her.”
Mrs Richardson said: “There’s nothing we haven’t seen in the cleaning business, from houses that are already spotlessly clean to the ones where the clothes meet you at the door.
“But we’re much more than a cleaning service, quite often there’s a counselling element too especially when helping people who are recovering from illness or an accident which prevents them from doing the everyday chores. And our staff are so wonderful, they have even helped to save the lives of four customers by being in the right place at the right time.
“Poppies would not be the business it is without the staff. They are a vital part of the success of the business and some of them have been with us for more than 20 years.
“My family has always been there for me too and I would like to thank my husband Ron, daughter Ruth and son James for all their support over the past 30 years.”
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