Sarah Whelehan, Partner and Senior Lecturer at CSSC Accountancy Tuition
A friendly, results-focused accountancy college providing accredited training courses to employers and employees
I first met Catherine Shirley when I took a job at a local college as a course co-ordinator and accountancy tutor. She was already working there when I started in January 2010 and, over time, we became really good friends.
Tutoring accountancy courses at the college was a fresh challenge, as I’d just moved back to the UK following a six-year period living in Tenerife. In 2004, I’d met a lovely Irishman named Tom when I went to the island on a girls’ trip – and our whirlwind holiday romance blossomed into love and marriage!
Following my relocation to be with Tom, who’d lived in Tenerife for 16 years, I worked for a tourism company in their finance department and then started a family. I’d been a qualified accountant since my mid-twenties and Tom helped me to settle into my surroundings, so I got into the swing of things with the new job and lifestyle pretty quickly. The time we had out there was wonderful, but in 2009 it felt right for us to return to England with our two daughters.
Getting stuck in at the college, I realised over time that there’s a lot of red tape in the public sector when it came to making a difference, such as developing courses and pitching forward-thinking ideas that weren’t acted upon. I, and Catherine, became frustrated with these limitations, so in 2017 – after seven years working together and becoming close friends – we thought: ‘Why not make the difference ourselves?’
Neither of us had been self-employed before, but we believed in our collective aim, which was to help local learners progress to becoming chartered accountants. With my ACCA qualification and Catherine’s CIMA qualification, we complemented each other’s skillsets perfectly on paper and in practice. Taking the plunge, we set up our business and are now approaching year three – having secured lots of new business along the way and repeatedly achieving our aim.
We’re operating in a very niche and male-dominated sector, but we’re also succeeding. I believe that mine and Catherine’s willingness to communicate openly with each other (especially when we don’t always agree!), as well as playing to our own specific strengths, is the secret ingredient.