By Harriet Whitehead
A schoolboy who has amassed a collection of 150 vacuum cleaners is cleaning up after turning his obsession into a ‘suck-cessful’ business – even flogging hoovers to his teachers.
Matthew Lock’s devotion to vacuums started from the age of two when he got his first toy Henry – and by the age of five he was happily hoovering the family home.
And now he’s turning a profit fixing up old machines and selling them, even to his secondary school teachers, while carrying out repairs on just about every range of cleaner on the market.
A favourite with his friends’ parents, the 13-year-old will often hoover when he’s invited over for tea so he can diagnose and fix any issues with the machines.
He’s also become an internet hit for his honest reviews of new vacuums which he shares on his social media channels.
For his 13th birthday Matthew even went to the Numatic factory in Somerset coming home with two incredibly rare Henry Hoovers to add to his collection which he keeps in a workshop at the bottom of the garden.
Matthew, who aspires to being the next James Dyson, first discovered he had a knack for fixing them while at his friend’s grandma’s house when he fixed her broken Henry which she was about to throw out.
Matthew, from Maghull, Merseyside, said: “From when I was young I had always been into vacuum cleaners and got a toy Henry when I was two.
“When I was about five we got a real Henry and I used to use that quite often.
“I think it started after seeing them being used and I liked helping out. I liked Henry because he had a face and looked like a toy.
“I started fixing them when I was about 10. It started after I’d gone to a friend’s house and his grandma said she was going to throw out her Henry because it was broken.
“I stripped it down and cleaned it and it worked. She was so made up with it as it was good as new.
“I remember in year four or five having a rough idea how to take them apart and looking into how to make them run, that’s when the collecting started.
“I started finding machines, getting parts and being able to put them together to make a new vacuum.
“I became more and more interested in getting rarer machines.
“I like the way they work and seeing how they can be improved. I like seeing how they’ve advanced over the years – different machines do different jobs.
“I get them off eBay or on Facebook selling sites. I find them in skips and people have even started leaving them outside my back door.
“Some of the Henrys I have are 40 years old. I like to fix them but if they’re beyond repair I will make a good one out of two hoovers.
“My collection is mostly Henrys and Dysons. I’ve got original versions which are made out of metal and Bakelite. My collection is well into the hundreds now.
“They are all in my workshop in my garden which is where I do all my vacuum repairs.”
Despite Matthew’s dad Richard being an engineer, Matthew has never needed his help and insists he’s taught himself how to fix them using YouTube and speaking to other repairers.
He spends around 10 hours a week working on them – fitting it in around his homework.
Entrepreneur Matthew reckons he’s made thousands of pounds after starting his business when he finished primary school having fixed around 500 and sold 300 machines – including to cleaning companies in the northwest and even his schoolteachers.
Once he’s fixed them up and sold them he reinvests the cash into another five machines.
Matthew said: “I just find it so satisfying getting them from places like builder’s yards where they’re full of plaster – being able to clean them up, make them look nice and get them up to a really good standard.
“I can get a broken machine for about £5, fix it and sell it on for £50.
“I work on rewiring and the motor, stripping it down, cleaning the fans, changing the carbon brushes, switches and bypassing the printed circuit board to make the vacuum more efficient.
“To test it I’ll put down dirt, old food or oats to see how the vacuum performs picking up bits and pieces.
“I’m a perfectionist – I wouldn’t sell a machine if I didn’t feel like it would last.
“I’d love to be able to construct a vacuum that could do all jobs perfectly.”
Matthew’s customer base, who he said are stunned when they realise how young he is, started to grow through word of mouth and after he received positive reviews on selling sites.
For his 13th birthday the vacuum fan, who even does his own invoices, asked his dad to take him to the Numatic factory in Chard, Somerset.
Matthew said: “It was huge. It was great because I got to see how they were made and all the thousands of little components they use, how the vacuum bags are made and the huge rotation mould.
“I picked up two rare machines during the trip. There’s an original Hetty which was used as a prototype and a marble effect Henry, nobody else has got them.
“I have at least 100 that I wouldn’t want to sell because they are rare and are worth quite a lot of money.
“Some are original Henrys and metal Numatics – some are the original vintage upright ones.
“Some of the older metal Henrys could go for more than £500 on eBay.
“I think my favourite hoovers are the Henry, which has the best cylinder, the Sebo Felix which is the best upright one and the Dyson V10 is the best cordless.
“I like to try them out and test them against younger brands.
“There are two that I really want – one is the 1950s hoover constellation and a Numatic Wendy – both are extremely rare.”
Matthew said the secret to a good vacuum is something that is built to last for at least 10 years, is lightweight, compact and with high suction.
During services he’s found keys and seven pound coins in one he bought from eBay which he joked paid for the postage.
For the past year Matthew has also been reviewing hoovers for American company Shark and sharing his thoughts on his social media channels.
Matthew said: “They got in touch with me about eight months ago.
“I share my reviews on YouTube and I’ve had about 8,000 views.
“I’m very honest about whether they are good machines. I wouldn’t want to spend hundreds of pounds on something that does not pick anything up.
“I’m honest and people trust you more for it.”
Matthew said his inspirations are James Dyson and Chris Duncan – who invented the Henry hoover.
He said: “I want to emulate them and design and build my own vacuum.
“I would love to visit the James Dyson Foundation and study engineering at the Dyson institute of Engineering and Technology.”
Matthew said his unusual hobby sometimes causes raised eyebrows but most people are impressed.
Matthew said: “My friends are very understanding, one of them really likes it and he helps me with videos for YouYube.
“The response I’ve had is mostly positive – people are impressed that I’m so young and have a little business.”
Matthew’s parents teaching assistant Christine, 50, and engineer Richard, 52, said they couldn’t be prouder of their son.
Christine said: “Initially I thought it was a passing phase but then we would go to somebody else’s house and they would have a different hoover and he would be really interested in seeing how it worked.
“We were quite surprised and amazed really. Friends of mine would ask him to have a look at their hoovers and I would think ‘oh God’ but then he would actually repair them.
“I’ve ended up having to take him into school with vacuums he’s repaired or sold to his teachers.
“He was more interested in how the hoovers worked than doing any cleaning though. He doesn’t do a thorough job.
“He’s got a box of tea leaves, oats and rice which gets thrown on my living room floor when he’s doing a demonstration so it’s not really a help.”
Richard said: “We’re very proud of his technical ability and business acumen.
“It’s really impressed me in terms of the way he picked it up at such a young age.
“He’s got a natural ability to fault find, it’s incredible because he’s self-taught.
“He’s creating his own brand by himself and growing it organically.
“He loves that side of things. When he’s on camera talking about what he loves he just comes to life.
“I think if he concentrates on his schoolwork to support him in what he wants to do there’s no reason he can’t be very successful.”