Success Stories: Carron Charlesworth

Training and Marketing Manager Carron started selling award-winning Usborne children’s books alongside her main job, working in the evenings whilst her financial advisor husband was out visiting clients. Gradually her ambitions and confidence for her business grew, and when she was made redundant from her main job, she turned potential adversity into success, using her background in training to develop a sales team. She now runs one of the most successful Usborne Books at Home businesses in the UK and earned approximately £32,000 last year.

“I think it’s fair to say that I never anticipated I’d be running my own book-selling business in my mid-40s!

Much of my early career was spent working in training and marketing for a Sheffield-based charity – a job I really enjoyed and grew to be good at.

When our twins Eliza and Freddie came along in 2011, I decided to reduce my hours to four days a week so that I could spend more time with them. But the reality of part-time work wasn’t what I’d hoped; most weeks it felt like I worked full time, and I took a lot of work home. Added to this was a commute of around two hours a day.

At the time I took home about £1,400 a month, but when childcare costs were factored in, despite our parents helping a fair bit, there wasn’t a lot leftover.

Starting a Side Hustle

Like a lot of people, I first came across Usborne Books when our children came along. When the twins were toddlers, I happened to see a post in a twins Facebook group about working with Usborne. The post caught my eye because we’d always had Usborne books in our house, and I thought I might enjoy doing it. But life was so busy at the time, I didn’t get around to doing anything about it.

I continued to mull over whether I should go for it or not though, and when the children started school in 2015, I finally decided to sign up [it costs £48 for a starter pack of around 18 books].

Initially I focused on developing my business in the evenings. My husband is a financial advisor and often sees clients in the evenings, so I tended to fit my Usborne work in once the children were in bed and he was out.

I started contacting local schools and nurseries to arrange pop-up shops, and occasionally had a stall in local fayres at the weekend. For the first year I kept things fairly low-level, earning £200 or so a month from the 24% commission on each product I sold.

Shifting Up a Gear

In January 2016 I attended an Usborne Books at Home event organised by the company to help people develop their Usborne businesses and it really inspired me. It became clear to me that my professional background in training had given me some useful skills to help me develop my own team of Usborne Organisers.

I’d initially been quite reluctant to do this as I didn’t want the responsibility of ‘managing’ people – it wasn’t something I’d particularly enjoyed doing in my career. But I came to realise that working with other independent Organisers is far mor eabout mentoring and supporting than managing. There was quite a big difference.

I started to put myself out there more – generally at weekends and on my day off. When people showed an interest in the business side of things, I explained how it worked and that I was actively looking to grow my team.

It was quite a slow process initially, but by June 2016 I had four active team members. Over the following twelve months, my businesses started to do quite well, and I was earning around £2,000 a month (£600 or so more than my main job).

All Change

Things all changed in February 2018, when I was made redundant from my charity job of 16 years.

It wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it was quite a knock to my self-esteem. Thankfully there was no huge panic to find another job, as my Usborne business was stable (and successful) enough to make up for my lost earnings.

My Usborne business is now my sole focus, and my core team has grown considerably to approximately 84 people. I have also become a Divisional Team Leader, and the majority of my time is now spent mentoring and supporting others. I still set myself sales targets each month and continue to sell products – I have a regular pop-up shop in a hospital, and I love working with schools and nurseries. Particularly as many schools have such limited budgets for books these days and Usborne does a lot of good work here – my team alone have given away more than £40,000 worth of books was given to schools in 2019.

As well as commission on my own sales, Usborne also pays me an additional commission on my teams’ sales (on top of the 24% they earn).

I tend to work on my business for around 25 hours a week, which I fit around school hours (between 10am and 2pm), and I work a couple of evenings a week). I sometimes dip into things on the weekend if I need to, but I’ve pulled back from working weekends to spend more time with my family.

Reaping the Rewards

My earnings are now between £2,000 – £5,600 a month depending on sales. I never imagined I could earn this much, working from home, in school hours.

One of the first things I did when I started earning more was to book a surprise trip to take my husband Mark to Iceland to see the Northern Lights for his birthday. He was in shock when I told him what I’d done! Previously he had always been the one in our relationship to buy the bigger things, the holidays etc. I think he was shocked that I could do this off my own back. That gives me a huge sense of satisfaction and empowerment.

I’ve also just taken the family on another surprise holiday to Lapland, which I’d never have been able to afford in the past. Mark, my husband, is seriously impressed that I can pay for things like that.”