As any small business owner can attest, it’s easy to get attached to the person who handles your books. Letting someone see your record of sales and expenses—your record of successes and failures—is personal. If your accounts are unbalanced or out of date, it can feel like showing someone your messy house.
For bookkeepers, too, such a relationship isn’t always just business. Clients come and go, but there’s a special bond in mending something broken. And that relationship, business or personal, can be stronger than you might think.
This is the story of one such bond.
Restaurateurs make a mean Cubano, need help managing their books
Jesse Gaddy was in his senior year at Pitzer College when he got the call from his friend Julian. “I want to open up a restaurant,” Julian said, “and I want you to be my business partner.” Even six years later, when asked to describe that call, Jesse says, “I remember a feeling of joy—of being more excited than words. I don’t think I’ll ever feel something like that again.”
In August 2014, Jesse and Julian’s dream became a reality, with the grand opening of their first restaurant: Barbareño, in Santa Barbara.
“In the beginning, we thought we would both be able to do part of the chef work and part of the admin side of things,” says Jesse. But as months became years, Julian spent more time in the kitchen, and Jesse took over business operations. Unfortunately, Jesse’s business background consisted of just a few college economy and accounting courses.
“There were moments of being overwhelmed,” he says. “But in general, I think my feeling was there was a task to be done. I just had to learn it and do it and figure it out.”
From the beginning, Jesse knew the odds weren’t on his side. If he dropped the ball, Barbareño could easily become a statistic—one of the many restaurants that fails within its first five years. But Jesse wasn’t about to let that happen. So he and Julian leaned in. And in May of 2019, they opened their second restaurant, Cubaneo.
Small-town bookkeeper joins a national network
Jeni Freeman grew up in a small town in Idaho. “It’s about 600 people,” she says. “In high school, I was related to half of them.” Her mother still lives in the house where Jeni spent her childhood. It looks out on potato fields that are so close, during harvest season, you can hear the grain bins running all night.
That small-town community helped Jeni fall in love with bookkeeping at 15 years old. “My cousin owned a tanning salon, and once a month, she would bring in a ledger book,” Jeni says. Jeni would add up and balance the columns. “It was old school,” she laughs. “I don’t even think I had a calculator.”
A couple of years later, Jeni took her first accounting class. “They gave us these workbooks that were supposed to take months to complete,” she says. “I took mine home over the weekend, and it was so fun and exciting, I stayed up all night to finish it.”
“Jeni was hooked. She went to college for accounting and bookkeeping. And 26 years later, her work still brings her joy. “I’m a nerd. I love bookkeeping,” she says.
But like any professional, there have been times in her career when Jeni wondered what the future would bring. That’s why she was so excited when she found out QuickBooks was hiring bookkeepers for a new pilot program. “When the opportunity to work for QuickBooks came up, I thought, ‘That’s it! That’s my Holy Grail. I can’t imagine where I would go after this.”
In February 2019, Jeni signed on with Intuit to become a QuickBooks Live Bookkeeper. Two months later, she met Jesse.
Cubaneo’s bookkeeper serves up trust and confidence
“We were just opening Cubaneo when I was researching a bunch of different things,” Jesse says. “I saw this offer to try out QuickBooks Live, and I thought, ‘Why not?’”
Jesse had already started the process of getting Cubaneo on QuickBooks. Bookkeeping seemed like a good idea. “I thought, worst-case scenario, I end up spending a couple weeks of my life watching YouTube tutorials and doing everything myself,” Jesse says. “But that’s what I would have done anyway.” So with all the confidence of someone who’s opened two restaurants before age 30, Jesse signed up.
And that’s when he met Jeni.
“I remember feeling really relieved that she understood everything. She understood what I was looking for,” Jesse says. “She had a sort of game plan for us to get from A to B. It was timely to find that in this start-up phase, I could have a knowledgeable person who I trusted—who had proficiency with the software—to kind of set me up properly.”
For Jeni, working with Jesse was an unexpected pleasure, given that Jesse lived hundreds of miles away in California. Live Bookkeeping consults are over the phone and a one-way video chat.
“It was as if I was sitting right next to him, saying ‘click here,’ ‘do this,’ and ‘do that.’” says Jeni. “The distance didn’t matter. In fact, I think it helped because he could tell me a little bit about Santa Barbara, and I could tell him a little bit about Idaho.”
Over six months and 17 sessions, Jeni and Jesse poured over Jesse’s books. Together, they worked on streamlining Cubaneo’s daily sales. And they created a workflow pattern Jesse could follow. That way, in between calls, he could feel confident that his accounts were all in order.
“It was easy to work on his books,” says Jeni. “He treated us like part of his team—like I was part of his team.”
Jeni’s recipe for success leaves lasting effects
Within six months of opening, Cubaneo earned an average 4.5-star rating on Yelp. And in 2019, Barbareño earned its first nod from Michelin, along with six other restaurants in the Santa Barbara area.
Thanks to Jeni’s help, Jesse now spends less time on his books and more time doing the things only he can do for his business. He has ideas for automating his QuickBooks account even further, to keep up with Cubaneo’s incredible growth. He’s no longer afraid that his restaurants will fail—he’s just focused on building their success.
“As a small business owner, it really is awesome to have that personalized attention—to have someone who knows your accounts helping you,” he says. “Especially if you start with them in the beginning. They can help you set up your workflow. Having that personalized attention and that kind of security is huge.”
Jeni is excited to see Jesse succeed. And she’s planning to do just that in person when she and her boyfriend take their next trip to Santa Barbara. “I don’t know what else is around Santa Barbara,” she says, “but Cubaneo will definitely be one of our stops.”