London/Sudbury: Tom hopes to MOP up with cleaning business

Tom Brooks and Pete Dowds of MOP

Tom Brooks and Pete Dowds of MOP - Credit: Archant

Suffolk farmers’ son Tom Brooks, co-founded London-based online cleaning company MOP this year.

He and his business partner claim theirs is the first cleaning business that allows you to book and pay online, and its founders hope it will become a leader in its field.

Tom, a former trader, and Pete Dowds, a former solicitor, met on their first day of university and both wanted to be their own bosses.

A couple of years ago, Tom and his brother launched Love Farm at Assington, near Sudbury with the aim of marketing cold-pressed rapeseed oil using rapeseed grown on the family farm.

“Unfortunately that one didn’t work out but we learnt a lot in a short time,” says Tom.

They were relatively late to the market, worked out that oil wasn’t an impulse buy, and found it hard to establish brand loyalty.

“People will look at these reasons and ask what research we did before we started and that we should have picked up on all these points. I agree that we should have been more thorough in our preparations, however I’m also a great advocate of the ‘lean start-up’ approach. This is where you get a product out quickly and cheaply to test the market and then you make changes as you go.

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“We took this approach with Love Farm. We outsourced our production, held little inventory and got the product in front of the customer and supermarkets as fast as possible to gain feedback. It quickly became apparent that we wouldn’t scale quickly so we decided to move on and try other things.

“Overall the experience was a great one, we learnt a huge amount in a short period and because of our lean approach we didn’t lose any money.”

However, his new start-up is showing a lot of promise, he says.

“We are bringing cleaning online, removing cash-in-hand payments, hidden charges while all our cleaners are experienced, fully vetted and insured,” he says.

“We’ve recently closed an investment round with a bigger seed round scheduled for October, have taken on our two first recruits.”

The idea for the business came about when the pair held a house party and were in desperate need of a cleaner to deal with the aftermath. They were surprised to discover a lack of online choice, and of a vetting process. They felt there was huge potential for a business.

They aim their business at young professionals who are time poor, at ease with booking and paying for a service online, and “who would rather be enjoying their free time than cleaning”.

Initially they both retained their jobs, but quickly realised they needed to take the plunge and devote themselves to the business full-time.

“Unless you really commit, you can’t make your business work,” said Tom.

They now have more than 30 self-employed cleaners working for MOP. Raising money has been the biggest challenge, but old contacts have helped to fund the new business.

Their aim is to created “the best cleaning company in London”.

Tom, who studied economics at Sheffield University, lives in Whitechapel and his top ambition is to own a farm one day.

“I have a real passion for consumer products and branding and I’m confident that I will return to the Love Farm brand at some stage in the future. I don’t think it will be selling rapeseed oil though unless the market really takes off,” he said.

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