From self-doubt to self-starter with AAT

After redundancy, Katrina Borissova fought off self-doubt to start a small soap business.

Being made redundant from her accounting job in late 2019 was a turning point for Katrina Borissova. She had been hoping she would get another position, but her thoughts soon turned to launching her own business, and soon her vegan soap venture, Little Danube, was born. 

“My friends were worried about me moving from the corporate world to making soaps,” she explains. “I was dreading the launch – I thought I was making a fool of myself. I was hoping I would get a job, so that I wouldn’t have to go through with launching the business. But it didn’t happen.” 

Little Danube slowly developed while Borissova was still searching for a finance transformation or project management role. 

“I would go from interview to interview, but I wouldn’t get the job I really wanted. Then there was Covid-19 and my phone stopped ringing. I had to start processing the fact that I might not find a job.” 

She says she has always enjoyed designing and crafting and had previously bought a lot of products and equipment for making soap, but had never really got started with it. 

“I realised that I wasn’t doing anything with my hands and for the simple pleasure of doing it. So I started making soaps and really enjoyed it.” 

Attending a soap making course helped to remind her that it was something she loved to do – and she thought to herself, “it’s now or never”, and decided to start the company. 

It took Borissova several months to figure out the recipes and the branding. Of course, there were challenges that came with launching during the Covid-19 pandemic too. 

“Everything was online – the whole industry went

online,” Borissova explains. “I adapted to social media and I adapted my business in an e-commerce sense – including thinking about packaging and ensuring it was sustainable. There were no markets, so I was limited when it came to wholesale. I had to be a salesperson for my own business – going to shops and selling my product myself.” 

Learning and growing 

Borissova notes that starting a business has been a constant learning experience. 

“As my business grew, I grew as an individual as well,” she says. “The first month was very busy, with friends and family buying, but the second month was quiet. That was really difficult and I thought, ‘What am I doing wrong?’” 

Borissova got in touch with some other small business owners on social media and sought advice. She says their answers helped her put everything into perspective. 

“This helped me think about my strategy. I spoke to someone who runs a number of successful businesses – he asked me about my margin, who I was selling to, and he looked at my packaging and gave me some positive feedback. I had to tell myself that the first six months of being in business was to listen to feedback and to understand my customer base. Doing a course in digital marketing really helped me as well.” 

With Covid-19 restrictions being lifted, Borissova has identified pop-up events and wholesale opportunities, which will help with scaling up. 

Trying and failing 

Despite learning English while living in France, Borissova says learning English at school and articulating yourself in a language that is not your mother tongue are two different things. 

“I found it hard to express myself – I had to develop a different sense of awareness. Living in another country has taught me so much about different cultures. I have become a more adaptable person. I’m no longer afraid to try and fail.” 

Borissova says learning accounting and studying with AAT also helped her broaden her horizons, as well as helping her progress in her career. 

“I initially studied philosophy in France and I wanted to be a journalist,” she explains. “I came to the UK when I was 21, with the objective of improving my English. I was initially based in Manchester and I was working for Michelin in accounts payable, but I soon realised I was limited when it came to career progression. I signed up for ACCA, but it was difficult for me to grasp – going from philosophy to accountancy. 

“I had a look at local colleges and courses, and I found AAT. I went to college for the first year and then I took online courses until I was fully qualified. It took me three years and I was working at the same time. I was very regimented at the time – I was going to work, coming back and then studying. It helped me to be so much more organised and focused. I gave myself deadlines – telling myself I had one or two months to pass each part of the course. This helped me to progress in my career and expand my mind – I later moved into a financial accounting role.” 

From a business perspective, Borissova says studying AAT helped her to learn to deal with a large amount of data and gave her practical skills that still help her today to run her company. 

“It wasn’t just reading a book and then taking an exam – it was practical.”   

Photography: Tim Kavanagh/UNP 

AAT Comment offers news and opinion on the world of business and finance from the Association of Accounting Technicians.

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