Ashley Ward is 27 years old. He is the owner of Swaye Electrical Services, he owns his own home, is getting married next summer, and has a baby on the way. This is a massive achievement in such a short space of time for someone of his age, but Ashley doesn’t see it that way.
When Ashley was 16, he didn’t really know what he wanted to do. He went through the motions and took three A levels; Art, Psychology and Spanish. When he turned 18, he started to think about his future. “My granddad was an electrician and a real grafter. Me and my two brothers spent a lot of time with him growing up, he was a great role model. After, much needed advice from family members, I decided I wanted to follow in his footsteps. It was a choice I took very seriously. It was then when I applied for an apprenticeship at City College Plymouth”. Ashley was lucky enough to go for the interview and get the position a week before the college term started. “I would have had to wait another year if I missed the opportunity”.
Ashley started his 4 year long apprenticeship with Koehler Electrical Services and covered a wide variety of work. Ashley tells us they covered every type of electrical installation there is – from domestic and commercial to residential and industrial, gaining knowledge and experience in door entry systems, fire alarms, CCTV, intruder alarms and 3 phase installations.
‘The electricians that taught me were old school, they were really switched on. No pun intended!” Ashley tells us that the electricians he worked with were very particular and it was always completed to a very high standard, which was a good grounding for him to have so early on.
At the time of his apprenticeship, Ashley was just a regular 18 year old living at home with his mum. “I started on £2.35 an hour. That was regular apprenticeship wage back then, and I was on £10 more a week than some of the other guys!” 3 years in, Ashley was amongst the top in his class in college and was quickly gaining on site experience and by his final year he was running multiple large scale 50 Kilowatt solar installations in Cornwall. “I was thrown a bit in the deep end, but I just had to crack on”.
Because Ashley was so determined to succeed, he managed to complete his apprenticeship in only 3 and a half years. His hard work and enthusiasm was duly noticed by the College, who awarded him with The Apprentice of the Year Award.
At the age of 22, he was a qualified Electrician with 4 years of experience under his belt. “Once you finish, your employer either rates you and keeps you on, or gets rid of you and takes on another apprentice”. His employer decided to keep Ashley on, and he became a full time electrician.
Ashley stayed with KES until he was 24 years old. By this time, he had decided that he wanted to give it a go on his own. “I was quite an important member of the team and I was doing a lot of hours- we once topped 90 hours in one week!” Because of this, Ashley had no time to build his own client base, so decided to leave after two years.
After his time at KES, Ashley then went on to work for SSI; another Plymouth based Electrical Services Business. He joined in 2014 and stayed with them for around a year. “SSI was inadvertently a move which allowed me enough time to build my own client base”.
Ashley made the move to go self employed when he was 25 years old. He tells us that his first year of business wasn’t necessarily tough- because he had worked so hard previously to build up his clientele. “There were a few days where I would worry, and then the work would come flooding in again.”
I’m a firm believer in not taking hand outs, if you’ve got a vision- work hard for it!
The name “’Swaye Electrical Services’ has a really interesting back story. Ashley tells us how, after he qualified, he went for a Chinese with some friends. “I picked up a fortune cookie, opened it and it said ‘Your Success Will Astonish Everyone’, so I kept it and stuck it on the fridge. It was quite a nice thing to have when you’re knackered from working so hard.” Ashley tells us how it can get tough- “there are always going to be people trying to bring you down for whatever personal reasons, and don’t see where your aspirations are going”.
Ashley sat down one night and scribbled a few ideas for a logo design. He cleverly swapped the first letter of each word in the quote. “ Your Success Will Astonish Everyone- S-W- A-Y- E” and that’s how the name was created. The arrows in the logo could signify a number of things, “Positivity, efficiency, the only way is up – the only Swaye is up!”
Although Swaye Electrical Services was going from strength to strength, this took its toll on Ashley. “It got to the stage where it was getting unmanageable. I couldn’t supply the demand I had coming in, and because of the nature of the work I had to be at every job.” Ashley’s social life suffered, working 16 hours a day, it soon became too much to handle on his own. “I was renovating a house at the time on top of everything else. I lost a few friends and suffered from slight depression”. This was a really important lesson, and he set out to look for someone to join him.
Ashley went back to the College in the hope of taking on an apprentice. But with the work load so high, he couldn’t afford to take on a 16-18 year old who didn’t have much experience . “I needed someone who could help me as much as I’d be helping them”.
After a chat with his fiance , Ashley had the realisation that his step brother, Steve- would be the perfect person to approach. “Steve had all the credentials, it was staring us in the face and we just didn’t see it!” Steve joined Swaye in February 2016, when Ashley has been self employed for just under a year. Steve tells us “I left school, and I looked into being an electrician but never gave it much thought after that.” Steve spent the next 10 years after leaving school hoping to get into the Police. He job hopped at the time, and when Ashley approached him it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Steve is in the first year of his apprenticeship and has three years to go. “Working with Ashley, it’s great. I left school and did a few jobs, but never a career. This feels, and is, more of a career. I feel like I am now working towards something”.
Ashley tells us that he believes it is his enthusiasm that is the key to Swaye’s success. Enthusiasm for his work, and enthusiasm to meet new people. “You’ve got to enjoy talking to people because you are going into their homes”.
Sometimes I lay myself bare, I am totally honest. I like to take the time to build relationships with customers
Locally, the business is doing great. Ashley tells us that his client base is built entirely through word of mouth and is increasing his commercial and industrial clients. “I think it is more beneficial having a really strong local base. It makes sense to own your own area before branching out”.
So what does the future hold for Swaye Electrical Services? Ashley tells us that he is always looking to grow. He says that taking Steve on as an apprentice was quite a safe move because he knew what he was getting. “We are family, so the relationship is really easy” He explains that the next step is taking on someone else to expand the business.
Ashley has some advice for people thinking of starting out on their own. “Just do it. Even if you’re surviving on bread and water, just do it. The freedom is incredible and being your own boss is just the best thing. As long as you’re willing to work hard, then you will be successful. No matter what form of work you are in”.