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By shaun lowthorpe
Thursday, November 24, 2011
When Sul Morina first came to England as a 16-year-old he was an asylum seeker uprooted from his family in Albania who could not speak a word of English.
"Norwich is a great place, and this country is a great country for somebody who wants to work and do well. "
Now less than a decade on, he is the owner of Norwich Hand Car Wash in Vulcan Road South, a successful business which has expanded to meet growing demand and recently invested £15,000 on drainage and a water interceptor as part of the first phase of a two-stage project to recycle water at the expanded site.
It is a journey which has taken him from Loughborough, where he was first-based to Norfolk, and a business, which on a good day sees 50 cars pass through for cleaning and valeting.
The business has an annual £30,000 turnover, and several car dealers including Richard Nash, Duff Morgan, and SEAT are among the business customers.
And now the 25-year-old is keen to expand the business.
Hand car wash businesses have sprung up at several sites across the city, often employing more migrant workers.
But with ayslum seekers and migrant workers often misunderstood and attracting negative comments, he is also keen to show just how his business is different from the others, and is putting something back into the local community by re-investing in the company and its facilities.
“They are great people, these guys work hard,” he said of his Lithuanian staff. “They have come from a very hard country, where they don’t have much money. I have started to take on English people, but they don’t do enough and it’s very hard for them.
“But Norwich is a great place, and this country is a great country for somebody who wants to work and do well. I want to do well, and I want to show the government I am paying my taxes.”
In 2001 he came to England as a teenager unable to speak the langauage, and went to school and learned English. After about eight months he was transferred to year 10 and studied GCSEs.
“They weren’t great, but I then went to college and studied electrical installation and then became an apprentice with a company called Electec Services,” he added.
However finding enough work to keep going financially was tough, but he took umbrage at a suggestion from Jobcentre staff that he would be better off claiming benefits.
“The benefits office said it would be better for me to leave my job and get benefits, but I said that was wrong - I wanted to get work and do something.”
That led to a visit to Norwich where he had heard a job opportunity might be available with the car wash business.
“I knew someone in Norwich who has started this business, but he wanted to leave. He was selling the business, but I didn’t have enough money to buy it. I went to the bank, but they weren’t sure if I would pay the money back and the rates were very high.
“But I wanted this business, because I wanted to do something, so I went to my old boss and told him. He said ‘I think you will do well, start with this’ and he gave me £5,000.”
With the money from his ex-boss, he set about transforming the re-named Norwich Hand Car Wash into the business it is today.
“I was so happy, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I got the business and when I started, it was two or three cars a day. I did leaflets all around Norwich and in three months it turned around very quickly and started employing six or seven people. In six months I paid my ex-boss back and I gave him some more to say thank-you.
“When I came here I was a lost child, who came here with nothing,” he said. “But at school I met a great family, Les and Ros Jones and I stayed with them for Christmas and they would help me.”
In Norwich he has also been grateful for the support of other businesses in the city including ABC taxis, which has helped with sponsorship and advice on developing he business and issues such as marketing, uniforms and getting a website.
Paul Walker, director of ABC Taxis, said: “I did advise him on structuring the company. I said ‘if you are going to stay you need to invest some money and look ahead five years down the road’. Customers coming here feel as though they are being cared for and we support them because they are the best and that’s what we want to be associated with.”
Four months ago the business moved a short distance into larger refurbished building within the same site. But now Mr Morina is looking to grow the business and open a second outlet in a different part of the city.
“I have got a great location and I want to expand at another site in Norwich and employ more people,” he said. “I also want to help people do well in this country.
“I came here to start a new life. I think the secret is working hard and having a belief. If you do a good job and look after your customers, it’s great.”
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