For our latest Success Story, writer Nicola Greenbrook talks to Corinna Buenaventura and Nollaig Lynch, Directors of SME Bureau Ltd. Corinna and Nollaig provide accountancy services for creatives and creative businesses and aim to save you time and money.
Hello! Please tell us a little about yourselves, your company and your services…
Hello! We’re Corinna and Nollaig, Directors of SME Bureau Ltd and Chartered Management Accountants.
We provide accountancy services for both sole traders and limited companies and specialise in supporting SME’s across the UK.
Ironically, our first day in business was 6 April 2020 - the start of the new tax year!
We offer a wide range of services to our clients and pride ourselves on helping clients with tax planning and making their money go that little bit further.
We help them explore the benefits of investing in pensions or ISAs. We also work on annual accounts, tax and VAT returns, payroll, management reporting, business planning and cash flow forecasts.
If you’re a growing business and could do with some help with managing your finances, you can outsource any part of your Finance function to us and we also provide support, training and implementation of Cloud Accounting software to suit any budget.
If you’ve been busy with research and development recently, we can help you reclaim up to 33% in R&D tax credits. Oh, and we can also get you ‘Making Tax Digital’ ready!
We're always on the look-out for government announcements — and Rishi Sunak’s latest 130% ‘super deduction’ on qualifying plant and machinery acquired after 1 April 2021 is certainly worth looking into.
The majority of our clients are small independent businesses across a range of sectors and at varying stages of their business lifecycle. We particularly appeal to the creative sector who can often be intimidated by the accounting world.
We’ve guided new start ups through their first steps, by ensuring they are compliant and set up with the right systems and controls and helped well-established businesses looking for a ready-made Finance team. Wherever you are in your business journey, we have the solution for you.
Our friendly, down to earth approach and our mission to make the numbers less scary seems to resonate well — and we, in turn, are totally in awe of all their talents. It makes for a rewarding partnership!
Where do you both live?
Corinna: I live in Woodford Green, where I've been for over 25 years now having lived in Leyton for five years after moving over from Ireland. I came to this part of London because I had a friend nursing in Whipps Cross Hospital at the time. This also brought my sister to the area — and the rest, as they say, is history!
I feel so fortunate to live here. We’re so close to the beautiful Epping Forest, where I go almost daily with my cocker spaniel. At the same time, we can hop on the tube and be in the city in 25 minutes or the West End in 35 minutes. Being so close to Walthamstow, with its village industry culture and vibrant cultural hub, makes us still feel very much connected to the London vibe. I really can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Nollaig: I also live in Woodford Green! I moved to London in 2000; residing initially in West London and then to lovely South Woodford before moving to Woodford Green recently. After spending over six years living and working with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Russia and Croatia, I wanted to check out the world of banking and working in the City of London.
When I first moved here, I loved the shops, the energy and the vibrancy of living so close to a city. The transport links are amazing.
What I find the most inspiring is the resilience of the small businesses all around me, who, against all the odds, survived a pandemic. The small businesses who, when told to close, managed to find a new way to ‘stay open’. The small businesses who delivered to my door when I couldn’t leave my home.
The small businesses who made sure we could survive lockdown by making their shops Covid-safe and allowing us to order absolutely anything online.
When did you first discover The Hive Collective and what do you enjoy most about the events?
Corinna: We first became aware of Hive through the recommendation of a friend. It was in March 2020, not long before the first lockdown, that I attended the meeting in
Walthamstow. The day stands out clearly in my memory as I had not long lost my Mother and was having a really low morning. I forced myself to go and it was the best thing I could have done!
I was made so welcome by Nat, Carmel and all the Hivers, even if I was the only boring accountant among a sea of talented creatives! Since then, all of the meetings have been virtual and I really feel they have been instrumental in helping the self-employed and small business owners get through these last 12 months. I love meeting all these wonderful people and hearing about what they do
Nollaig: I love Hive events because of the sense of community and the warm welcome at every event. Nat and Carmel are so inclusive and work hard to give everyone their say. They invite speakers to help to inform and educate business owners and to make them better at what they do. The ethos is one of sharing and caring.
My most memorable Hive event was shortly after the first lockdown. We were all so grateful at how quickly Hive got us online and ready for whatever was coming next. Some were ready for anything, some were struggling. It didn’t matter; Nat, Carmel and our fellow Hivers were there for all of us. The feeling of support and a feeling of ‘we’re all in this together’ was amazing.
What are the challenges of owning your own business?
