From humble beginnings to Business Owner

Kara is our Passionate PA based in Southampton. She joined us in August 2022 and, after her first 6 months in business, has decided to share her story in the hope it may inspire others. With a 30 year career in Hospitality, Kara wondered whether there would ever be life beyond the sector for her and whether a franchise really was the springboard she needed…

Grab a cuppa, in this blog Kara shares her personal story in her own words.

From humble beginnings to Business Owner

My World of Work

My career started early, at the age of 14, washing dishes at a local hotel. Not long after starting this role, I was promoted to a weekend waitress which was when my love for hospitality started.

I went to university to study Hotel Management, where I learnt the fundamentals of running a business where success is dependent on hitting margins.

Throughout my career, I learnt far more than my university qualification covered though; the complexities of recruitment and HR, marketing, rate strategies, property management and compliance, to name but a few.

I worked my way through the ranks to eventually become a Hotel General Manager, and finally, the pinnacle of my career as Head of Operations for a group of hotels. If I am honest, my love of hospitality dwindled towards the end. I was running out of challenges, something that I thrive on. I was earning a good salary, but had no experience in any other industry, how could I find another career, with similar earnings, with such a specialised CV?


Seeking New Challenges

I had looked at franchises in the past, but none appeared to offer the challenge I was seeking or offered a comparable take home pay. They looked to me like they were recruiting for another ‘number’ – I have too big a personality for that sort of role!

A post from The Passionate PA popped up in my social media and sparked my interest, so I took a further look. The bespoke services offered, along with the ethos to ‘go above and beyond’, really struck a chord with me.

I booked a Discovery Call but, unfortunately, it was at a time when my team at the hotel needed me the most. Sounds crazy, I know, but my team were like family to me. We were in the process of adjusting to a post-Brexit/mid-Covid world and the ship needed a captain!

I cancelled that call with Kate to stay where I was needed.

A year later, and the time had finally come for the career change I had been craving. The Passionate PA had remained in the back of my mind. I am a people person, but I wanted to be self-employed. I didn’t want to ‘go it alone’, especially in a business I had no experience in, I wanted to be able to share my highs and lows with understanding colleagues. More importantly, I still wanted to learn, especially now that we live in an ever-evolving digitalised world with so many remote and hybrid options.


Getting The Full Picture

After further research into The Passionate PA, I sent another enquiry to Kate for more details. What I really appreciated was how there was no quick sell, quite the opposite in fact. She tells me now, she got very excited as she’d remembered my CV from a year earlier – but I didn’t know that at the time!

My Discovery Call with Kate finally took place, and she gave me a clear picture of what taking on this franchise would entail – both as a business owner but also on a personal level. I loved how easy Kate was to talk to, down to earth but incredibly informative. I felt I would be in very safe hands!

Kate suggested I researched other options and that I spoke to her Franchise Advisor, Ian Bradley too. He also suggested I be thorough in my research not just about this particular franchise, but about what becoming a franchisee would entail.

At Kate’s invitation, I also spoke to a couple of existing Passionate PA – the longest standing one and the newest, a great mix for honest feedback. The longest standing franchisee had a similar start to her career as I did. She assured me that my skills in hospitality management were easily transferable to this new career… she has since been proven right!

The ‘recruitment process’ was reassuringly thorough, it wasn’t just about whether I wanted to join this franchise, it was also about Kate learning about me to be 100% sure we could work together to build the business I desired.

This was a huge leap for me, I understandably had reservations and endless questions, all of which were answered fully and promptly by Kate.

We then met in person for lunch and it was like I had known Kate all my life! I imagine it was almost an interview process, but it felt far from that. We talked and ate yummy food. We even hugged at the end!


The Awaited Offer & Starting Training

A few days later, I was delighted to receive a franchise offer – I was going to join THE team of savvy business professionals! Woohooo! And what a relief it was to receive this news as I had already made my mind up that this was definitely the right move for me.

Once I was signed up, the online training started. This was broken down into easily digestible modules, with weekly Zoom calls with Kate to discuss any questions I might have.

