A one-year extension of business rates relief for hospitality was a key announcement in Chancellor…
Meet Leigh-Anne Boulguid, who has served as both chair and deputy of the UK Housekeepers Association’s Manchester & NW region
Although it’s Leigh-Anne we spoke to for this feature, there’s no way we could leave out Kathryn Boulguid, the co-founder of their successful Sugar Plum Cleaning Services business. While not ‘joined at the hip’ this remarkable two-women team share a dynamic outlook and meticulous approach to professional cleaning. They offer a remarkable service which undoubtedly deserves the accolades coming their way as a result of the high standards they achieve, day in, day out.
Q Tell us about your involvement with UKHA. How did it start?
When I became head housekeeper at Arora Hotel in Manchester back in 2006 after one year as a housekeeping supervisor there, the truth is that I knew virtually no other senior housekeepers in the city. Jean Roberts (the highly respected now retired executive housekeeper who is acting chair for the region) was among the first to take me under her wing and introduce me to the UKHA. As a result, I probably now know 80 per cent of the Manchester area’s housekeepers. At the time Jean was relaunching the region and I could instantly see how important it was for housekeepers to have both a professional association and a network of people who could genuinely share your concerns and some laughs along the way. I ended up helping with the relaunch!
Q What would you say to anyone coming into the housekeeping world or who is not currently a UKHA member?
I can’t think of a time when it’s been more paramount for housekeeping staff to make the most of shared knowledge and mutual support. Our sector now faces so many challenges, both the housekeeping side and hospitality in general. A new generation of housekeepers will have to manage all this. A lot of us can seem quite insular, wrapped up in our work, but a support system like the UKHA is invaluable. What I’ve always found is that the best hotel GMs are really pleased to see that their senior housekeeping staff are members of the UKHA. It shows them that you are serious about your career.
Q Three cheers for professionalism and impressing the boss! And haven’t you got quite an impressive qualification on your CV?
Well, yes… I did an HND over two years and then took on a Bachelor’s Degree focused in Hospitality Management with Tourism at The University of Manchester. It gave me a superb grounding in management. But not everyone can take that route, and the important thing for housekeeping staff is to always stick your hand up for training opportunities, whether they lead to qualifications or not.
Q Talking of training, we know you and Kathryn are in the process of taking on more staff at Sugar Plum. How do you get the right people who will buy into what is obviously the domestic cleaning version of a 5-star hotel?
It’s a combination of things which we will only see by working alongside them during a trial. Anyone applying could say “Oh me, I like cleaning, I clean my own house”, but the truth is you must genuinely be in love with the results of cleaning That’s the reward for what is physically hard work and will bring a smile to the face of a good professional cleaner. At Sugar Plum our customers see us ’doing magic’ while having a laugh. We’re told we’re a force to be reckoned with! They also need an eye for detail – that hotel executive housekeeper thing. Kathryn and I will be able to spot that our trainees have that while we work with them.
Q That eye for detail… we know that even you sometimes take a break from cleaning and one of your favourite ways to relax is a good lunch or night out at a fine restaurant. Aren’t you checking everything out in between courses?
You’ve got me! But it’s a trait in all good cleaners. It’s hard to switch off from noticing fingerprints and the like. Probably my most obsessive thing is when I have to use the ladies in a restaurant. It’s impossible not to have a good spy on the standards of cleaning in lavatories – it can tell you a lot about their approach to everything else.
Q But it’s not all fine wining and dining when away from the cleaning, is it?
No. Family is important to us. Both Kathryn and I have teenage daughters, Amira and Grace, plus I have Ahmed, who’s now four. My new big thing is unwinding by going camping. I go with my sister. Not glamping and the like, but the real thing – roughing it in the wild. There’s only so much cleaning you can do in a tent! Yes, it sounds like something I’d hate but has turned out to be a great escape. Left: A client returned after a break to discover Sugar Plum had left a beautiful ‘welcome home’ display to greet them.
About Sugar Plum Cleaning Services
This is turning out to be an extraordinary year for a domestic cleaning business which only launched in December 2021. We’ve told a little of the story of co-founders Leigh-Anne Boulguid and Kathryn Boulguid in a previous issue, but it’s worth repeating for those who may have missed it.
No, they are not sisters or even cousins. Leigh-Anne is now married to Kathryn’s former husband, Hicham. As it turns out this – for the ladies at least – was a match made in cleaning heaven. Not only did they like each on meeting, but both realised they could bring their skills together to create a business.
Kathryn’s expertise was in top end domestic cleaning, while Leigh-Anne had years of hotel housekeeping management under her belt. The result was Sugar Plum Cleaning Services, operating across the Sheffield area.
The client list grew rapidly, with word of mouth spread by delighted customers leading to so many enquiries from potential clients that there is now a waiting list, while others quickly fill deep cleaning spots as soon as Leigh-Anne and Kathryn announce available dates on their Facebook page. It’s a thriving social media community, not just an advert for their services.
A recruitment drive is on for cleaners who can fit well with the business’s ethos, as a ‘Sugar Plum army’ is formed.
Sugar Plum’s Facebook page has a life of its own, with the pair chirping backwards and forwards with some very happy clients. There’s the lady who came back from holiday to find not only an immaculately clean house but that the Sugar Plum girls had left a beautiful floral display to welcome her home.
Or the client who’s been struggling with Long Covid while her husband is often away on business. She writes: “Today, after a particularly bad run of Long Covid, you’ve scooped up all our washing and taken it to be done. I could have cried. Having you suggest this and, help me like this, is far and above anything I could have expected.”