Suddenly being thrust into the unknown! This has been challenging for us in terms of marketing, creating social media posts, understanding new legislation and website designs. These are all areas which we knew little or nothing about and we are constantly learning! We have learnt through business networking, hearing other people’s stories and attending webinars wherever possible.
Another huge challenge is meeting new clients. We are using all the resources available and trying to beat the myth that nothing beats face to face interaction. Hive was and is a lifeline for us. It was the first networking group we joined.
Are there any advantages?
Yes, such as choosing hours to work around family and other commitments, and the sense of achievement is immeasurable compared to working for someone else.
The biggest advantage of all is having become the Queens of Technology! We have completely embraced cloud accounting and have helped our clients to run their businesses from their mobile phones.
We’ve got to know other businesses in the borough and we collaborate with everyone we meet. Hive and networking have introduced us to the most amazing people and opened our minds to the most amazing ideas. We love being part of the networking community and only use business owners we have met over Zoom.
Our Zoom backdrop is a pink Love Heart sweet, captioned with “Love Numbers, Love doing Business”. We couldn’t have come up with that by ourselves!
Nollaig: The great advantage for me is that I can work and be with my children all at the same time! The cutest bookkeepers in Woodford Green work for SME Bureau. I love the flexibility of working from home and being able to pass this flexibility to our clients. We are available for our clients whenever they need us.
We’d love to know your Hive Success Story….
It really started after that first meeting back in March 2020. Not long after that, we got a recommendation from the Hive group and secured our first client!
At that meeting, I met Helen Reed, founder and hand dyer behind The Wool Kitchen, who recommended us to two of her friends who, in turn, recommended us to another friend. All of which materialised into clients! We have since secured another two clients directly from Hive with another two pending which is amazing for a small business like ours!
Hive is our success story. It gave us the courage and support we needed to carry on and become a thriving business. We have got to know many wonderful people, and it has helped our business to grow. Without Nat and Carmel willing us to be successful, against all the odds, we would not be here. Our fellow Hivers believe in us and trust us to do a great job.
We do love numbers and want our clients to love numbers too! We work with our clients to achieve this, and to help them to achieve their goals. We are so grateful for all our happy Hive clients who continue to recommend us and send amazing businesses our way. We are privileged to be part of such a wonderful community.
Hive gives us the confidence to be resilient. The network has shown us how we can survive lockdown and provided a means to stay in touch with the small business world. Hive showed us that small business owners together can do anything and are many small fountains of brilliance and boundless capability.
In these challenging times, has SME Bureau been impacted by Covid-19, and if so, are there any steps you are taking to recover?
Starting a business in March 2020 was probably just about the worst possible time. We were thinking, “What have we done?” The knock-on effects of lockdown are felt by almost everyone, accountants included, as more businesses have shut down. However, we have managed to keep slowly growing the business — and we’re hoping 2021 will be even better!
Corinna: As we both work from home, and with the use of Zoom, we have been fine operationally. Having said that, my daughter has commandeered my office so I am looking forward to her going back to school! Also, it will be nice to be able to go out and meet clients face-to-face once again as nothing really substitutes that.
Nollaig: Thanks to technology, we were able to show people how to keep going and how to stay in touch with their numbers. We have helped clients to analyse their costs and take advantage of tax savings. We have made projections and cash flows and looked at different scenarios to give clients confidence in the future. We have armed clients with all the information they need to know they have got this. It is important to know your numbers and to be prepared for whatever is coming next.
With Hive behind us, we put our heart and soul into helping small businesses survive COVID-19. There were so many grants, so many rules, so many dates; people didn’t know where to start in terms of finding the financial support available to them. We went through the guidance with fine-toothed combs.
We simplified the rules, we presented them to our clients and fellow small business owners and made them easy to understand. We offered free guidance on our website and on social media pages. We helped to decipher the jargon. We lived the Hive ethos of “we’re in it together and let’s get through this”.
Finally, tell something about your business that makes you stand out from the rest!
We pride ourselves on our lack of ‘stuffiness’ and our great sense of humour! With SME Bureau, we are on a mission to dispel the myth that all accountants are boring!
We’re accountants who love numbers — and love doing business. We love life too! We once had a recommendation on the Hive Facebook group stating that we were really ‘human’ which really made us laugh!
We are here to help. We strive to make a difference and to save our clients time and money. We’re accountants you can count on and above all, that you can trust to do what’s best for you. We are on your side and we will help you to get a good night’s sleep. We can take all of those number worries away.
Finally, we’d love to say a big thank you to all the small businesses who worked so hard to keep us safe and to make the lockdown more bearable. We are very privileged to have shared the journey with you.