The highlight of my onboarding was my Launch Retreat at a beautiful AirBnB. As much as this involved many 121 masterclasses and a professional photoshoot, it certainly didn’t feel like ‘work’ as it was fabulous to get to know Kate better, sample her delicious cooking and I got to meet a few of the other Passionate PAs too as they joined us for a training day.


Time For Clients

And then it was down to business! Getting started in my new career was nerve wracking, I was worried that I wouldn’t find clients quickly enough and I even considered getting a weekend job. But Kate assured me that I didn’t need to worry… “hold your nerve” she used to say, and she was right!

There were soon enquiries from potential new clients, and Kate initially joined me on my introductory Zoom meetings for reassurance. It wasn’t long before I was at capacity with Kate drip feeding me leads over the next few weeks.

Kate quietly let me learn to fly solo, but she continues to be there when needed, always checking whether I need more clients, whether I need any support, along with listening and advising on my journey as my current clients develop. I actually call her my Fairy Godmother – she’s just ‘there’ whenever I need her and always seems to have the right answer or question for me.


Team Spirit

I really enjoy our monthly ‘Biz Dev’ team calls, seeing the full team together, hearing how they are getting on, along with our continual training from Kate. I also love the special face to face masterclasses with overnight stays – the team spirit is just wonderful. Such a fun bunch of ladies to socialise with, and learn with, I feel truly honoured to a part of this team!

It is fabulous that we all have our own individual skill sets and personalities, which Kate fully appreciates when dealing with client enquiries. Her role is to match the client enquiry with the right Passionate PA. But, she also relishes the opportunity to really help each Passionate PA create their own version of success too. I, for example, want a full-time business with project work in the financial arena. Other Passionate PAs want part-time, others focus on completely different skill sets to me. That’s what makes The Passionate PA so unique for clients and for franchisees – there is no one size fits all.


Looking Back

I genuinely thought I would miss my previous career, it had been my life for over 30 years but, I honestly haven’t once looked back. I have a thriving business, clients that challenge me every day (in a good way!) and I’m earning more than I was in my last employed role – with scope for more as my business grows and develops.

I am eternally grateful that Kate has given me this opportunity, I never thought work could excite me this much… oh how wrong I was!

You can find out more about Kara by clicking here!



Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Making numbers simple for business owners

Kara Birrell is our Passionate PA based in Southampton. She joined us in August 2022 after a 20+ year career in Operations Management and Hospitality.

Kara has always had a passion for numbers… more specifically, profit! In all her previous roles, she has been responsible for margins and, in the hospitality sector where margins are notoriously tight, Kara relished the challenge of not just knowing the numbers herself but inspiring those around her to care about them too.

In this blog, Kara shares her top three tools for making the numbers in your small business simple and meaningful.


Making numbers simple

Everybody knows it’s vital to have a handle on their business’s numbers, but why? How can a small business owner with responsibility for everything from service delivery to marketing, IT to strategy planning, be expected to know one end of a P&L from another?

I get it. And here’s the truth… a lot of people do not understand their numbers.

However, getting a handle on them at an early stage will be the difference between a profitable business that allows you to live the life you desire, and a self-employed “job” where you become trapped.

In my many years of working in hotels and restaurants, and running my own hospitality consultancy, it was very common to find business owners who ran their business finances from their bank account. But this is just a daily snapshot of where your business is, it doesn’t give you a full picture or a forecast for what’s to come.

It is vital that all small business owners have their finger on the financial pulse to:

  1. ensure that they can afford to pay their bills when they are due
  2. ensure they can pay staff and freelancers for the value they are adding to the business, and
  3. (most importantly) ensure the business is actually making a healthy profit.

As a small business owner or sole trader, you might well be thinking I don’t need big profit margins – just enough to pay yourself is plenty?

But, hold up… what about planning for your future and the growth of the business, paying taxes and saving for a rainy day – that will require investment and nobody wants to be a busy fool!

As much as financial reporting may well be seen as ‘over kill’ for a small business, it can be a doddle. I promise 😉

Here’s a simple guide to a few basic financial reports that are easy to produce in excel yet essential for the success of your business.

TOOL #1: Sales Forecasts

This is a simple projection of what business you currently have secured on your books or in your sales pipeline, and then what further sales you hope to make.

