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How the founder of DS Business Support fell in love with bookkeeping


Sep 8, 2022

A person’s career path doesn’t necessarily travel in a straight line. There can be twists, turns and unexpected junctures in which you find yourself enamoured with a field you never considered before.

This was the case for Marykate McAndrew, founder of DS Business Support. Here, Marykate tells us about her journey from hair salon owner to founding her own bookkeeping business, and how Xero is helping DS Business Support best serve its clients.

Discovering the basics of bookkeeping

First, Marykate tells us about her background: “Nine years ago, I opened my own salon as a single mum to a two-year old. When I was left as a single mum, I put myself through a hairdressing course because I didn’t drive and thought it was the best way to earn a living as clients could come to me. When the salon was open, there wasn’t a huge budget, so I quickly found that I had to perform every role myself.”

Marykate turned to the internet to learn how to run her business, and to figure out the basics of bookkeeping. She adds, “I quickly realised that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to manage a team in a salon. It wasn’t the right time for me to be running a business with staff. I also realised I loved the behind the scenes work of running a business.”

While closing down the salon, Marykate got her driving licence and started mobile hairdressing while taking an NVQ level 4 in management and leadership. She also started the process of learning bookkeeping through an AAT evening course.

Etching out a new path

Marykate launched DS Business Support around six years ago. She says, “I was renting a two bed flat in Bath and was getting up at 5am to start work before my son woke up, and as soon as he was in bed at the end of the day, I’d work until the late hours.”

Working part time at a roofing company, Marykate was assisting with their accounts while her son was at school, giving her hands-on bookkeeping experience while completing her AAT.

She adds, “After around two years, I was able to leave the roofing company and work at DS Business Support full time as I had built up enough clients to work comfortably. Now, DS Business Support is a team of five, and the company is growing every day.”

As for what appealed to her about bookkeeping in the first place, Marykate tells us: “I love the flexibility and working around education and family life. I have always been a bit of a geek with numbers and have spreadsheets for everything in my personal life – it was the perfect fit.”

Solving problems with software

With the business thriving, Marykate began looking at ways to optimise processes. After a meeting with a local accountant, GD Matthews, the conversation turned to Xero.

“My small number of clients were handled using spreadsheets because at the time it was cost effective,” Marykate explains. “When my accountant showed me Xero I was so impressed with the automation and integrations, that I halved the time I was spending on current clients. This freed up my time and enabled me to onboard more clients. I love the software.”

Marykate uses Xero for bookkeeping only, and says that if she begins working with a client using different software, she quickly moves them over to Xero.

She continues, “I love the Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT feature – it makes VAT returns less of a headache and I don’t dread it each month. I love that it picks up a transaction on the day it was reconciled or entered without the need to journal it into the current quarter. I’m looking forward to using Xero’s MTD for ITSA feature.”

Overcoming challenging times

Marykate describes the trends she’s currently seeing among her clients: “In the current climate, clients are keeping a closer eye on their figures. Because of this, I have introduced a free-of-charge service. Every client will receive a Profit & Loss (P&L) report for the previous completed calendar month, with the two previous months included as a comparison.”

She adds that the report, created using Xero, includes the percentage for each account’s P&L. This helps clients see if suppliers have put up their prices, where they’re spending the most money, and where they can cut back.

“This report also helps clients see, for example, if an advertising campaign they’ve carried out worked,” Marykate explains. “I started this approach two months ago and have had great feedback on the reports Xero produces.”

Looking to the future

As for what the future holds, Marykate says, “I’d like to have a bookkeeper for each industry, where they can run their own desk. If they want to increase their working hours, they can let me know and I will focus on advertising to match this so they can get clients, receive a commission and grow their role to suit them and work around their personal lives.”

It’s clear this balance is essential to Marykate:

“Because of the way I started, I think it’s really important to have a good work/family life balance. My staff have a minimum amount of hours each month, but as long as the work is done by the deadline, I don’t mind when they do it. This means never having to miss their child’s play at school, not asking for time off for a family holiday, and being able to arrange downtime to suit them. I have also found this makes my team a lot more productive.”

Marykate concludes by teasing an exciting new service DS Business Support will be offering soon, so watch this space. We can’t wait to find out more.

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