The Founders Brew: Dominic Ponniah

Founders Brew
4 mins
August 30, 2023
Better Growth

Dominic Ponniah is an entrepreneur and the CEO of Cleanology, a multi award-winning commercial cleaning & facilities company that he co-founded with his mother over 20 years ago.

Established in 1999, Cleanology has a portfolio of clients including blue-chip corporates, Royal palaces and some of the world’s most famous brands whilst employing over 1,400 staff across the UK.

In this edition of The Founder’s Brew, we caught up with Dominic and found out what motivated him to start a business, his definition of success and more.

Kicking off the chat, we asked Dominic why he decided to start a business to which he replied “I started my business by accident”. Dominic’s first business was a motorised rickshaw business, which he ran for a couple of years and unfortunately lost a lot of money from. The outcome of this business venture led him to help his mum with her startup as a way to keep himself occupied and pay the bills.

Dominic was supposed to be working with his mother for a few months just to help her to set up the business but 17 years later he’s still there. Dominic jokes “it’s probably the longest temping job in history”, explaining that his mother wanted to keep it as a small business that was more of a hobby whilst he wanted to grow it into a bigger, more serious business. 

Dominic shares that the reason he is a founder is because no one would ever employ him. He reflects on past work experiences and concludes “I can’t imagine doing anything else”. Dominic first worked for a bank for a week when he was 16 and knew straight away that he definitely didn’t want to work for a big corporation, company or anyone else for that matter.

I did not want to work for a big corporate or company. I just could not wait to leave and go to start my own business.

He shares that another reason he is a founder is because he isn’t very compliant by nature, explaining “I would be very disruptive as an employee”. Instead, he enjoys and flourishes in work environments where he has the freedom to be creative and make his own decisions that impact other people. 

Dominic acredits success of a business to a number of factors rather than just one definition. He reasons that legacy and the impact that you and your business leave behind is very important. The ability to positively influence and impact the lives of a business’ customers, employees, stakeholders, suppliers and partners is another way that Dominic defines success.

He explains that success is more than just meeting financial goals “obviously there's a number that we have to achieve as well, but it's absolutely not financial or numerical. It's much, much more broad than that.”

Dominic describes how legacy was one of the motivations for starting a business. He reflects how during the time when he started his first business, the main focus was on changing a very outdated mode of transport and shaking up the taxi world.

Dominic’s current business does just that and has successfully taken an old fashioned industry and made it much more modern and forward thinking. “We were the first in the country to bring in recycled uniforms in our industry, the first to use chemical free sachets and now the whole industry is moving towards that.” 

It's all about being able to disrupt markets and improve things. I'd like to think that we are leading the way and leading change.

Dominic weighs in on what piece of advice he would give to an aspirational founder. “I would say go for it”, explaining that he knows many people who have talked about starting a business, almost started a business and never did and will probably always regret it. “It's one of those things that you can probably always go and get a job, but you can't probably always go and start a business.”

If starting a business is not for you, it's not for you. But you've tried it and you've got nothing to lose.

Rounding up the interview, Dominic states “if you’re made to do it, you've got the right attitude and you're willing to work damn hard and go through all the pain of starting a business, you'll smash it.” 

Get more insights from our popular Founders' Brew series, from people like Heledd Kendrick and Daniel Levan-Harris or read our latest events round-up with our network of founders to get a glimpse into the gatherings we’ve enjoyed.


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