Finding The Balance Of Motherhood And Work

Giulia Sirignani and Sharon Stewart
Giulia Sirignani


Mar 19, 2024

Shannon Stewart has spent a career in hospitality, but this year she and her husband Jed have become Urban Clean Regional Franchises in South East Queensland. It’s their first time as business partners, and Shannon’s here to tell us about why they’ve made this business and life decision to join the Urban Clean family.

Giulia: Shannon, welcome.

Shannon: Thanks, Giulia. Thank you for having me.

Giulia: Now tell us about your decision to join forces with your husband of five years, Jed, and become part of the Urban Clean family.

Shannon: So Jed and I, towards the end of last year, decided we wanted to do something for ourselves. We’ve both been working full-time all of our adult lives. I was working in hospitality and since having our son, Oliver that wasn’t really allowing for the work-life balance that we wanted, to be able to have a family together and be there for all the important bits.

So we made the decision to venture out on our own. We didn’t think it would be in commercial cleaning, but here we are – and we’re really enjoying it so far.

Giulia: Where are you operating and with how many franchisees?

Shannon: We are a new territory, based on the Gold Coast and stretch from Coolangatta basically all the way to Logan, which is halfway up towards Brisbane. We have three franchisees at the moment. Myself and Jed actually being a franchisee, we run a bit of a hybrid because we’re new to the industry. So we’re actually employing our own cleaners to fulfil the contracts that we’re winning, before we then grow our franchisee base and then sell those contracts on.

Giulia: How many sites more or less do you think you’re operating at the moment?

Shannon: We’ve got over 30 sites at the moment that we’re fulfilling and the Gold Coast is huge, so it’s an endless opportunity.

Giulia: Now, this is your first experience, as you mentioned, in the commercial cleaning industry. Tell us about your professional backgrounds, both you and Jed, and how this might help you in this new venture.

Shannon: Jed comes from the material handling industry and I’m from a hospitality background, however both of us have been leading and developing teams for the last 10 to 15 years, and we both have experience in customer service facing roles. So, using those skills will take our franchisees forward in winning contracts and also helping them to develop as they grow their businesses.

Giulia: You obviously have this background in leadership, but I’d like to know more about the training and the mentorship that you received from Damien Bowen and the whole Urban Clean team and how you feel that really does set new members of the Urban Clean family up for success.

Shannon: Since joining the Urban Clean family, Damien and the team have been very hands-on, which is amazing – very supportive. Damien and I have been out in the field together. He’s helped me develop my sales and marketing skills. The head office team also have been providing a lot of support when it comes to learning how to clean, doing it “the Urban Clean way”. And it’s all been very seamless and really, really supportive.

Giulia: What sort of technology really helps you in the training process and in the delivery?

Shannon: We have an online portal which houses all of the tools, tips, training and videos. There’s a whole library full of stuff for us to use, which Jed and I have been perusing; there are many, many hours’ worth of research in there. And then we also have the Janey Flow app, which is something that Damien and the team have developed, for when we go out on site, gives us prompts, tips and tricks to help us to be able to provide and report the best service of the clean to our customers.

Giulia: In the skill base that you both already bring, you talked about leadership, but what other skills do you think or what other tools do you have in your toolkit that really will help you deliver in this new role?

Shannon: I think that Jed and I have helped to build a successful business through combining those skills that we have. And really drawing on that knowledge and the things that we’ve experienced in other businesses to become successful, we’ll use within our own business as well.

Giulia Sirignani: What advice would you give to a new Urban Clean franchisee?

Shannon: I think the biggest piece of advice that I have, and it’s actually something that I’m going to paraphrase from Damien’s book, is actually just because you don’t know how to do it doesn’t mean that you won’t be successful at it.

As I mentioned in the beginning, Jed and I explored many different business opportunities and didn’t think we’d end up in commercial cleaning. But it’s not the industry itself, it’s what it has to offer us to help us live the life that we want to live; being flexible, not having to work weekends, all those sorts of things that we were looking for to help us have balance, it has delivered.

I guess what I’m saying is, take the risk, as long as you’ve calculated the risk and it’s worth it for you and explore new options because that’s what’s going to help you to grow.

Giulia: And that mentorship, that leadership that you’ve experienced is very much part of the Urban Clean ethos as I understand it. How important will it be for you to pass that on to your franchisees?

