Kerry Barton

When Kerry Barton developed a late love of learning, she went on to achieve academic distinction, leaving West Kent College, part of the University of Kent, with a First in her BA (Hons) photography course.

It was only later that she realised that while she had studied hard to reach her goal, nothing she had been taught would help her set up a business or earn a living from her skillset. “There was no practical help with what to do next; all they wanted me to do was sign up for another course elsewhere,” she recalled.

That missing piece of the jigsaw, the business advice she needed, was supplied by the Rebel Business School, which photographer Kerry attended in 2019 at the Angel Centre in Tonbridge, picking up the vital information she needed to launch Studio 23 Photography.

Arthur Norman – a keen amateur photographer

Kerry, who was inspired by grandfather Arthur Norman, a keen amateur photographer who also photographed weddings and events, has become well-known in her home town of Tonbridge for her documentary style, covering events and concerts with her favoured Nikon kit. “I like to cover the whole event, beginning, middle and end, building a story to share with the community,” she said, “whether it’s a wedding, a birthday or a concert.”

First class honours at the age of 38

Having not enjoyed school, Kerry went back to studying later to sort out basic skills like Maths and English. She did so well that after passing her GCSEs she went to West Kent College and earned a place on a degree course, emerging with first class honours at the age of 38.

It was while attending a council meeting in Tonbridge as a member of the public that Kerry heard a representative from housing association Optivo talking about the Rebel Business School approach to helping people make money by doing something they loved. That presentation changed her life.

“I really wanted to use my photography skills to earn a living, but my degree course hadn’t taught me how,” she said. “I was a bit nervous about attending the course but I absolutely loved it and absorbed every bit of information I could across the five days. The Rebel team was inspirational and gave me so much useful, practical information – and I’ve never looked back.”

Kerry picked up so much advice at her first course in Tonbridge that she has been back to other Rebel events since. “I always learn something new, and I also enjoy the chance to network with other people and share what I have learnt from Rebel,” she said. Optivo also ran follow up sessions for course members over the following two years, something she also found helpful.

The Rebel philosophy is based on a practical approach to setting up a business which avoids complicated business plans and bank loans and instead helps people to turn a hobby into a profession without getting into debt or making long-term commitments. “We focus on inspiration, not rules and red tape,” explained Chief Operations Officer Henry Nicholson.

“I took the Rebel advice and put a message on Facebook asking if anyone had any premises available,” Kerry added. “A shop owner with an empty outbuilding in Barden Road, Tonbridge, offered it to me and they worked hard to fix it up and turn it into my studio. I’ve now been there almost two years.”

Enthusiastic entrepreneur

The enthusiastic entrepreneur also turned a competition-winning firework picture into a top-selling greetings card and invested the money she made into setting up a website, reflecting Rebel advice on marketing. She has also been commissioned by Tonbridge Council and taken pictures of well-known faces including Dame Kelly Holmes and MP Tom Tugendhat.

“One of the Rebel suggestions is that you should write down the top 12 things you want to achieve,” Kerry added. “I did that in 2019, and I’ve so far achieved eight of them. I’m working on the rest.”During lockdown Kerry used Facebook to ask local families if she could take safely distanced photographs of them on their doorstep, using a long lens. It was so successful that she snapped 50 families within five or six weeks and raised £600 for West Kent Mind in the process. Her story was featured on BBC South East.

Rebel Business School taught me so much and has really helped me get Studio 23 Photography off the ground,” she said. “They give you the tools you need, and the advice is practical, usable and achievable. I’ve been back on a number of occasions and every time I pick up something different and my business improves because of it.

Free places on Zoom

“Running your own business can be lonely place at times, I have made many lifelong friends at Rebel and the momentum of a Rebel course keeps me on track within my business. There is no ‘hard sell’; the Rebel team does exactly what it claims – helps as much as possible, for free.”

“Kerry is a great example of someone with real skills who just needed to get out there and give it a go,” said Henry. “At the Rebel Business School we focus on helping people turn something they love into a business without boring them silly with talk of cashflows and business plans. We want them to just give it a try – and it works.”

See Kerry’s pictures at

The next Rebel Business School is running online via Zoom from Monday 23 January – Friday 3 February 2023. To book a free place, visit

By Ed

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