Numbers to Spotlight: finance apprentice becomes business leader and TEDx star

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Rachel Martin started her accounting career as an AAT apprentice. She now runs her own accounting firm working with female entrepreneurs and social influencers, and recently she gave a TEDx Talk about running a successful business.

Rachel Martin is just like any other accountant, or so she says. She has a healthy number of clients on her books (over 200), she offers the usual accounting and tax advisory services through cloud software, and makes use of social media platforms such as Instagram and LinkedIn to grow her brand.

But unlike the majority of accountancy firms who insist they’re “breaking the mould”, “doing things differently” or “taking accountancy to a new level”, Rachel insists she’s none of these things. Yet, this is precisely what makes her different. “Every accountant on LinkedIn says things like ‘I’m a new and up-and-coming’ or ‘I’m innovative’ or ‘I do things differently’,” says Rachel. “But aren’t we all?” 

Empowering business owners

For Rachel, it’s not about shouting about herself and telling everyone why she stands out. It’s acknowledging that what she does on a daily basis – like so many other accountants – is important. “I want to work with business owners in a way that empowers them,” she explains. “I’m just here to help. I’m not different, I just want to do the right thing by my clients.” 

Rachel’s clients are a diverse lot. She has everyone on her books including a sex toy retailer, a boy band and a builder. But her niche, she says, is female entrepreneurs and social influencers. Her platform, accountant_she (a clever pun if you say it out loud) launched in August 2020 as a complementary brand to the business she runs with her fiancée James Harris, striveX Accountants.  

The best job in the world

Buckinghamshire-based Rachel may have only been working in the sector for a relatively short period of time – her first job as a finance apprentice at Cherwell District Council was in 2013 when she was 18 – but her confidence, passion and enthusiasm for what she does makes her stand out. “Being an accountant is the best job in the world,” says Rachel. “I speak all day to other business owners who are passionate about what they do, so I feed off their energy. My passion comes from my clients. I see them as my extended family, it’s like a whole ecosystem.” 

In many ways, accountancy seems to have been Rachel’s life calling. As a child, she was good at maths, logical thinking and problem solving – in fact, all the skills she now looks for as an employer when she’s recruiting. Accountancy seemed the obvious route for her, but it was either through university or via an apprenticeship scheme. She opted for the latter, because she wanted to “go feet first” into a profession. AAT seemed the obvious choice.  

An accessible gateway to accountancy

“AAT is a wonderful gateway to accountancy,” says Rachel. “It’s accessible to anyone from a senior manager who doesn’t necessarily want to be an accountant but needs to understand the basics, to school leavers like I was, to young adults, to mums returning to work after a career break. It’s just so flexible.” 

Rachel spent seven years working her way up the career ladder, gaining experience working in practice and industry including TCS Business Management and care home provider, Salveo Care. What then, made Rachel decide to leave her role as a finance manager at Salveo Care and set up an accountancy practice, right in the middle of a global pandemic? “I’d been doing an MBA at Cranfield University because

I’d started to recognise that having a degree, and that new benchmark for success was important to me – my generation tends to judge success on whether you have a degree,” she explains. “And after six months on the MBA programme I just became so excited at the idea of growing my own business. It was during the pandemic and I wanted to be what people needed accountants to be during a really difficult time.”  

Going from strength to strength

Barely a year later and with client numbers in triple figures, accountant_she and striveX have gone from strength to strength. It’s a testament to Rachel’s ethos and eye for business. Because right from the start, Rachel took the brave decision not to charge clients for any Covid-related work she carried out, from submitting furlough claims to cash flow planning and forecasting.

She runs regular webinars and live Q&A sessions in partnership with QuickBooks and following every single government broadcast, she goes live on Instagram to update her 5,000 followers.

Helping young people grow their careers

She has even taken on two apprentices, with two more due to start imminently. “Taking on apprentices was just a no-brainer. It’s where I started and I’m so passionate about the platform I can give to young people to help grow their careers.” 

Rachel is passionate in helping both staff and clients achieve their potential, whatever that may be. She’s embraced social media and has used it to build her personal brand. It’s no surprise then that the majority of her clients are social media influencers – talented individuals who have had to learn how to do everything themselves, from photography and lighting to editing and corporate sponsorship. It’s why she wrote The Tax Guide for Influencers last year, because she identified that tax and self-assessment was yet another thing influencers needed to understand as they built up their business. 

Rachel has become a regular speaker on various social media platforms, giving advice to business owners and taking part in Q&As. In May, she’s due to give a TEDx Talk based on her journey of growing the business. It will be the first time she’ll be speaking in front of another person rather than from the comfort of her own home, due to the timing of her speaking career taking off during the pandemic. It’s potentially quite a daunting experience, considering Rachel describes herself as a “massive introvert”.  

Leveraging an introverted personality

But contrary to popular belief, being an introvert doesn’t mean being shy. It refers instead to “energy drain” – introverts tend to lose energy being around lots of people and can feel easily overstimulated and become tired and fatigued. It will be the subject of her talk, leveraging an introvert personality to create a successful business.  

For Rachel, the TEDx Talk sums up her ethos and brand. “When I decided to be an accountant, there was no one out there who I could identify with,” she explains. “Especially no female accountants in their twenties doing TEDx Talks! That’s why I’m doing this, I’m striving to be the person I needed to look up to when I first started out. That’s what’s important to me – to empower and inspire.” 

Watch Rachel’s TedX talk here.

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