IT HAS taken just six years for Godmanchester’s All Ironed Out to grow from an ironing service fitted around the school run to a national enterprise with plans for international expansion.

IT HAS taken just six years for Godmanchester's All Ironed Out to grow from an ironing service fitted around the school run to a national enterprise with plans for international expansion.

The company, based around a web booking system which allows customers to book ironing directly with an All Ironed Out agent in their area, was set up in Little Staughton in 2004 by the husband-and-wife team of Phil and Louise Buddery.

Now the company is hoping to roll out its business model across the UK, taking on up to 1,000 new staff in the next year, with plans already in place for expansion into Canada and the USA.

Mr Buddery said the business began as a sideline after his wife's redundancy in 2004.

"We began to take in ironing and distribute leaflets around Little Staughton on a load-by-load basis. Gradually that area began to grow, and we found ourselves meeting a greater and greater demand," he said.

"Soon I was spending over 40 hours a week picking up and delivering all over Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, and the house was filled with ironing. It got beyond a joke."

In its first year, the company saw off major national competition to win an e-commerce award for its website, which puts customers directly in touch with their local agent.

"At the awards dinner, a managing director of BT told me that we needed to franchise the business or roll it out region by region," said Mr Buddery. "As well as being a confidence boost for the business, it was a wake-up call that bigger things were around the corner."

All Ironed Out began to recruit staff region by region and targeted cash-rich time-poor customers who could book their ironing online, have it picked up, ironed, and returned by staff in their local area. The company now receives 80 per cent of its bookings through the website.

"The idea of a centralised website works very well, and I'm surprised that no-one else has done this before," said Mr Buddery, a web developer by trade. "It's a very simple model, but one that works very effectively for this business.

"It's a low cost medium that can reach a lot of people very quickly, and agents are able to fit it into their current working arrangements.

"Most of our customers are busy professionals, and they make their bookings from work, so the website is the ideal way for them to reach us."

As well as running All Ironed Out, Mr and Mrs Buddery also supply, market and manage several other ironing businesses in the UK.

The website model has been so effective that Mr Buddery said All Ironed Out have plans to take the brand abroad, possibly into Canada and the US, in 2011.

"It's something we're looking at currently - they are English-speaking countries, and they have a strong service industries. This model would work anywhere, because it is tailored to people who want to do the work.

"We want to show that ironing is not an amateur sport for little old ladies, and to keep the same high standards wherever we work.

"It's ambitious, but there's no reason it shouldn't work.