‘Secured’ means deposit paid, full amount paid or purchase order received.

‘Hope’ means exactly that; you think it’s going to happen based on an intelligent estimate, but there is absolutely no guarantee yet.

A simple excel spreadsheet with the months listed at the top, and then your projected sales figure underneath is all you need. All your figures should be excluding VAT, if this is applicable to your business.

Top Tip: It’s great to look back on your forecast at the end of the month to see how close your forecast was. This review, which should only take a few moments, will give you a good guide as to how much you understand your sales pipeline. If both figures are very similar, you’ve nailed it!

TOOL #2: Cashflow Forecast

Simply put, your cashflow forecast will give you an indication of how much you should have in your bank at the time when bills need to be paid.

Again, a simple excel spreadsheet will suffice with your outgoings and actual/anticipated income in different columns.

Top Tips: Your sales forecast will help with your income figures, but you also need to take into account the following:

  • If you don’t take payment at the time of the service/sale, put in strict credit control procedures and make sure that your customers are fully aware of your payment terms before the service/sale is agreed. Make sure you have a procedure for chasing payment when it’s overdue!
  • Negotiate good supplier terms. Make sure there is no big difference from when you pay your suppliers, to when your customers pay you.
  • If you need to hold stock, it is vital that this is tightly controlled with regular stock takes. Cash in the bank is far better than products in your stock room. It’s a fine balance to get stock in at the right time, at the right price, while avoiding having cash tied up in it.

TOOL #3: Profit and Loss Account

You can easily produce a basic monthly profit and loss account for your business. The point of this is to understand your profit margin. In simple terms, it is your turnover less all your expenses and you want it to be as high as possible otherwise your business may not be viable.

A simple guide:

Once you have the above reports in place, it should give you a far better understanding of how your business is performing on a weekly or monthly basis. Doing this review yourself also means there are no nasty surprises at the end of the year from your accountant.

Making margins matter

Now that you have a way to track your numbers, you can ask yourself whether your margins (gross and net profit as a percentage of turnover) are close to your industry’s recommended margins.

A quick Google search will tell you roughly what these are, but a great accountant will also be able to advise.

If your margins are far higher or far lower than your industry’s recommended figures, then it’s time to dig a little deeper into your numbers…

  • Can you control your spending?
  • Can you cut supplier costs?
  • Is it time for an efficiency review?
  • Can you increase your selling price, without over pricing yourself against your competitors?

Numbers are the life blood of any business. People only really find them boring when they haven’t fully understood their importance. It is essential for any successful business owner to know where their numbers are likely to be at any given time and these tools should help you do that.

If you would like help in setting up these financial reports for your business, or digging deeper into the numbers to determine what they really mean for you, then please get in touch. Profit is my passion so I would love to help!

You can find out more about Kara by clicking here!

Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

6 lessons learned to celebrate 6 years in business

In 2022, Debbie celebrated 6 years in business as a Passionate PA. When she reached 5, her amazing clients did a little video but this year, she decided to celebrate the milestone by sharing some of the lessons learned over her whole business journey as a franchisee with The Passionate PA. Debbie shared these lessons with the intention that they may prove useful to anyone embarking on their own journey as a business owner.

Lesson 1: Be yourself…

I was new to The Passionate PA, I was new to the Dorset network and business scene. I was scared of being myself in case no one liked me. So I was, I guess, holding back. Holding back from letting the full me be on show. Was Dorset ready for me?!

Well, yes, it seems it was. It took time and a pair of big girl pants, but gradually, being me seemed to be ok. There were lots of other people like me out there, as in, there were lots of other people in the same new to business boat, some of them with less confidence and experience, so hell yes, I could put myself out there if they could!

What it took was time. Time to understand, to listen, to appreciate, to experience, to learn.

One of the biggest things I learned is that people inherently don’t want you to fail. People are generally bigging you up, wanting you to succeed, cheering you on.

Once you realise this, the world is a far less scary place. Embrace it. Throw yourself in wholeheartedly and enjoy!

Lesson 2: Think like a business owner

Prior to being a business owner, I was a senior manager for years with significant responsibility for people, profits, quality, service and standards.

