Nayo Carter-Gray of 1st Step Accounting is supporting small businesses with her financial expertise
Running a business

Nayo Carter-Gray of 1st Step Accounting is supporting small businesses with her financial expertise

Name: Nayo Carter-Gray

Location: Baltimore, MD

Pronouns: She/Her

Business: 1st Step Accounting—A virtual accounting and tax preparation firm whose primary goal is making accounting a little less taxing for small business owners across the U.S.

Describe yourself in three words: Passionate, ambitious, progressive

Nayo Carter-Gray of 1st Step Accounting is supporting small businesses with her financial expertise

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started? 

I've been an entrepreneur since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. I realized early on that I would have to sell something to get some extra money in my hands. So back in the day I would sell my dad finger paintings for $1 and when I got in high school I had my first summer job and realized I could get tax money back. I charged all my friends $25 to prepare their returns and that's how I got started. I was given the opportunity to go full-time in my business back in 2009. Due to the recession I was let go of my good paying accounting job at an imaging company and I decided I didn't like corporate America enough to go back.

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year? 

I learned that I needed to expand my services. I was a tax preparation only firm in the beginning and I learned my clients had lots of needs. So I expanded my services to create a customer journey for them and to keep cash coming in all year versus only in the first quarter of the year.

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner? 

The amount of hours you put in. I live and breathe this business so I'm constantly thinking about it. How can we grow? How can I help more people? Are my clients happy? Do I have enough cash in the bank?

How does running your own business make you feel? 

Free. I love having the freedom and flexibility to run and manage my business the way I see fit and help a ton of small business owners along the way.

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome?

Wearing all the hats. This year is all about delegating. I recently hired a couple of full-time and part-time staff. It's time to let go of some parts of the business that I've been doing myself so I can reclaim my Saturdays back.

What challenges do you feel are unique to Black small business owners?

Funding and education. Financial literacy isn’t taught in school and it's a taboo topic in our households, so we grow up not really understanding the business side of business. And then we bootstrap our way to success and, unfortunately, can get into serious financial trouble along the way because we didn't know what we didn't know about the cost of running a business. And usually we get turned down for traditional financing so it's hard to really scale the business.

What are your proudest moments?

Being recognized by my peers as one of the Top 50 Women in Accounting, setting up a scholarship fund at my alma mater, Coppin State, and creating the “Taking Your Firm Virtual” summit to help accounting and tax professionals confidently and securely take their firms to the cloud.

quote image
Outsourcing tasks is going to be so important for your mental health.

What are the next big plans you have for your business? 

Create an internship program for Black accounting students to encourage them to become enrolled agents and bring more diversity to the accounting profession and more knowledge back to the Black community.

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

My Aunt Marguerite. She is blind and traveled alone to live in India for a year. That was fearless to me, so I just think of the courage she has and I remind myself that she and I share the same DNA.

How can Black business owners support each other and their community? 

Build a referral network. I understand my clients needs and I have a list of referral partners that look like me that I can recommend to my clients for additional services to up-level their lives.

What advice would you give to other Black business owners just starting out? 

Don’t take accounting or tax advice from social media. If you see something that interests you, research more, or better yet, work with an accounting professional to help you craft a personalized solution to help you build your business and save on taxes.

How do you make time for yourself while running a business?

Schedule it. It sounds crazy, but I make appointments with myself and I treat it just like I would an appointment with a client. I show up. I work out three times a week with my trainer. I schedule massages and I will block out time to focus on work I enjoy.

What advice would you give new business owners about balancing work and mental/physical health?

Don’t feel like you have to do it all. Just recently I started taking my laundry to the wash and fold. I never realized how much stress I was putting on myself trying to get laundry done for my household and work. Outsourcing tasks is going to be so important for your mental health. And doing this does not mean you aren't capable. It means you are making “million-dollar decisions” like Rachel Rodgers says.

What is the single most important healthy habit you've developed that you feel makes you more successful? Why?

Using my passion planner. When I plan my week I know what my priorities are and I can get a lot more done. I feel focused and on top of things.

What’s your “power song” and why? 

“The One '' by Mary J Blige because it reminds me that I'm a badass everyday. I’m out here working for a purpose.

Recommended for you

Mail icon
Get the latest to your inbox
No Thanks

Get the latest to your inbox

Relevant resources to help start, run, and grow your business.

By clicking “Submit,” you agree to permit Intuit to contact you regarding QuickBooks and have read and acknowledge our Privacy Statement.

Thanks for subscribing.

Fresh business resources are headed your way!

Looking for something else?


From big jobs to small tasks, we've got your business covered.

Firm of the Future

Topical articles and news from top pros and Intuit product experts.

QuickBooks Support

Get help with QuickBooks. Find articles, video tutorials, and more.