The story of Solent

As they settle into their permanent HQ, the team at Solent Laundry Solutions (SLS) have every reason to feel very happy with their progress since the company was founded in 2011.

Their drive, enthusiasm and laundry business experience have taken SLS from one tiny room, via various temporary rented locations, to their own offices and warehousing in Fareham, Hampshire, midway between Southampton and Portsmouth.

Ahead of the move the team was named Miele Professional Number One Dealer 2016 after achieving £1.4m in Miele sales thanks to several prestigious projects. Couple that with a slick website and a skilled team and you have a success story living up to their catch line ‘working with you, for you’.

SLS was founded by directors James Holmes (exMiele), Peter Hosking (exAllsop & Francis), along with James’s father Roger Holmes as finance director and Mark Pettis as technical director. Roger, an accountant and project manager, had just retired so was a perfect fit for the business.

We met founders Holmes and Hosking as they settled in at Segensworth Business Centre, which puts them at the centre of a sales and service area that stretches from the West Country to Kent and north to Oxford.

They concentrate mainly on on premise laundries (OPL), selling 90 per cent Miele equipment and complete the package with associated products such as the Reliable ironer. They are now the sole UK dealer for the number one professional ironing system in North America.

Said Holmes: “We are very pleased to be where we are both in location and business terms.”

Their aim is to provide great service and build long-term relationships. The team is starting to get repeat business and continue to build their new customer base. They look at projects from start to finish, designing, supplying and installing systems and providing ongoing support with a team of ‘top drawer’ engineers located across the south from Cornwall to Kent and north to Luton.

SLS will do everything needed to complete an installation and be ready to follow up. They have recently installed an ironer at a hotel that had a serious access problem. Reluctant to take the machine apart, their engineer, a former builder, said he would take a wall down, install the ironer and rebuild the wall, which is exactly what he did.

With an eye to the future they have invested ‘very heavily’ in their engineers and like to think that they are ‘only ever an hour away’ from clients.

Their aim is to provide a same day or, at the longest, next morning service. “Now engineering is arguably the biggest volume of activity in our business. All our resources are heavily weighted to service and support,” said Hosking.

Said Holmes: “When we first started with Miele as our lead system business came through that, but as we’ve grown people have heard about us and our reputation. Our website is our biggest draw. We’ve invested quite a bit in that.”

A lot of their business is coming from recommendations. For instance they have OPL installations at several prestigious public schools under their belt.

That started with Wellington College in Berkshire and now includes Winchester College, Bryanston School, Milton Abbey School, King Edward’s School and the Royal Duke of York’s Military School.

Holmes said: “When you are talking to the schools, Wellington is the crème de la crème. Others have confidence in Wellington.”

Other clients include Tottenham Hotspur FC and Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Hosking said: “From day one we didn’t want to be a ‘box shifter’. We wanted to supply a quality product with support people can rely upon.”

It was their experience in the industry and their desire to do things differently which led them to branch out on their own. “One beer, then another beer, and we decided to do it,” said Holmes, cutting a long build-up short.

Miele saw the opportunity they were providing and they were given the company’s Oxford area.

Said Hosking: “Oxford was the only area available and is about and hour and half from here but we did really well. That’s where we got into the private education sector.

“We needed to grow from there. We had an engineer there then decided to concentrate on our own area - Hampshire - and since then we’ve grown and grown.”

They believe that their approach gives them an edge in the sector. “We’re out and out sales people really passionate for laundry but our learning experience has given us a different level of discipline,” said Holmes.

“We said to ourselves we will never supply a machine we can’t service and we’ve stuck by that.”

“In 10 years time I would hope to see us being a proper presence nationwide. I think there is room for it.”

They won’t be straying out of the laundry sector, although their engineers are very well qualified.

Said Hosking: “We’re a laundry company and really proud to be.”

Of their new premises they say: “This is ours and we can do what we like with it. It allows us now to look at warehousing different products and maybe having a testing facility.”

As well as their core ranges of 17 Miele Professional washing machines and 23 tumble dryers and Miele flatwork ironers, SLS can also supply and install finishing equipment with 18 products including Blanca and Pony.

They also have a good range of Hobart dishwashers suitable for pubs and restaurants, sports clubs, social clubs, cafes and nightclubs.

The Miele Professional WetCare alternative to traditional drycleaning is also part of their offering.

And, of course, there is their exclusive Reliable commercial steam ironing system which comes with an incredible lifetime guarantee.

To complete the package, SLS supply, deliver and maintain all the laundry chemicals you need.

They firmly believe in a complete service summed up by Homles who said: “Pete and I want to live and die by the sword. If we get something wrong we will deal with it. We say ‘don’t worry we’ll sort it’. We will take the hit and that way we keep the customer.”

Their satisfied customers agree. Julie Hollingworth of Wellington College said: “SLS have offered support beyond the basic remit of the laundry contract, providing assistance with sourcing laundry related products. We have also received detailed guidance on the design and integration of new laundry systems.”

Andy Smith of Royal Duke of York’s Military School said: “The service and installation performed by Solent Laundry Solutions was first class. To avoid the busy term time, SLS undertook the refurbishments in the summer holidays, ensuring that the laundry was fully installed and operational by the start of the autumn term.”

Their success primarily is developing new start laundries. They can provide an end-to-end service from CAD design to a completed laundry.

The directors conclude: “We want people to talk to SLS because we are a great laundry company!”

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