For the love of it: Kirsty Dingwall CA on planning a second career
Kirsty Dingwall, ICAS member and founder of Angelic Gluten Free, shares how her past experience set her up well for success in a completely different career.
Working as a bean counter might not seem like the natural route to becoming a gluten free baker, but joining Ernst & Young’s Chartered Accountant training programme and working in their audit department really prepared me for life as an entrepreneur.
Since a young age I have been interested in trading, selling sweets from my garage as a kid. During my training contract with Ernst & Young I started to think about setting up my own business, and that’s when the idea for Angelic Gluten Free began.
The business has been trading now for just over half a decade and supplies products into the UK’s leading retailers, including Holland & Barrett & Ocado. That’s come from a lot of hard work and determination, and from drawing on what I’ve learned in my career to date.
Making food fun
I spent a long time planning how I would one day run my own business. This included a vast amount of market research and benchmarking other brands. Armed with that research - and thinking as someone who is gluten intolerant myself - it was clear to me that there was a gap in the market.
What hit me most was how clinical many of the brands looked. They were all about meeting dietary requirements, rather than focusing on developing a great taste or making food fun.
The first step to turn my ideas into reality was getting stuck in and ordering 40,000 units of packaging for biscuits I was yet to bake. That was when it felt very real. I knew we could make them quickly, but could we sell them quickly too?
It turns out we could and I soon moved production out of my kitchen into a proper bakery.
Being so involved in the day-to-day operations also means I have a thorough understanding of the business. I don’t sit behind a desk to get that.
If I’m not in the bakery, I’m running the business from my smartphone – whether it’s developing packaging, responding to customers, looking for new business or managing social media.
Keeping a clear head
While it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the excitement of running a business, especially when you’re at the coalface, I’ve learned the importance of keeping a cool head when making business and investment decisions.
To some extent, I’ve relied on my instinct as a consumer but I’ve also used my business acumen.
My role as a Chartered Accountant gave me the perfect business skillset, with the ability to proactively manage my cashflow. It’s also helped with business planning and forecasting which enhanced my credibility with financial institutions.
We have successfully secured bank loans, and having ICAS training has helped me to prepare realistic and achievable projections, which the banks have placed confidence in.
If I was to offer advice to anyone looking to venture into a completely new career, I’d say embrace all of your experience as it will add value throughout the rest of your life.
Running a business is exciting, but quite often there’s not a lot of financial gain. Don’t do it purely for that – do it for the love of the experience.
This blog is one of a series of articles from our commercial partners.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of ICAS.