Though I was a senior manager, I still had a boss, and I was still an employee. We were given a high level of autonomy and held responsible for it, this encouraged a sense of ownership for my work which remains deep-rooted in me. Ultimately though, there was always someone else above me who had more accountability than I did and a greater degree of responsibility.

When you’re running your own business, I have learned that the buck stops with you and no one else. I may work within a franchise, but it’s up to me how I implement that successfully within my business. The franchise provides a framework, within which I must operate. That framework is created from valuable experience and is tried and tested for success.

With my business owner mindset, I must make that framework work for me, drive my business forwards, seek out opportunities, learn and develop – to innovate and create new value.

A business owner mindset is a fundamental tool I use to improve, grow and strengthen my business. It’s so much more than achieving the daily to-do list.

This mindset must not get complacent though, it must be kept sharp to keep up with the demands of an ever-changing marketplace.

Lesson 3: Be consistent

Life is a rollercoaster; you’ve just got to ride it! Sang good old Ronan Keating back in the day. He wasn’t wrong, was he!

But, notwithstanding the ups and downs of life, the sharp turns and sometimes total upheaval faced (and my goodness the last 2 years has thrown a goodly amount of that our way) being consistent is key:

  • Being consistent is habit-forming. Habits that almost become second nature. And when that happens, you don’t feel like you’re even trying, you’re just doing what you do. Showing up consistently.
  • Consistency will help you to create your own accountability. You can adjust your actions and behaviours and progress towards what you want to achieve.
  • Consistency doesn’t take masses of effort. Small things done consistently can add up to big things over time. They will also differentiate you from others who are not being consistent.

My experience is that being consistent builds trust and momentum which in turn helps me feel positive about what I’m working towards.

Lesson 4: Act decisively

This means that decisions can be made, and action taken quickly for maximum impact. I’ve got a great support network to help if I want to bounce an idea around, or check that I’m not completely off track – I use that network frequently to do just that:

  • Decisions as a sole trader will often revolve around finances, health, and family
  • Work out what’s important to YOU and act promptly
  • Indecisiveness consumes energy

That saying ‘be the change you want to see’ is bang on point!

The decisions I have taken over the last 6 years have all contributed towards making me happier and more fulfilled in work and in life. Ultimately that’s my goal.

Lesson 5: It’s not all about the money

Recently I was asked to reflect on my previous year of business and talk about 3 achievements that I was particularly proud of.

One of those highlights was achieving a record turnover in one month; the highest turnover in a single month in my six years as a Passionate PA.

I keep a close eye on my finances, so it was no surprise to me what would be achieved by the end of the month, I had plenty of work to do, in actual fact, it was almost too much. The lure of £££ was attractive and spurred me on, but the cost to my sanity was also high.

This experience taught me a valuable lesson and as a result, I reorganised my client mix and workload into a position that was far more manageable for me, my business, my family and my health.

So, whether you’re a plate spinner, a serial list-maker or a fly by the seat of your pants kinda gal/guy, my advice to you is to find a balance that works FOR YOU, not for anyone else.

Lesson 6: Build a network

Being a sole trader can be a lonely existence. Actually, being a business owner can be a lonely existence full stop.  When leading a team or working on your own, it can be a similar feeling.

People often ask me ‘what do I get out of networking?’ they mean what clients have I won through networking, or how much business revenue can I attribute to the time I spend networking.  I surprise them by saying this ‘I don’t network to win business; I network to grow my meaningful connections’. Those new to networking are often taken aback, those that are more experienced get it.

Of course, it’s great when someone in your network becomes a client, this gives you a financial reward for your networking endeavours. But personally, I’m looking for something more.  I’m looking for, and have found, an absolutely brilliant bunch of people from all walks of life, doing all sorts of things, located all over the UK and overseas.

Ask me do I know someone who can…. and I probably do. These people have opened my eyes and my mind to all sorts of different perspectives, they inspire and motivate me every day. If I need a little pick me up, a swift scroll through my LinkedIn feed will generally throw something up that helps. If I’m feeling lonely working on my own, book onto an online networking session (or even one in person!) and those couple of hours will give me an emotional and mental boost that delivers real impact.

