Hollie Middleton had just turned four when she picked up her first tennis racket.
By the age of nine she was representing Norfolk, began winning tournaments throughout her early teens, and then played at Wimbledon and went on to succeed on the US College Tennis circuit.
Long hours training, playing tournaments in the school holidays, a steely determination to succeed and maintain high standards, have also shaped her business ethos.
After spending six years in the United States, she returned to the UK at the age of 22 to set up her own cleaning business – Spring clean Commercial Ltd - which now employs more than 160 people in Norfolk.
More recently, she has developed a new approach to high-intensity fitness training with her husband Tom Mahood, who runs the GAINfitness gym in Norwich.
Born in Norwich, Hollie grew up in Bracon Ash and went to Wymondham College.
“My dad Barry has always been super sporty, so he got us playing sports,” she recalled. “My brother Scott and I were quite good at tennis from a young age, so we focused on that.”
As Hollie’s skills developed, she had private lessons starting at 6am before primary school, and a personal trainer when she was nine.
A member of the Norfolk tennis squad from the Under 9s age-group, she won the regional Futures tournament for East Anglia and was trained by top coaches at the Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre.
“There were 8-10 of us and we’d do camps, stay over for five days and all we would do is play tennis and do fitness,” she said.
“Playing sport competitively at a high level while growing up really shapes your childhood. You are travelling a lot and your whole childhood revolves around sport.”
School holidays would be spent playing tournaments across the UK and in Europe.
“At the time, all my friends were in tennis and summer was a circuit of back-to-back tournaments with them,” she said. “I was having the best time playing tennis with these great friends, I can’t imagine what I would have done with my spare time outside of school if I was not playing tennis.”
In her early teens, she took part in a Road to Wimbledon programme and won the East Anglian qualification, playing at the prestigious tournament twice, though she did not progress beyond the early rounds.
That left her with a decision to make about competing professionally.
“At 16, if you are not winning or making the later stages of events, you are not going to make it,” she acknowledged. “I was qualifying and getting knocked out in the first round. It was disappointing.
While playing at a high level, Hollie has always been a tennis fan too.
“As a youngster I was a fan of Anna Kournikova,” she recalled. “I remember watching her reach the semi-finals of Wimbledon and my dad brought me the same dress as she was wearing and I was really excited. “Other than that, I’ve always supported British players; I always made a point to support Tim Henman and more recently I’ve been a big fan of Andy Murray. I’ve queued multiple times overnight at Wimbledon to go and watch him.”
Murray, and Serena Williams, remain her two favourite players.
“I still closely follow what they are up to, both tennis and business wise, as they are both savvy business people which I think is inspiring off court,” added Hollie, now 33.
From there her focus switched to the college tennis circuit on the other side of the Atlantic and having left high school with GCSEs, she secured a scholarship to play tennis at the University of Arkansas.
“I had several offers of scholarships and went to Arkansas when I was 16, which was a division one school with a good team.”

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She studied business between playing tennis five hours a day, though concedes that at the time, she was not particularly interested in the subject.
“It was all about playing tennis every day, fitness and weight training,” she added.
After two years, she moved to the University of Southern Mississippi with a better coach and facilities and played there for a couple of years with a regular top 20 ranking on the US college tennis circuit, peaking at 11.
After graduating, having played the permitted four years of college tennis, she had a job coaching tennis at a country club and summer kids’ camps.
“It was a good job for me, earning money to support my life in America and my flights back,” explained Hollie. “That led me to meeting people, including a couple who owned a big cleaning franchise. I started coaching the wife, we got friendly, and she offered me a job.”
The couple sponsored her visa accreditation allowing her to stay in America and at the time, Hollie never saw herself returning to the UK.

