Having struggled and survived as small business owners ourselves, we understand exactly what you are going though as you try to build your business. We both made many mistakes, and had many successes, throughout our business lives. We learned loads from every triumph and failure, and we hope to use all that knowledge to help you make the most out of your small business, without going through what we did.
Chris and Caroline were married in the height of lockdown, in 2020. This is their first business venture together. They are both extremely passionate about helping others in business and hope their combined experience will help them to do just that.
Caroline started life in business when she set herself up as a private Canine Behaviourist in Northern Ireland in 2007. Feeling a sense of frustration at the level of service and advice available at the time, she wanted to provide a first class service to her clients. Creating a premium service based business has it’s challenges, and resisting the urge to lower prices was a daily challenge at the start for her, she recalls. Caroline developed her business and become a leading expert in Northern Ireland. As well as her regular (pre-covid) work with private clients, she regularly held advice segments on local radio, advised dog professionals and rescues, ran workshops and talks, and she published a book on the subject in 2009. Gooddoggie was put on hold last year due to covid but as we come out of lockdown, but is back in full swing now.
In 2018, Caroline became the first author in Northern Ireland to successfully fully fund a Kickstarter campaign. The campaign allowed her to fully fund the publication of her crime thriller, When the Mask Falls. She chose to fund the publication of her novel in this way as it gave her the freedom to manage the entire project without compromising the quality of the final product, it also brought the book to market much faster than it would have should she have pursued the traditional publishing route.
An adoration of baking and afternoon tea led her to create a celebration cake and afternoon tea catering company in 2019. Mrs Mitchell’s was perfectly poised to meet the sudden demand created by lockdown in 2020 and at it’s peak she employed a team of eight. The business was closed in 2022.
Aside from profit making businesses, Caroline also held voluntary positions throughout her career. She was founder and chairman of a dog rescue charity in Northern Ireland for two years. This was a challenging role in a small charity, and she was actively involved in all aspects of rescue and admin. She also volunteered with the Samaritans as a listener. She relocated to Dundee in 2018 and was Vice President for Women Ahead, a networking and support group run for the benefit of local business women in Angus until 2022.
She didn’t always find it easy in business. Caroline’s businesses have survived two major recessions, becoming a single mum, home schooling her special needs son, and all the other challenges everyday life brings. And she wasn’t always successful – ask her why she had to abandon her dog treat business! Many lessons were learned thanks to that business’ “failure”!
Chris’ first taste of running his own business was as a self employed photographer in Northern Ireland. A love of animals led Chris chose to niche as a pet photographer. But, he was occasionally asked to provide photography in other sectors, and for a number of years, he was called on to travel to Scotland to provide photography. His favourite event was the Skimo Races, an annual skiing event that takes place in western Scotland. As well as photographing the skiers, it gave him the chance to explore and photograph Scotland’s most beautiful landscapes.
Photography, and other creative industries, can be a particularly difficult to thrive in, especially as a sole trader. Finding ways to stand out from the crowd in a these saturated markets is always challenging, no matter what sector you are in. Chris gained a valuable insight into this aspect of marketing as a photographer and strongly advocates understanding your “Golden Customer” and finding your “USP”.
In 2018, Chris was given the opportunity to form a partnership with another photographer in Dundee. It was too good to miss, and he, and Caroline, relocated a few months later. Working as part of a partnership gave him a brand new insight into business management.
Aside from creative industries, Chris is also a numbers man. Throughout his career he has been surrounded by numbers and spreadsheets. He has worked as a business analyst for an energy company in Belfast, has worked in workforce planning for several UK based companies, he’s been a trouble-shooter and he currently contacts to a company in The Netherlands.
Chris is also part way through a Mathematics Degree, and is working towards Book Keeping and Accountancy Qualifications. Understanding the financial side of business management is vital to any business’ success. Ask him what he does with 5% of every pound he makes!
My Business Companion is a Trading Name of MBC Dundee LLP, a Limited Liability Partnership registered in Scotland (Registration Number: SO307260). Our registered office address is: Summit House, 4-5 Mitchell Street, Edinburgh, EH6 7BD.