I’ve been able to refer countless people to each other, someone said to me recently – you’re a connector Debbie, a connector of people. Yes I most certainly am. I love putting people together and seeing it work!

Give it a go yourself, stick at it (see a previous lesson about consistency) and enjoy!

So, that’s a wrap, my 6 lessons learned over my 6 years as a business owner shared with you. I hope at least one person found at least one post useful, and it made a difference to their day. That’s enough for me.

To find out more about Debbie, click here. 

Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Getting to know Claire

Claire Bartlett is a font of corporate know-how and experience, known best for her ability to work with directors of large teams looking to improve efficiency and profitability. Here she shares a typical day in her world.

Claire joined The Passionate PA in January 2018 after a high-flying career with an investment bank. She has proven herself to be an exceptional strategic partner with commercial focus; Business Development and Strategy are her forte. Meticulously organised and detail-orientated in everything (yes, everything!), Claire is known for her infectious laugh and can-do attitude.

Getting to know Claire

Alarm goes off at:

Start the day with:
Coffee and checking Rightmove to give me a daily fix for one of my life’s passions – property! Then it’s reviewing the calendar for the day ahead. I always document the top three things that I need to achieve that day and try to get the most challenging one completed first. This gives me a sense of achievement and motivates me for the day ahead.

Where do you do most of your work?
Pre-Covid, it was an 80/20 split with the majority of my time spent face to face with my clients. Currently, its about 50/50 but I’m working up to getting out there more as this is when I can really get under the skin of my clients’ businesses and identify opportunities for improvement.

What sectors do your clients operate within?
Currently my clients are in management training and I also work with a fast-growing CEO and Managing Director level peer networking group.

Best part of your work:
Seeing the relief on my clients’ faces when I start taking the pressure off and organising projects and tasks for them. I love taking the lead when clients just don’t have the time. I also thoroughly enjoy bringing lessons from my prior corporate experience to the table and offering solutions they may not have considered before. Also, not forgetting the amazing feeling of being my own boss, deciding on the clients I work with and when and, also having that flexibility when I need it the most.

Worst part of your work: 
Finding a happy balance between being the greatest businesswoman I can be and the greatest mum too. I find it so hard to down tools at times, but it is so important to look after yourself to ensure you are the very best you can be. Champagne Friday’s help a lot!

Clients you add most value to:
Two of my current clients are looking to grow their business rapidly over the next few years and I am helping them identify and implement strategic initiatives to move them towards achieving their goals. This is the work that I really love and being part of their Senior Management Teams allows me to challenge ideas together with suggesting different approaches at times. Taking the lead with some of these initiatives greatly reduces the strain on my clients, enabling them to focus on what they are brilliant at knowing that there is a trusted pair of hands helping them along the way.

After work you’ll be:
Since Covid, I’ve taken a hard look at how I spend my personal time. I love nothing more than a walk on the beach with my family – you’ll often find us at Hengistbury Head enjoying pizza on the beach. I love to read, cook and have dinner with friends. Life is so precious, and I love spending time with people that inspire me and lift me up.

Why a franchise with The Passionate PA and not go it alone?
I didn’t want to go out and do this on my own as I love the support of Kate and her guidance and understanding of the role. The other Passionate PAs are invaluable not only in terms of support but in our shared knowledge and experience! I did not appreciate just how well-known our brand was until recently, this has opened so many doors which, had I gone it alone, would not have presented themselves.

What did you do before:
18 years in various management roles at JPMorgan including a four-year stint in Luxembourg. Working on major clients, I was a key player in retaining and turning client relationships around. Management experience, risk and compliance management… big job, fun at the time. But this is rewarding on a very different level.

Favourite drink:

Favourite location for a business meeting:
I really enjoy going to clients’ houses or offices as I believe this enables me to really get to know them and provides valuable insight into their lives. We can tell so much by what’s on someone’s desk or dining table! Otherwise, it has to be The Olive Branch in Wimborne or anywhere with a good, comfy sofa and a delicious lunch.

What are you reading?
“Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers.

Your guilty pleasure:
A monthly massage with the amazing Fran. Check her out on Instagram!

Favourite hobby/past time:
My new passion is on the water, on a gorgeous boat with a glass of bubbles. Failing that, a good walk at the beach or in the New Forest with my husband and boys.

