The heat is on for Stewart Donnor and Louise Broom.
The couple set up electric radiators supply firm VeriSmart Heating just a year ago after leaving their respective jobs.
They also juggle their busy schedules with caring for daughters Charlie, who will be three in August, and Georgie, who will be one in July. The family is completed by labrador Harry.
While Charlie is at nursery, Georgie often joins her parents at the company office in Brighouse, contentedly playing. “It’s the first job I’ve had where I can bring the kids to work,” says Stewart. “We went to a meeting with tradespeople such a plumbers, builders and plasterers recently and we took Georgie with us. They didn’t bat an eyelid! We ended up with these big hefty blokes all talking about their children!”
Louise says: “A massive benefit running our own business is the amount of time we can spend with our family. At home, once we have put the children to bed, we can get on the laptop to do some more work.”
But it does have its downside, she adds. “There aren’t enough hours in the day. As a start-up, you haven’t got a team around you – you have to do everything yourself. That can be the biggest issue.”
Stewart says: “We make sure the weekends are family time. We pack the car on Sunday and take the kids to the coast and get on the beach.”
Stewart and Louise draw on their very different but complementary skills at VeriSmart Heating.
Stewart, 35, who was born and brought up in York, has a background in customer service. He started in retailing and has worked with companies of all sizes – although for many years he was a consultant for a number of large companies focusing on operational efficiencies, customer experience and quality improvement.
Louise, 36, who grew up in Brighouse and attended Hipperholme Grammar School, was a keen horsewoman during her teens, competing in under-21 dressage events at national level before training to become a physiotherapist. She ran her own practice in Thirsk for some years – where she specialised in treating riding injuries and worked part-time for the Ministry of Defence helping rehabilitate injured soldiers at Catterick garrison.
Veri-Smart Heating, based at The Woodvale Centre, Woodvale Road in Brighouse, was formed when Louise and Stewart decided they wanted to work together.
The internet-based company supplies Spanish-built ceramic core radiators to customers in all-electric properties – ranging from houses and high-rises to student accommodation, shops and offices. They are billed as more efficient and controllable than more common central heating systems which use a boiler to deliver hot water to radiators around the home.
Stewart says: “One of the striking things is that most people think all-electric is mainly a rural thing, but for many people in urban areas, electicity is the main source of heating.”
Louise says: “Ceramic core radiators have some of the properties of the old-fashioned storage heaters, but they are programmeable, have their own thermostat and have more sophisticated features, such as being able to monitor air temperature. There are no moving parts such as gaskets or fluids that can leak out. They are flexible, reliable and warm – and something that will work as well in 10 years time as they do on the first day.”
The company has customers across the UK – from the Hebrides to Cornwall as well as Northern Ireland. A busy 2016 will see Stewart and Louise attend eight Home Building and Renovating shows across the country. The first was held at Birmingham’s NEC earlier this month, where Stewart spoke about the future of electric heating – a topic researched by Louise.
Says Stewart: “Attending these events means we get to meet the customers – people coming up with plans to convert space in their properties or build from scratch. They are very open-minded about what we have to offer. We also talk to developers – who have often used the same heating products for the past 20 years – and get them to have a look at us.”
Louise says: “We are also building up relationships in this area. We have a national and even international business, but we want to build up links with Yorkshire businesses.”
The company also works with “green” charity Groundwork, which helps disadvantaged people improve their communities by tackling fuel poverty, improving the local environment and providing training.
Louise, who carries out research on heating issues and future trends as well as taking charge of social media, online marketing and book-keeping at VeriSmart Heating, says: “People think fuel poverty only affects people in housing association or council housing stock, but it also affects a lot of privately-owned houses.”
When it come to hot tips from the heating suppliers, Stewart says the key to success for any business is building good relationships with the customers. “It’s not just about selling things,” he adds. “You have to show people how you can support them.”
Says Louise: “It’s the old thing about ‘Plan, Do and Review’. You should constantly review what you are doing. Is it working? Does it need tweaking? When you get caught up in the daily tasks it’s really difficult to step away and look at the whole picture. If you spend more time dealing with the important matters before they become ‘urgent’ you will spend less time fire-fighting.”
Names: Stewart Donnor and Louise Broom
Family: Daughters Charlie and Georgie
Work: Electric radiators supplier
Site: Woodvale Centre, Woodvale Road, Brighouse
Phone: 01484 213151