The barefoot backstory

a little about us

At the heart of the barefoot accountant, it’s always been about thinking differently, acting authentically and responding positively to change.

I qualified as an accountant back in 2006 whilst living in Edinburgh, but found I spent much of my working life trying to fit the mould of a traditional accountant – and I very clearly wasn’t that! I loved (and still love) live music, the arts, creativity, communication, compassion and knowing I was doing some good in the world. And those things I loved, the things that were most important to me as a person, were not reflected in my work… and so I felt unsatisfied and stifled, and ready for change.

One day, sitting in a café during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which I adored, I suddenly had an epiphany.  Maybe the fact that I didn’t fit the mould was actually a strength. The fact that I was unique and thought differently to my work peers could actually be a brilliant USP!

I was surrounded by creatives in my family and social circles, and knew I wanted to work with the creative industries, and I realised I could offer them something completely different. Qualified, professional accountancy services but delivered in a relaxed, understandable, person-centred way backed by a real passion for, and understanding of, the unique challenges of the creative industries. The concept of the barefoot accountant was born!

My vision was to have a shop where people could just pop in for a comfortable, human experience. The rigours and rules of accountancy and tax can be terrifying, especially for creative types, so I wanted to take that fear away, and help people to feel more relaxed and more in control of their finances.

As we all know, especially right now, life can often throw us curve balls that push us temporarily off course, and the next few years were a time of huge challenge and huge change for me personally, but the seed of the barefoot accountant was always there in the background, waiting for its moment. It was only after relocating back to Hertfordshire, now as a single parent with my amazing daughter, that I took the plunge, quit the day job and finally started the company.

It was just me to start off with, and as any small business owner will know, there is a mountain of information to navigate, new skills to acquire and networks to grow alongside the financial uncertainty of needing to generate your own income. The first years were tough. As a single mother there was no option but to succeed and nothing to fall back on so I put my big girl pants on and went to my first networking event with The Businesses Community in St Albans. Here I learned how to talk to strangers about my business (which was terrifying at first, by the way!), win my first clients and rebuild my confidence (which had been in tatters for so many reasons). And things started to work, to change and to grow in a way that brought me joy, stability and a huge sense of achievement.

Fast forward to 2020 and we have a team of five kick-ass females and a fantastic shop on Redbourn High Street, in Hertfordshire, with exposed brick walls, fake grass under foot, art and quirky objects everywhere and even beautiful bespoke meeting chairs made by a brilliant local designer. As well as it being relaxing for clients, it was important to me that our working environment was a place that the team really felt at home, relaxed, inspired and free to express themselves.

Interestingly, this concept has been particularly great for us working during this past year – as many people struggle with their workplaces and working from home, we know that whenever we’ve been able to work in the office, it is a sanctuary, a safe place, a comfort and an inspiration.

barefoot in the times of COVID 19

and windows to the future

At the start of 2020, as the COVID 19 crisis was burgeoning across the world, we were busy in our little corner of Hertfordshire, securing and beginning to move into our new work home, just across the road from our old office. As the first lockdown began, it was as a hugely challenging time for everyone in Britain, and also for our little team. Whilst adjusting to working from home and to home-schooling our kids, we continued to support clients in navigating their way through the new schemes available to them, understanding the maze of new government information, and helping some to find ways to survive where no governmental support was accessible. They were difficult and exhausting times, but also incredibly rewarding, as we found that our unique service and ways of working could create a little bit of calm, a little bit of hope, for our clients, despite the massive challenges COVID threw up, particularly for the creative arts and associated industries.

Despite the difficulties all around us, the business continued to grow – we managed to keep running throughout lockdown, worked hard to remain connected as a team, and slowly but surely completed the move into our fabulous new premises. As soon as we could, the barefoot team came back together, reunited in a brand new shared space and feeling closer than ever from battling adversity as a team. And piece by piece, our new home took shape; grass back on the floor, art up on the walls and our resident gnomes finally settling in to their new surroundings. We, and our clients, breathed a sigh of relief.

And then the second lockdown was announced.

This time we knew we could cope as a business but I’d seen how local non-essential shops had been hit so hard by the first lockdown and realised the devastating effect this new lockdown could now have in the critical pre-Christmas period. I and the team love where we live and the range of great businesses that surround us, but I couldn’t think of how to help.

Cue Emma, one of our lovely clients who runs Cositas Gifts in St Albans who had developed an innovative method of window shopping with her brother at Fuse Innovation, which she was using at her shop whilst the business was closed. Each product displayed in her window has a corresponding QR code. Customers could scan the code and be taken directly to the product on Cositas’ online shop, where they could find out more, pay for the item and either click and collect or have it delivered locally for free.

We suddenly realised that every window could be a Cositas’ window. EVERY window could be ANY window.

We have high street premises with some pretty good footfall and some beautiful ever-changing window space that was filled with interesting bits and bobs that we loved (including a pretty awesome Hallowe’en display, if we do say so ourselves!). But we didn’t need this space to actually showcase products. But other people did. So we offered up our windows to Emma: she could display her amazing gifts, local passers by would be able to see something cool and new and people could keep on shopping locally through lockdown really easily.

So I put new shelving in the inside of our windows, and with saw and paint in hand created a usable window space for the display of other people’s products.  This new initiative is proving very popular within the community and our local newspaper has even launched an “adopt a shop” initiative, inspired by our partnership with Emma, encouraging local accountants, solicitors and estate agents to offer up their shop windows as a promotional platform for local traders struggling through the lockdown. We’ve even had a mention on the Lauren Laverne show on Radio 6 Music (we love her!) and we’re so proud and happy to have kickstarted an initiative that we hope can spread across the country to bring businesses together and support those that are battling with the effects of COVID on their businesses and livelihoods.

And we at barefoot are very aware that life isn’t going to spring back to its pre-Covid position over night so we’re continuing to commit to supporting local artists and small creative businesses moving forward. We are currently offering our windows to creative businesses to display their products for the rest of the year and are already taking bookings for 2021, with no cost and no catch. We want the barefoot accountant to be known for what it is – an authentic, heart-felt business that genuinely cares about its clients and its community, and we’re very pleased to already have a range of local artists and businesses on board, and are always open to more. We’re looking forward to having beautiful things in our windows for months to come and to continuing to help our neighbours.