Most inspirational/influential person in your career:
My Dad. One of the strongest, most intelligent, hardworking and honest businessmen I know. He built a successful company and survived a recession when most local building firms did not. He taught me integrity and respect, and to always go to bed with a clear conscience.

Favourite animal and why:
My cats. Love their independence and calming presence.

Greatest contact/supplier that deserves a plug:
Heidi Roper, View HR. Heidi is not only incredibly knowledgeable and amazing at what she does, but she is so much fun to work with and gets amazing results with the clients that she works with. She has true passion, and it shows.

Your business plan (in one sentence!) for the coming year:
To build strong, trusting, local relationships to ensure that I am the Executive PA of choice for Ringwood and the surrounding area.

You can find out more about Claire by clicking here! Or, pop her an email and make a date to get together for coffee (or champagne?).

Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

The Disenfranchised Podcast – Don’t ever have a Plan B

In the Disenfranchised podcast series, Ed talks with entrepreneurs, experts and leaders from across the franchise community discovering their life stories and their tips for success away from the typical 9-to-5 grind.

The #Disenfranchised was created to showcase a community that offers a different career path and lifestyle for people who have become disenfranchised with the world of employment, inspiring them to take control of their lives and start earning more for themselves.

About this podcast episode

Kate Chastey, our franchisor, was delighted to be asked to talk with Ed Purnell on his renowned podcast.

Making the decision to leave employment is one of the toughest decisions you can make in your career, but you need to commit to it fully! A plan to return to employment if it all “goes wrong” might seem like a good idea, but it could determine the outcome before you’ve even got the business off the ground.

In this episode Ed speaks with Kate Chastey of The Passionate PA and learns how, despite the odds, she repeatedly committed to her plan A and created the career she desired. We enjoy a fun conversation that also included:

  • How she found work experience with a TV celebrity
  • The fear of stepping off the corporate ladder
  • Kate’s dedication to helping people to build great careers
  • The common misconceptions of the franchise industry
  • Strange requests from clients
  • And of course much, much more!

Click here to listen to the podcast

Or watch the recording below!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Kate’s quoted in the Mail Online

I didn’t quite “declare war” – trust the Daily Mail to exaggerate 🤪 – but I’m pleased to be quoted in this article. This is a really important read for all PAs, VAs and freelancers.

In response to over 500 secretaries at Deloitte being told their jobs were at risk last week, the Daily Mail has picked up on the huge wave of PAs and EAs moving into the freelance world due to the difficulties in finding suitable roles for their skill sets, post covid. The article talks about whether the role of the EA is dead and how successful start-up VAs really are.


Firstly, we (the whole Business Support industry and recruiters) all need to work harder to educate the business community and news reporters on the difference between a Secretary, VA, PA and EA. But I’ll leave that for another blog!

Secondly, making a successful career out of freelancing is not easy – this was my point, which has, to some degree, been lost in the article. Becoming a Virtual Assistant just because you’ve lost your job is not the right thing to do. (Note the word ‘just’.)

I have spent over 10 years honing my skills as a freelance PA and helping others carve out successful businesses for themselves too under The Passionate PA brand.

Here’s the reality; being a successful freelancer or VA takes more time, energy, dedication and stamina than most full-time jobs ever do!

Sadly, the ‘quick-fix’ freelancers and VAs that are popping up daily, only to disappear within a few months, are really making it so difficult for the business world to understand the value a professional outsourced business support solution can offer. I appreciate going freelance is sometimes out of desperation. Of course. But sometimes it’s just pure naivety and rose-tinted glasses.

The whole reason I franchised my business was to help talented, ambitious individuals have an easier route into self-employed success. If you’d like to know more, visit our Join Us page.

I’ve heard so many horror stories of business owners trusting start-up freelancers and VAs, investing valuable time and energy into their on-boarding, only for them to quit when they find suitable employment. This leaves the business in the lurch and feeling very burnt by the whole experience.

➡️ My best advice to business owners – if you are serious about using freelancers to help you structure and grow your business, invest in people that make it their business to ensure you succeed. Check out Karen Murray‘s latest podcast where I talk about how to do this.

