Rouse Bathrooms: Claire Algar and Tony Rouse
Claire Algar and Tony Rouse founded Rouse Bathrooms, a family-run bathroom showroom, supplying advice and products to public and trade customers
Names of founders: Claire Algar and Tony Rouse (Claire’s dad)
Location: Rouse Bathrooms, 29 High Street, West Wickham BR4 0LP
Date Launched: 01/07/19
Number of employees: 4
Age of founders: Claire is 39. Tony is 71
Website: Rouse Bathrooms
Which university, if any, did you attend? Took A Levels at 6th form and then Ravensbourne Art and Design College for a foundation course for a year. I never did a degree.
Claire Algar discusses how her family’s business went from a franchise to an independent showroom in the bathroom industry. Read more about their journey here!
Tell us what your business does:
We are a family-run bathroom showroom where we supply bathroom advice and products to the public and trade, taking projects from initial enquiry, through design, to delivery.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
We were previously a Bathstore franchise of 18 years until they went into administration and abruptly cut all ties with us in June 2019, destroying our business in a day. We set up as an independent showroom following this.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We’ve known the community for years now and we are known for what we do.
The financial climate has meant there has been a reduction in the market but it’s still there. Also due to some other failing businesses (other Bathstore stores and some online companies), it has meant we have a bit of a gap in this area, which means (providing we offer a good service) I believe we can ride this tough time out.
What were you doing before starting up?
Formerly a franchise of Bathstore for 18 years. It’s really all I’ve known and dad (Tony Rouse) has been in bathrooms since I was born.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I’ve gradually taken role of manager over the last five years as dad has got older. It’s been a learning curve which I have found challenging but enjoyable.
Now being an independent company, I’m really motivated and the response from the public and friends has been encouraging.
How did you raise the money?
We have remained to be rouse bathrooms ltd. We formerly traded as ‘Bathstore’ until its administration. We therefore had running accounts of 18 years.
We lost lots of money over the last four months since the administration of Bathstore: refunding all previous Bathstore customers, people thinking we were closing down and then the cost of refitting the entire showroom. Bathstore wiped out over £100,000 of our client orders when it refused to supply us anymore.
It’s been hard and we’ve taken a hit, but we’re on the mend now.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We are the retail showroom for bathrooms so we select the products we feel are good to offer our clients/local area and display in store. We source directly from distributors. We display, design and deliver. The margin between retail sales and our cost is where we make our money.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
We’ve had to pick the business up off the floor and restart it as mentioned before. It’s been emotional and time-challenging but we’re seeing the silver lining of the cloud now.
What was your first big breakthrough?
A post I put out on Facebook to two local community pages letting people know our position. It’s the best thing I’ve done for advertising although I never expected it to have this impact! People often come through the door mentioning it. My story was also recently covered in the local press.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
If you’re passionate about it and believe in it, go for it, providing you have a good product /service and you provide customer service to match it, give it all you have. People’s spending habits, along with lifestyles are changing – I believe for the better. Manage your business as well and as personally as you can.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
We signed a 10 year lease with the landlord so hopefully right here, continuing to enjoy it. I have young children, so I plan to make a success of the store while they grow up and then reassess another store later if growth is good. I’m a firm believer in getting the basics right first – we will walk before we run.
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