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Small business focus: Celebrant Isabel Addison and her weddings, funerals and flying cars

Isabell Addison enrolled for celebrancy training just days after losing her son, Ben. Her business was named Legacy in his honour.
Isabell Addison enrolled for celebrancy training just days after losing her son, Ben. Her business was named Legacy in his honour.

Each week we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to celebrant Isabel Addison, based in Tarland, Aberdeenshire.

How and why did you start in business?

I had been to many funerals and left thinking I could have done a better job, with the service not reflecting the deceased.

Being a celebrant was something I began to research in 2017 but at the time I was working full time in care management and didn’t go any further. Also, the training is not cheap.

‘I’d written the eulogy’

In September 2019 my son, Ben, died. Having already planned two funerals for my mum and my brother, I knew the celebrant would need stories about his life so I put pen to paper.

At the family meeting, the celebrant looked at what I’d written and said I’d left very little for him to do – I’d written the eulogy.

Ben’s funeral was on October 11, and on October 15 I enrolled to train as a funeral celebrant.

How did you get to where you are today?

After completing my training on March 18 2020 the whole country went into lockdown.

This meant I couldn’t go around funeral directors to introduce myself, so I wrote to everyone I could find to start the introductions.

I also used this time to create a website and social media pages to help promote the business.

Ben was my only child and he had no dependents, so I used the inheritance from his estate to set up my business. I called it Legacy because this is Ben’s legacy.

In August 2020 my now-husband, Denis, and I decided to get married and I went ahead and did my wedding and family celebrant training.

Always looking to improve and develop, I did more training. This time it was for a certificate in advanced celebrancy and ritual, and this opened up a whole new world for me.

My writing improved, I had voice coaching sessions as part of the course and after seven weeks of intense training and homework I was awarded the certificate.

I went on to do more training with Coffin Club UK and founded Coffin Club – Aberdeenshire West.

Who helped you?

Denis has been my rock, encouraging me all the way. The funeral directors I get work from have been immensely supportive, as have the staff at Baldarroch Crematorium (Crathes).

I discovered networking by accident reading a post on Facebook. I joined the group and met a lot of lovely people there – sole traders, like me.

They have been an immense source of knowledge and the bonus is I made some friends.

It was through networking that I met Jim Aitken from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), and after an in-depth one-to-one with him I decided to join.

Just knowing there is an organisation there to help in times of strife is a great comfort but there are other benefits too, one of them being the FSB’s online networking sessions.

What has been your biggest mistake?

Paying to be in an online business directory. It turned out to be a waste of money and I was tied into a year’s contract.

Being in business is a learning curve and now I have made so many contacts, I would ask their expert advice before committing to something like that again.

What is your greatest achievement?

My son lived with cystic fibrosis and during lockdown I made face coverings to raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. I single-handedly raised more than £4,000 and wore out a sewing machine.

If you were in power in government, what would you change?

I would change the law to allow independent celebrants like me to legally marry couples.

Current legislation is not fit for purpose – it denies me the right to make a living and also couples from having the wedding they want.

What do you still hope to achieve?

My mission is to encourage families to talk about death so that it is no longer a taboo subject.

Everyone dies but only 6% plan for it. Having your end-of-life planned out lifts an enormous weight off those left behind.

Once you deal with death you can get on with living. This is what the Coffin Club is all about – providing a safe space for people to come together and talk about death, hear talks from professionals working in the funerals business and plan their own send-off. You can also buy and decorate a coffin.

What do you do to relax?

A long steep in a hot bubbly bath. I do also have a guilty pleasure – cheesy films.

I am also a shamanic and reiki practitioner, so I use these tools to help me destress too.

What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on TV?

I am listening to Not That Kind of Love by Clare and Greg Wise.

What do you waste your money on?

I really don’t waste money but hot chocolate is my weakness.

How would your friends describe you?

Caring, compassionate, inspirational, resilient and bubbly.

What would your enemies say about you?

I’d like to think I don’t have any enemies. I would hope they would say “she’s not our cup of tea but good luck to her”.

Ms Addison dreams of taking the wheel of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, pictured here with Dick van Dyke as Caractacus Potts in the classic movie.
What do you drive and dream of driving?

I bought my first brand new car in October and it is a Seat Ibiza.  I treasure it. I’d love to drive Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang.

Celebrity crofter and football boss Donald Macsween listens to business podcasts while mucking out the henhouse

Business coach Brenda Hector is in demand throughout Scotland