Small business Saturday: From hypnotherapy to tank therapy

Small business Saturday: From hypnotherapy to tank therapy

Recently my 12-year-old, Rowan, announced that he never wants to run his own business. When I asked him why, he said: “Just watching you and Dad, it seems much easier to get a normal job with a regular salary.” I laughed and said there were pros and cons, but I never planned to run my own business either, it just sort of happened.

I’m not a typical business owner. I’m unambitious with zero vision of where I want the business to be in 5 years – I’m happy we’re still around after 6, but who knows what the future holds. I believe if people can find us, and like what we do and how we do it, then they will happily come back for more.

I used to think like Rowan, assuming a steady job was the safest option. That was until I started working for a charity putting in plenty of unpaid overtime. But I didn’t care, as long as I could pay the bills, because I loved what I did and believed in the cause.

As well as raising funds for charity, I was a clinical hypnotherapist with a small private practice. When I wasn’t fundraising or helping people give up smoking or get over phobias, I volunteered as a therapist for a charity supporting women affected by domestic abuse. I will never forget the connections I made with those courageous women.

Fast forward to my early 30s. We moved 150 miles to the West Country, away from family and friends. I gave up work to raise our two young boys. My career was a distant memory, but that was okay – Mama mode had taken hold. Although, some days I found myself wondering what I could do once they were both at school.

Neil, my then husband, was already running an NHS dispensing business, and in 2016, he set up a hobby business selling WW2 tanks made out of plastic bricks. He called it BrickTanks! I have to be honest, at first, I really didn’t get it. But I could see his enthusiasm for the products manufactured by COBI, a Polish company, was genuine and infectious.

When Neil suggested I could run BrickTanks in January 2018, I’d love to say that I leapt at the opportunity, but I thought he was mad. It wasn’t that I couldn’t see the potential, it was a lack of belief in myself, in my capability. I hadn’t worked in an office in 6 years and what did I know about selling model tanks and planes?

After some soul searching, I decided I should at least try, so I went on a free business course and dived in. We went to Mielec in Poland to meet the good people at COBI and have a look around their factory. Before long, I got to know many of our regular customers, could identify most products and even learned a bit about military history.

My favourite job was hand writing little notes on each order and I loved it when customers emailed back a response with photos of their sets. I was excited to go to work each day and, despite my initial reservations, I could tell this was the right job for me. The therapist in me loved hearing from customers, who told me building the sets was a form of therapy for them, a lifeline even, especially during the lockdowns.

I never wanted BrickTanks to be a 'traditional' business and I think James and Amelia, who joined me nearly two years ago, will agree it really isn’t! We all work hard with plenty of office banter between us and the warehouse team. I love knowing we play a part in the wider military brick building community and help bring others with a similar interest together, because what’s more important than human connection?

A huge thank you to all our lovely customers, especially those who have stuck with us since the beginning. It sounds cliché, but without your ongoing support, good humour and feedback, I probably would be applying for a job at the new Lidl being built up the road.

As for my son Rowan, about two weeks after he denounced the idea of running his own business, he came home from school and announced that he’d started selling sweets to his classmates and had taken some pre-orders!

He’s definitely got the buzz. His father and I are helping him work out his profit margin so he can hopefully stay in business long term, as well as incorporating good customer service and rewarding his best customers, of course. So, it looks as if there might be another potential businessperson in the family.


  • Pete G

    Really interesting to learn your backstory so thanks for sharing – as an AFOL I was a little sceptical at first but absolutely love Cobi tanks and have way more than I should! The likes of Amazon need more competition so hope you continue to thrive – it’s just a shame that Cobi hiked up their prices recently. Wishing you all the best and look forward to your next sale ;-)

  • Kevin

    You good folks keep carrying on, and thanks for everything you do!

  • Peter Prow

    Great little blog.
    The enthusiasm shows in your excellent customer service :)

  • Mark C

    Love you guys, and promise to keep buying from you, sending photos of my builds, and, of course, reviews!
    Is it too early to wish you all a very Merry Christmas?

  • David Pollock

    Hi loved your little bio, just a quick note to let you know that I came across Cobi for the first time during a visit to the York air museum and bough that AV8 Harrier, really enjoyed the build, wifey as ordered the A10 Thunderbolt 2 from Santa, hope it arrives in time, and it looks like the Lego Technic might be getting displaced from the man cave shelves. Keep up the good work, glad you are enjoying it

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