Forging a finance career from a women’s refuge

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Ria-Jaine Lincoln was living in temporary accommodation through a women’s refuge, 12 years ago, when AAT became a lifeline.

She studied the qualifications while looking after her autistic son in the refuge, trying to build a new future for them both.

Tough times at Deloitte

Part-way through her studies, Ria-Jaine landed a role in the cash team at Deloitte. Eager to learn as much as she could about the full accounting function, she took on extra tasks to stretch her skills and eventually became part of a select group dedicated to looking after the partners’ tax affairs. But while her career looked in gleaming shape, her family life soon re-entered choppy waters.

“When I was in the tax group,” she says, “I fell pregnant with my third son. He had a really difficult birth, then had an operation at ten weeks and was poorly for the first two years of his life. That involved a lot of hospital visits. I needed to adjust my hours and, fortunately, Deloitte is quite big on agile working. But even so, it was hard.”

A car crash, and mental health issues

Lincoln’s eldest son was also struggling with his mental health, which she had to juggle with her youngest son’s hospital appointments. Around the same time, a drunk driver ran into her car – luckily, no one was seriously hurt. “There were lots of things happening all at once, not to mention a wedding and house move. Looking back, it’s no surprise I ended up struggling with my mental health and needed a lot of time off work. I’d probably go as far to say I had a nervous breakdown because I literally couldn’t do anything but sit at home.”

A turn towards beauty

“I needed either something I could do from a hospital bed – because that’s where I was spending most of my time – or a job I could weave flexibly around my family. That’s when I looked at the beauty industry, and thought: that’s what I’m going to do.”

While Ria-Jaine trained up in nails, lashes and waxing, offering beauty treatments on a self-employed basis during the last chunk of her time at Deloitte. “All through my beauty training, I couldn’t get away from the fact that I was an accountant,” she explains. “When you introduce yourself in groups as an accountant, suddenly you get loads of questions, like ‘How do I set up?'”

Starting the practice

Lincoln was looking at her training providers’ Facebook groups and websites. She noticed that none of them said anything about how to register your business – even though there was tons of advice about getting insurance.

“I reached out to a lady I knew who had her own academy and some salons, and persuaded her to include a sentence about business registration in her training manual. After that, she said, ‘If you want to do any workshops for my students, or create some information for them, I’d be happy with that.’ Which took me right back to accountancy.”

Volunteering her story

Remembering her time in the women’s refuge, Ria-Jaine is  also a voluntary family-support worker for the community charity Home-Start UK. “I found out about them through a Facebook post my sister tagged me in,” she says. “I remember what it was like when I came out of the refuge, living off a budget of £20 a week, with holes in my shoes.

So I thought that, because I’d been there, I could really bring value and help families that are facing day-to-day challenges. Relevant personal experience can be incredibly useful for building trust and rapport.”

The 10-week training programme included a session on domestic abuse, and that was when Lincoln began to share her story. “Mainly to help my fellow volunteers if they felt abuse was happening in any of the families they worked with. It’s so important not to say the wrong thing: someone could be on the verge of getting help, and then just one-off comment could completely shut them down. And that’s really, really dangerous.”

Looking after families

Following her training, Home-Start gave Ria-Jaine her first family to look after. “I’d visit them once a week,” she says. “They weren’t getting out of the house very much because their son had additional needs. So that enabled me to draw on my experience of raising my eldest.”

Lincoln provided them with some strategies that she had used for managing difficult behaviours. She also advised them about other charities that could help them – for instance, Family Fund, a brilliant charity for people with disabled children. “They can help with buying things for the house, for the child, for holidays.”

A new lifeline through accountancy

Reflecting on her career, Ria-Jaine says: “In a speech I gave at a recent domestic abuse event, I said that when I considered how the refuge had supported me into accountancy, it didn’t seem right to just give up on the profession. I was homeless, but studying AAT. After all that, I couldn’t turn around and say, ‘No – that’s not for me.'”

In summary

Ria-Jaine had several difficult hurdles to overcome before she set up her successful beauty industry accountancy practice, Ria-Laine Accounts. Her story is an inspirational example of how resilient people can be when facing extreme hurdles and how AAT helped her along her journey.

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