REAL WORK: NINE TO FIVE - Kirstie Ashton
Sunday 29 August 1999
Kirstie Ashton, 28
What does a personal organiser do?
We take anything on somebody's "to do" list and do it for them.
Organising dry cleaning, house moving, a reminder service, buying birthday cards and presents, walk dogs, arrange golfing weekends.
Sounds like there are some overpaid workaholics around
Actually there are lots of people doing 12-hour days. They haven't got the time to do these chores so it makes sense to get someone else to do them. I'm interested in the concept that there are lots of people who have money but no time. I know because my business partner Sally Andrew and I both worked in the City and were in this position. You have money but are too bogged down to enjoy it. All my free time was spent doing admin or domestic tasks.
What are the more unusual things you are asked to do?
We helped a chap who had forgotten his father's birthday. He lives in London and his father is in Liverpool. We were able to arrange for a bottle of champagne to be gift wrapped and delivered all within an hour, which took some doing.
How did you manage it?
We went to a high street off-licence here and made an arrangement for their Liverpool branch to deliver the bubbly using a local taxi firm.
We have a client who is having a new kitchen fitted so we are organising the sale of the old units and appliances. She would be doing this herself except that she is at her other home on the Isle of Wight and doesn't come back until September to her new kitchen. We are also organising school runs for her daughter who will be staying with an aunt until her mother returns. We've also made all the arrangements for a 75th birthday party in Chelsea, which had 40 guests. We try our best to satisfy our customers as long as it's legal and moral.
Where did the idea come from?
My head. Five years ago I was sitting my chartered accountant exams and talking to a friend about what we would do if we failed. I said what I'd like to do is organise posh businessmen's houses so they would return from a business trip to find fresh flowers and a fridge full of food. But I didn't fail my exams and put this idea to the back of my mind. But this sort of service has been well established in the States for years.
How much does it cost?
We charge an hourly rate for our services plus 10 per cent of anything we sell on the client's behalf. Sometimes there is a consultancy fee; for instance, one client wanted us to find her somewhere to live less than an hour away from Covent Garden. We try to give an upfront estimate and keep them updated. At the moment we are building up the business so there are a lot of goodwill gestures. It's a great time to be using us.
What does your partner think of this wheeze?
He thinks it's great. But he has just come on the scene and hasn't known me any other way. He gets roped in because he's very good with numbers.
What do you find stressful?
We're taking the stress off other people. It can be stressful if you're working on 10 people's to do lists. It's a new business and we're not paying ourselves a salary yet but we hope to earn as much as we used to, although it has taken off in the past few months. At the moment we are spending half our time working and the rest of the time building up contacts with removal firms, florists, big clients and getting our name known. It all takes as much time as a full-time job. We're seeing if the first year works. It has to.
Smoothe Operators: 0181 946 2771.
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