➡️ My best advice to employees staring down the barrel of unemployment or experiencing job loss – UPSKILL, invest in your own professional development and commercial awareness and really, really, really delve deep into your own values, passions and strengths.

Freelancing and being self-employed is NOT the easy route that so many gurus try to persuade you it is. Only embark on becoming a freelancer when no plan B will do! By that I mean, when your soul is hungry for choice, fulfilment and awesome clients and you are ready and willing to give your new adventure the focus it needs. You need an awesome support network and it you really want to thrive, an experienced, hands-on mentor that will open doors for you and help you navigate the challenges from day 1.

I’m very happy to talk to anyone thinking of doing so who’d love some unbiased and very honest advice.


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Kate on the Evolve to Succeed Podcast

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For the first time ever, our Director and Franchisor has spoken publicly about how she came to take over The Passionate PA at just 26, and the effects that choice has had on her as a person.

“Starting a business is never easy, but doing so at just 26 with the weight of the world on my shoulders was probably one of the hardest challenges of my life. It’s a choice that has made me ultimately very happy, but the initial years were a rollercoaster of emotions, challenges, excitement and continuous feelings of not being ‘enough’.”

Kate Chastey was delighted to be asked to talk to Warren Munson, long-time supporter of The Passionate PA. The team at the Evolve to Succeed Podcast did a superb job of creating the finished recording.

Kate said “this was a wonderful opportunity to share my business story and talk so openly with Warren about the things I hold so dear. Creating a life I don’t need a holiday from is 100% my personal definition of success and it was great to discuss that with Warren.”

In this episode, Kate and Warren also talk about:

  • How Kate’s early work experience with an entrepreneurial celebrity shaped her belief in what a PA could be and what she now feels a modern PA should be for entrepreneurs
  • How her early career in advertising agencies helped her learn so much about people, leadership and performance – and gave her the grounding for the leader she is today
  • Kate’s experience of Imposter Syndrome when she took over the business and found herself with very big shoes to fill
  • Our route into franchising with Kate’s ‘build it as we go’ approach and her fierce commitment to the people that choose to partner with her as Passionate PAs
  • How Kate’s father influenced her view of corporate life and financial security, and to this day still thinks she should get a ‘proper job’
  • And, of course, how all this has effected Kate’s personal life and given her a truly unique mantra to live by… “Create a life you don’t need a holiday from.”

“My definition of success is being able to enjoy every single day whilst adding real value to the people around me. It’s not about money. Success, to me, is about fulfilment – and understanding that it is all about NOW rather than one day in the future.”

Happy listening.


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Trisha Lewis Podcast – Trust who you are

We are so thrilled to share a podcast recorded recently with Trisha Lewis – Communication coach, speaker and author.

Trisha invited Kate to talk about the things she holds most dear; leading with an open heart, the unique and exciting opportunity of franchising and the role of the freelance PA in today’s business world. Oh, and her crazy life on Dartmoor!

Kate and Trisha had an absolute blast recording this, as it evident from the outset. If you want to know more about Kate and how our business is just so different from corporate life – this is the perfect place to start!

Click here to listen


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Sharing the secrets to our success…

Countless people dream of leaving employment to become their own boss, yet few have the courage. For those that do take the leap, becoming a business owner is no mean feat. It’s a path fraught with challenges and the statistics are not in their favour – a high proportion of start-ups fail within their first 3 years.

Whether it’s issues with funding or financial control, a lack of business planning or an unclear value proposition, or simply poor marketing or an overreliance on one or two customers – it’s so easy to ‘fail’ when it comes to running a business.

It isn’t easy, particularly in the freelance world, building a resilient, valuable business that makes a profit and fulfils an individual’s potential. As any freelancer or sole trader will tell you – it’s oh so easy to work 70 hours a week, never see your family, or do the things you love, and end up not making a great living from it anyway. 

Three of our Passionate PAs are celebrating a very different story! Having each decided they wanted to embrace the challenge of becoming self-employed, they chose to invest in a franchise opportunity with The Passionate PA. For them, this was the peace of mind needed to ensure their gamble paid off. 