Shannon: Oh, it will be paramount because if they feel supported, and that’s going to enable them to feel like they can grow within their business and it’s going to give them the confidence to ensure that their business is on the right trajectory and that we’ve built trust between myself, Jed and our franchisees, as well as Damien and the head office team. And that is going to help facilitate the support.

Giulia: When you were choosing a business to go into what was it that really made you talk about the freedom that it can provide, the great life work balance.  But what other things did Urban Clean offer for you, was it the training, the principles and the ethos that really nailed it for you and helped you make the decision that Urban Clean was the right opportunity for you?

Shannon: Yes, that was part of it. A lot of it was actually the people that we were dealing with in the process of understanding what it was; is this the business that we want to buy? To be quite honest, we bought the business because of the authenticity of people like Damien and the Urban Clean head office team. They made us feel comfortable. They ensured that every step of the way, our questions were answered, there was nothing hidden.  And we just felt safe from the get-go and knew that our investment would be looked after and that we would be looked after.

Giulia: Did you have to relocate to take up this opportunity?

Shannon: No, we were already on the Gold Coast. We moved here three years ago from Sydney, much like everybody else I’m assuming, in the great COVID migration. And it was a lifestyle choice for us to move. Buying a business was not a thought when we did that. But what Urban Clean actually offers us is working from home. All we need is a laptop and a car; and we have everything that we need to be able to run the business successfully. We go out on site, we meet with the customers and obviously meeting with franchisees, we can do it over the internet or we find a nice safe space to meet.

Giulia: It seems to me that there are quite a few husband-wife teams in Urban Clean. How is it so far and why do you think it’s so attractive to couples?

Shannon: For Jed and I, we’re very opposite, so we balance each other out, which is really good. We value each other’s opinions in our personal and professional lives. And I think a lot of other people have found that, similar to us, it’s another talking point; it’s something that we get to grow together. And it’s something that we get to support each other through.

I think a lot of people, when they have individual jobs or they go to their nine to five, it’s not relatable. Maybe there’s not a lot of interest in your partner’s profession outside of because it’s their job and you love them, but it’s not necessarily the industry or something that you would enjoy  doing. So for us, it’s another common denominator. And I’ve heard a lot of other people say that they trust their partner wholeheartedly. So why wouldn’t they trust them with their business as well?

Giulia: I should qualify that; I said husband and wife, but partners are partners. Wife-wife, husband-husband, we’re inclusive!

Shannon: Absolutely!

Giulia: What are your goals? Let’s say over the next 12 months, where would you and Jed like to see yourselves, at the same time next year?

Shannon: That’s a really tricky one because I think the Gold Coast is going to move as the business evolves because it’s a new territory and it’s uncharted. The sky is the limit to as much hard work as we want to put in.

In 18 months I think our goal would to be have enough franchises within the Gold Coast region that Jed and I are purely going out and winning business for them. And we’re not necessarily operating as a franchisee ourselves anymore, so that we can actually focus on winning the contracts and helping the franchisees grow their businesses.  Which is something that’s probably going to take the next 12 to 18 months to implement.

Giulia: Finally, what would you say has been the most inspiring experience that you’ve had so far being part of the Urban Clean team?

Shannon: There’s a lot of things. I think the most inspiring and also motivating thing that we have been or seen at the moment would actually be hearing the stories of the other regional partners and their journey from start to finish.

Obviously we’re just starting our journey, but to hear how successful they’ve been, especially husband and wife teams, there’s quite a few of them.  And to understand that we can learn and grow from their experiences; and in such a short amount of time, most of them have only been in business for the last two to three years.  Their growth and success stories are what are really inspiring and motivating us at the moment.

Giulia: Shannon, thanks so much for sharing your story with us today and I wish you and Jed the very best of luck in this new venture.

Shannon: Amazing. Thank you so much for your time Giulia.


By Giulia Sirignani


Giulia Sirignani is a Walkley-nominated journalist, director and producer with nearly 30 years’ experience working internationally in broadcast and print journalism and as a documentary director. Giulia has reported and produced for ABC, Nine Network, CNN, NBC & PBS America, CNBC, RAI (Italy) and wrote for Fairfax publications in both Australia and New Zealand as well as corporate and tourism blogs. Giulia writes and produces content for lifestyle websites and She also trains politicians, corporate teams and academics in media and presentation skills, personal branding and corporate narratives. Giulia has edited books on public speaking and personal branding.



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