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“I thought I was going to live out there, though even at that time, I knew I was not going to be professional. The lifestyle is gruelling, you travel a lot and you have to be completely single-minded to be a success,” she said.
“I was making money at the country club and had my own apartment and car and liked the lifestyle in Southern Mississippi.”
Through her work, she gained a clearer insight into the cleaning business as the couple involved her with operational and HR tasks, sales, finances and quotes.
“They were really generous in teaching me everything about the business and business structure, and I started to think I could do this,” she said.
Hollie returned to Norfolk in 2012, having also missed her mum Judith Finney and dad Barry Robinson, but with the goal of starting her own cleaning business.
She initially took a job with training provider ATT, selling apprenticeships and NVQs to businesses to earn money to formally launch her business, and started out doing end-of-let cleans in student accommodation.
“I learned a lot, because one thing I did not do a lot of in America was the cleaning, so that was a learning curve for me,” said Hollie.
“I ended up doing a good job and got a steady amount of work. I would finish ATT at 5pm and go and clean in the evenings.”
When she went to buy her first van from Auto Devotion in Norwich, the sales team were curious as to why a 22-year-old wanted the green van on their forecourt.
“I told them I was starting my own cleaning business and they asked me to quote for them, so I did,” she continued. “They gave me an opportunity and that was my first commercial contract.”
She left ATT, took on her first employee and began networking at organisations such as BNI (Business Network International) meetings to expand her contacts and grow her business.
Soon, she had 10 staff. Another break came after cleaning a lady’s house in Lakenham, whose grandson was general manager of the Gravity entertainment centre in Norwich.
“He heard how I would go to the shop to get fresh milk for the lady and go the extra mile and he called me and asked me to quote to clean at Gravity.”
From there, expansion and transformation into commercial cleaning venture began with a small fleet of branded Spring Clean Commercial Ltd vans.
“The business plan from the beginning was to go commercial, so I eventually stopped the domestic cleaning.”
By 2016, Hollie employed 35 staff and continued as Spring Clean grew and grew until the point where she now employs 160 cleaners covering numerous sites across Norfolk.
Hollie said Spring Clean Commercial aims to embrace technological advances in terms of cleaning equipment, methods, and products, while retaining attention to detail and a personal touch to meet the specific requirements of clients.
Today, the company cleans at schools and industrial sites, aircraft hangars, laboratory and healthcare settings, large modern structures and high-use landmark public buildings, through to offices located in older-style buildings, solicitors’ offices, car showrooms, shops, pubs, restaurants, leisure centres, and events venues.
Spring Clean Commercial is also an Eastern Daily Press Future 50 company, recognised for its potential growth, innovative services and strong customer focus.
Underpinned with a management team including her father Barry as operations manager, Hollie retains a hands-on role, with a goal to “double or triple” Spring Clean in size.
She takes great pride and satisfaction in seeing Spring Clean transformed into a successful venture, securing major contracts such as cleaning The Forum in Norwich.
“I started cleaning one of the smaller buildings in 2014 when they took a gamble on me. I always dreamed of cleaning the whole contract and never thought I was going to get to the point that I was big enough to do it. But when I won that contract for the whole building, that was a real wow moment because it is such a prominent building in Norwich.”
Alongside her success as a businesswoman, health and fitness remain an important element of Hollie’s life. She runs marathons, including the London marathon and others, and completed a 50-mile ultra-marathon a couple of years ago.
More recently, she has again started playing tennis against a competitive opponent who plays for the GB over 60s team.
“Fitness is a real release for me,” she said. “In the first couple of years at Spring Clean, I didn’t have time and was active anyway but as I’ve stepped back from the cleaning to concentrate on management, fitness became an important part of my day where I am not thinking about other things.
“It is a release physically and mentally; fitness and sport help build perseverance, determination and life skills.”

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Hollie has been training at GAINfitness since 2018 where she met husband Tom, who owns the gym on Guardian Road just off the outer ring road in Norwich.
And now, they have paired their love of fitness with their business acumen to develop the Red Room fitness concept at the gym.
The Red Room delivers an intense, high calorie burn workout, bringing together the latest trends, innovations and styles from gyms around the country.
In a self-contained facility, it features eight six-minute components on state-of-the-art Versaclimer machines (which mimic that natural movement of climbing), self-propelled curved treadmills, suspension trainer systems and studio benches during a group-based fitness experience led by an instructor.
Heart monitors measure beats-per-minute to ensure participants stay in the red zone during the total body workout to improve stamina, cardiovascular health, build strength and lose weight.
“I think the key in fitness is to find something you enjoy. Sometimes, that means you have to change what you are doing every so often to keep it fresh and interesting or set yourself a new challenge,” said Hollie.
“The Red Room came from finding the most efficient workout that we could do within one hour. We started researching it, going to London and doing some of the classes, and realised that nobody offered it in Norwich, so it was an opportunity to offer something different.”
Hollie, who married Tom in March 2022, said they have so much in common.
“We were both divorced, both into fitness and played sport competitively growing up, had our own businesses, and went to university in America.”
Tom played college basketball in the US and professionally for Leicester Riders in the UK, as well as coaching Loughborough University men’s basketball team.
With their son Patrick, who is 16 months’ old, and two lively Hungarian Vizsla dogs, Ella and Ronan, they live in Fundenhall in South Norfolk, and Hollie is expecting their second child in June.
“I love south Norfolk,” she added. “I grew up here and always dreamed of living in the countryside and having my dogs and children run around in fields. The area has so much character.”
For Hollie, it has been a journey driven by determination and hard work: from playing tennis at Wimbledon and succeeding on the US college circuit to setting up her own successful commercial cleaning venture in Norfolk and motherhood. But you sense there is still so much more to come.