Debbie is celebrating the start of her 5th year in business, and Jenni and Claire are each celebrating the start of their 3rd. As they reach these important milestones, they are reflecting on the secrets to their own success and sharing some valuable advice for all business owners at the beginning of their journey.  

Debbie Frith

I’ve always loved helping businesses to grow, it’s been my job for 28 years in various guises. I love the cut and thrust of business. I love the highs and the lows that make us work harder and push ourselves further. I love the learning and development that comes with a growing healthy business. 
The new challenges faced daily provide opportunity for both personal and business growth. As a Passionate PA, I get to support not just one business, but many businesses in varying sectors. This makes for a diverse and engaging schedule, I can tell you!
My personal strategy is to focus on using my strengths when partnering with clients; to do what I enjoy doing and what I know I’m good at so I can deliver tangible value to their businesses. This is the ‘not very secret’ to my success. Spending time wading through tasks that don’t float my boat, makes for a very dull and unhappy me. As a Passionate PA, I get to choose who I work with, what I do with them and when, giving me the balance I need in life. 
There’s always a challenge, but then that is what drives and motivates me. Knowing The Passionate PA team are there to celebrate the highs and support me with the lows makes all the difference and why I know for certain that choosing a franchise for my self-employment was the right thing to do.

Debbie Frith Passionate PA Poole

Jenni Bowman

There have been many highs and lows for me over the last two years – and many lessons learnt! It’s definitely not all been plain sailing. However, there is one piece of advice that I try REALLY hard to adopt and it is something that I tell my clients all the time; “Just Be You”.
Life as a Passionate PA means that I am very fortunate to garner close working relationships with my clients. I get to see the best and the worst of them, and this is one of the many aspects of my work that I love! A common theme I have found amongst all the business owners I create relationships with, whether they be networking contacts, my clients, my friends or my colleagues, is that we all feel vulnerable at times. It can be really hard trying to sell yourself and your service in the big wide world – hence why being You is just so important. 

The secret to my success has been personality! People buy people. I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that is ok. In business, I want to form relationships with people who understand me and who I can understand too – that goes way deeper than just getting things off their To Do List! There is simply no point trying to be liked by everyone or appeal to everyone – and even less point trying to tell everyone how you can help them ‘do everything’ which is so common in our line of work. That’s what I love most about my business as The Passionate PA; I am allowed to be me and play to my strengths. My clients love that too.  

Jenni Bowman Passionate PA Bournemouth

Claire Bartlett

My first two years as a business owner have been a huge learning curve. Coming from a corporate background, it took some very strong determination to carve my own path. The secret to the successful growth of my business, and myself as a businesswoman, has been complete clarity and confidence in my own USP. It’s been so important to me from the outset that my clients understand the skills and expertise I bring to their business, and the value that creates for them. 
Having a strategic marketing plan is critical too – and this really is why a franchise was right for me. I knew nothing about marketing when I started, but now, I am confident I have the skills to drive my business from strength to strength. Knowing what to do, and when, particularly at the beginning, was mind blowing! My advice for anyone launching a business would be to have really clear goals and a routine approach to Business Development, try different networking events in your area until you find those that fit with you and your business. Grow your circle of trusted resources and confidants, and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, in fact, insist upon it (both good and bad) as this is the only way any of us grow. 

As a parent with a crazy busy home life, I would also say it’s important to know your personal limits and created positive boundaries. Be known for being reliable, trustworthy and honest – but never over promise. Integrity is everything in our business but so is passion. I love what I do, and I believe it shows. Do what lights you up inside as this keeps your own motivation levels high but also inspires others to be the best they can be too.  

Claire Bartlett Passionate PA New Forest

Collectively, Debbie, Claire and Jenni provide freelance PA support to 18 ambitious business owners across Dorset and West Hampshire, clocking up over 300 hours a month of support to the region’s finest entrepreneurs, directors and business owners. With their expertise in Business Development, Operations, Process Management, Marketing, Project Planning, Event Management, EA support  and so much more being shared on a daily basis – these three women are valued additions to the management teams within their clients’ businesses.  

If you’d like to learn more about having a Passionate PA in your business, please visit our Team Page or call 03 3000 20 200.

Further blogs from The Passionate PA: