During National Women's Small Business Month, MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Whitehead Tax and Financial Services LLC founder Amber Whitehead about her entrepreneurial experience.
NAN PRICE: When and why did you open your business?
AMBER WHITEHEAD: I started my business in April 2012. I never knew I would start a business because I was determined to be a partner at large Certified Public Accountant (CPA) firm. It wasn’t until I was unemployed for 2.5 years that I realized I needed to be in control of my career. I had been doing friends’ and family taxes on the side, so I decided to make it legitimate and grow from there while I let my full-time job fund my passion.
NAN: How are you marketing and building a customer base?
AMBER: Since opening, I have only grown organically through word-of-mouth and referrals. This year will be the first year I’m paying for marketing and stepping out of my comfort zone by presenting my first tax seminar Got Deductions? on November 2 at Salons by JC in West Hartford.
NAN: What does it take to be an entrepreneur?
AMBER: It takes a lot of faith! You have to know without a doubt you have a gift and you need to carry it out despite the rejections, failures, and financial burden. Besides having faith, it’s key to be disciplined—especially for me because I still work my full-time job as an accountant at the University of Connecticut and I'm running this tax business while parenting a sweet 11-year old daughter. Being disciplined means you have to sacrifice a lot. You may have to wake up an hour earlier, slow down on your social and family life, and adjust your budget.
NAN: How has your background helped you to launch your startup?
AMBER: I am self-taught when it comes to taxes. Since the age of 16 I have always prepared my own taxes and helped my friends too. Getting my Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Master of Business Administration prepared me to understand complex concepts and business standards. Working at CPA firms and commercial tax offices reinforced my tax knowledge and enabled me to feel comfortable enough to say: I can do this!
NAN: You’ve been in business more than seven years. What’s the biggest takeaway you’ve learned from your startup experience?
AMBER: Pricing! When I first started out, knowing I wasn’t a “household name,” I priced my rates very low just to get clients. It worked, but I ended up being overwhelmed—and undervalued. If I could go back, I would change my rates to reflect my worth and value.
NAN: Any advice for entrepreneurs or startup business owners?
AMBER: It ties into my challenge: Know your worth. Don’t settle on your rates just to get that extra boost of clients. At the end of the day, if you’re providing value and have a great service/product people will pay what it is worth. Stay focused and persevere through all trials and tribulations that will come your way. Lastly, be comfortable with being uncomfortable, because your comfort zone is your broke zone.
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