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F e a t u r e s

When the Going Gets Tough….


t a time when many companies are facing financial difficulty, Rachael Cox discovers two enterprising RAF wives

with a successful business and a green conscience.

Picture this: two attractive young women sitting in the HIVE coffee shop at RAF Kinloss, drinking tea and discussing handbags and jewellery. You would be forgiven for thinking these friends were idly chatting, but look closer and you discover their rendezvous is actually a business meeting. Caroline Dixon and Josie Larkman are discussing new products for their recently launched online business, The Little Green Gift Shop.

“Andy has stopped asking ‘what did you do today’ when he gets home from work,” laughs Josie, 31. “The list is always endless: updating product information on our website, sourcing new suppliers around the world, fulfilling orders placed in the last 24 hours – and that’s before making packed lunches and getting the kids off to school,” adds the mum-of-two.

“Wives and partners of military personnel have to be more enterprising,” she muses. “You have to leave your home, friends and work at fairly short notice, sometimes every two or three years, depending on your husband’s job. Then you have to start all over again.”

Mother-of-three Caroline agrees, revealing she has moved house 13 times over the last 12

years. The 34 year-old former RAF medic and, more latterly, civilian auxiliary nurse, explains that she has had to turn down job offers and training placements in the past because of her husband’s RAF career.

“I was working at the A&E department of a large hospital and was offered a dream training post, but Steve’s job meant I had to turn it down. I decided to leave nursing as it just wasn’t compatible with my role as an RAF wife, and this is the start of a new career for me. With a web-based business, I can tailor it to wherever we go, carry on working, and continue to develop the business, without having to start again every time.”

So how did the idea for The Little Green Gift Shop come about? Caroline explains, “We wanted to set up our own company, something we could run from home, without having to commit to a location, or rent an office or retail space. Obviously with the RAF deciding where Steve and Andy work, we couldn’t establish a static business, but had to come up with a more flexible business model. Running an online retailing business means we can work from home anywhere in the country, even if we get posted to opposite ends of the UK”.

12 Summer 2009

“Of course our weekly meetings would have to be via webcam instead of over tea at the kitchen table!” adds Josie.

It was also important for the project to be Caroline and Josie’s own, with no connection to the RAF or to their husbands: “No offence to Steve or Andy, but we wanted to do something that didn’t involve them!” laughs Caroline.

She continues: “The RAF isn’t just an employer, it’s a way of life. It’s a close-knit community: we live here, work here, the kids go to school here, play here, our sports and leisure facilities are here, and our social life is centred around the RAF. Of course, these are very positive aspects to RAF life and it’s wonderful to have this supportive community, but it’s also good to keep tabs on civilian life. By setting up a small business outside of the RAF sphere we get to be individuals, working women in our own right, and not just ‘the wives!’”

Working with a business partner takes the loneliness out of self-employment, according to Caroline: “While we both wanted to work for ourselves, we didn’t necessarily want to work by ourselves. The joy of doing this

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