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How mum went from bankruptcy to her own accountancy firm

BOSSIN' IT: Ebony Hancock in her office

COURAGE COMES in many forms and young mum Ebony Hancock is a shining example of how someone can pick themselves up from rock bottom and rise again to be more successful than ever.

Hancock was following her dream of becoming a fully-qualified accountant when she left home at the age of 16. After dipping in and out of courses and juggling two children she decided to file for personal bankruptcy in August 2013, facing the biggest hurdle in her young life.

She told The Voice:

“It was very humbling. I came from small beginnings – my mum was a single parent and I grew up in a tower block in the city centre, so I’ve always been used to making ends meet, but qualifying as an accountant to then lose it all was terrible. Filing for personal bankruptcy was the toughest decision I have ever had to make. It meant losing my just-passed accreditations in accountancy.

“But it meant I had a fresh start with a clean slate. I rejoined the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) and set about regaining my professional status.

“I felt embarrassment, shame, a lack of personal pride. I kept thinking to myself: “What could I have done differently? How can I be an accountant and go through bankruptcy? Who is going to trust me? Who is going to go to an accountant who has lost everything financially?'

BRIGHTER DAYS: Accountant Ebony Hancock

“However, I’ve built it back up purely through referrals and word of mouth – I haven’t even paid for any advertising. Word of mouth is the best way because it means people trust you.

“Plus, I’m a confident person – if I come across a contractor I will approach them and say: ‘Are you self-employed or limited?’ People have responded well to that approach. They’ve said: ‘Whoa! I like your confidence. I want to work with someone like you.’

“A lot of people have their own perception of an accountant – a guy in a grey suit who maybe bald or with a beard, who doesn’t smile, you can never get in contact with. So I break that mould for an accountant.

“I’m also starting to reach out to other accountants, such as chartered accountants who have expertise I haven’t got and on the whole I’ve had a very good response.

Hancock, who was discharged as a bankrupt in August 2014, specialises in small to medium businesses and business start-ups. She said:

“I like to train my clients to get to where they need to so they can be self-sufficient. And I’m proud to say that at the last count I have just over 80 clients which has grown from 30 last November.”

ONE PLUS ONE: From left - Donna Morgan, office assistant and accountant Ebony Hancock

She has now employed an assistant accountant called Donna Morgan, who is clearly equally passionate about the world of accounting and is busy studying to complete her professional qualifications.

When asked that inevitable career question: ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’ Hancock paused for thought and said:

“I’ve been conditioned to be a humble person from a young age, so I don’t like to dream too big, however I have a vision board – and I think everyone should have one. It’s where I can show all my goals and visions for my life.”

She added with a smile:

“I’m planning to take over the UK. I want my practice eventually to be self-sufficient so we have our own legal department, our own HR team.

“And another big dream of mine is to get syllabuses changed in junior schools for pupils across Britain to be taught properly about money management and savings. I believe if I’d had a proper financial education when I was younger I wouldn’t have faced to many hurdles when trying to set up my own business.”

And what advice would she give to any young person thinking of accountancy as a career, particularly girls?

The mother-of-two said:

“It’s not easy, but then it’s not meant to be. Stay connected with other people who you can be supported by, find yourself a good mentor and never give up. People don’t realise that there’s a lot of variety in accountancy as an industry and you can be your own person providing you put the right structures in place, the sky’s your limit.

“Plus, being an accountant and surviving bankruptcy, my message would be: ‘If I can do it, then anyone can.’ I’m quite honest and upfront about it with clients. People look at me and say: ‘You know I trust you even more now'.”

At this point assistant Morgan interjects and says:

“I found my mentor in Ebony because if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be doing my exams and doing the course. I always wanted to be an accountant from the age of 16, and she’s always encouraged me – she’s a great person to work with.”

In a typical week Hancock splits her time between being in her office, which is in the grounds of an old dairy farm once owned by the chocolate-making Cadbury family of nearby Bournville, and being out on the road visiting clients, while also being available to people at weekends and evenings.

She concluded:

“I like to think that it’s now time to smile. I’ve been able to secure a set of offices with an ideal location, giving me something to smile about. How could I want for more?”

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