A glass of red wine spilt on a pale carpet would bring on palpitations in most homes, but not in Helen Kirkham’s. ‘My house has become a test lab,’ says the mother-of-four from Norwich.
‘If something gets spilt I might leave it there for months to see if I can get the stain out.’
Helen is the woman behind Mrs Gleam: a range of cleaning products that can be used around children, are safe on the skin, work on all surfaces, are non-caustic and eco-friendly
While many products say they do one or more of these things, Helen couldn’t find any that could do all four.
‘I was sick of oven cleaners burning my hands or safe products that were little more effective than coloured water,’ she says. She searched the internet but couldn’t find anything suitable.
With four children at home under the age of 14, she took matters into her own hands not long after the birth of her youngest child, Finley, who’s now four. She’d been made redundant from her job as sales manager for a mortgage provider — a development which sparked a conversation with her partner James, 37, an account manager, about her future.
‘James and I agreed that I should have four years to make the idea work, before Finley started school. After that, I would get a job again.’
Her first task was finding the right chemical company and manufacturer to concoct a workable formula.
‘I got a D in GCSE chemistry and had to spend hours researching.’
At the same time, her older children, Lauren, then 14, and Calvin, then 12, needed collecting from school, while two-year-old Charlotte and baby Finley were still at home.
‘I decided there were 24 hours in the day and I would make the best use of them possible. Sometimes I would do all-nighters, researching chemical formulas and other products.’