10 years of Teamwork

With business better than ever, Carrie and Simon Blenkinsop are hailing their investment in a ChipsAway franchise as the best thing they've ever done

A decade ago Carrie Blenkinsop little imagined that she would become the ambitious, driven, highly successful business woman that she is today. In fact, when her boyfriend Simon Evans decided to quit the pub trade after four years to invest in a ChipsAway franchise, Carrie was looking forward to becoming a 'lady of leisure', helping out on the family farm and exercising her horses.

However, Simon had other ideas. He first persuaded Carrie to accompany him to an Open Day at ChipsAway, the UK's leading SMART (Small to Medium Area Repair Technology) repair specialist, then he suggested that they should undertake the training together. 'Initially I was going to do just the Trim-Fix upholstery repairs while Simon would be the main painter,' Carrie explains with a laugh. 'That's not quite how it worked out!'

Today Carrie is every bit as 'hands-on' as Simon, helping on a day-to-day basis to run and grow their thriving business. 'I suppose we made up our minds to make a real go of it,' she recalls. 'When we both decided to give our business 100 per cent focus, things really took off. It's hard work, but we love it and it has certainly delivered the lifestyle we want. We have a beautiful house, drive really nice cars and - best of all - we can work everything around our lovely little girl!'

Carrie and Simon started with a ChipsAway vehicle, customised as a fully equipped workshop, but four and a half years later, the volume of work - and Carrie's pregnancy - led them to expand to a static ChipsAway CarCare Centre, enabling the couple to repair more cars and providing Carrie with the opportunity to combine being a new mum with running their increasingly demanding business. 'I was back at work by the time our daughter was four days old,' Carrie explains. 'Tiny babies just need to be kept warm, dry and fed regularly, so I would bring her to work in a carrycot and she was as good as gold. Once she was toddling about her grandparents were there to help out and now she's at school, the business still allows me the freedom and flexibility to take time out to be with her.'

Carrie adds that being in business with Simon has added an extra dimension to their life together, strengthening their relationship through shared goals and plenty of time spent together.

'We often get asked how we get on working so closely, but we don't bicker at all,' she says. 'We each have our separate responsibilities for different aspects of the business, but we respect each other's judgment and value the opportunity to talk things through together - whether we've had a great day or a difficult problem to resolve. For us, running a business as a team just works on every level!'

Currently, the pair are experiencing what Carrie describes as a 'mini-boom'. She states that in 10 years they have never been so busy. 'It's weird really, considering the current market,' she observes. 'Demand for our services is crazy at present, particularly on used cars. Of course, we've been going for some time and enjoy a great reputation locally, which helps, but at the moment customers seem intent on spending money to smarten up their cars - either to sell at a better price or to keep them going for longer.'

Carrie and Simon already have an additional employee to help them repair an average of 10 cars a day and are looking for larger premises. 'We've outgrown our unit for sure,' Carrie confirms. 'It's absolutely packed out!

'Ours is a great business. You have to have the commitment, passion and determination to succeed, but investing in a ChipsAway franchise is certainly the best thing we've ever done and in particular, it has provided a fantastic framework for our family!'

Reported by Megan Dunmore