26-year-old certified public accountant (CPA) Shenaya Wilson left her PhD program to focus on growing her business. In less than three years, she’s already built a seven-figure accounting and tax planning business. She’s also the founder of the Tax Essentials Learning Program (T.E.L.P). Through this venture, Wilson educates aspiring tax professionals on the tax code and teaches them how to build their own tax practices.
“Sometimes I randomly think…wow I really left a whole PhD program halfway through just to focus on growing my business,” Wilson shared on LinkedIn.
She continues, “Please never let a job title, a degree, or a person be the factor that stands in the at between you and pursuing your dream. Those things will always be there. But your time and opportunities are not so secure. You never know what is waiting for you on the other side. Be a risk-taker and do it with confidence.”
Accountant Goes From PhD Program to 7-Figure Business
After interning with a big four accounting firm in 2016, Wilson landed a full-time position as an assurance associate. But her time there was cut short due to her acceptance into a PhD program. The company forced her to resign, making her choose between her lifelong dream of a PhD and career-building at one of the largest accounting firms in the world.
In 2018, Wilson started her PhD program. She studied Accounting and Information Systems, becoming more adept at accounting technology, coding, machine learning, and cryptocurrency. But after two years into the program, she realized her heart was somewhere else. Her business, Fola Financial, was growing rapidly and garnering national attention. Because of the PhD program requirements and limitations for entrepreneurs, Wilson had to make another difficult decision. After consulting with advisors and mentors, she decided to become a full-time entrepreneur.
“I was doing what society said was right,” says Wilson during an exclusive interview with Black Enterprise. “Now I’m doing what makes me feel right. Anything I’m doing in life that doesn’t make my heart feel happy, I let it go. I learned to let go of what I feel is right in my mind and listen to more of what’s right in my heart.”
Wilson discusses how her analytical traits were forcing her to create guidelines of what success should look like. Because she didn’t know much about entrepreneurship, she felt the pressure to stay in corporate, earn a PhD, and become a Chief Financial Officer.
“A lot of my thoughts were because of external influences,” said Wilson as she talks about meeting societal expectations. “But I’ve always been ambitious my whole career so being a success is not a new trait to me. Now, It’s about figuring out where my focus is and where that success lies.”
Building a 7-Figure Business from Scratch
In 2017, Wilson started Fola Financial as a side business while working at an accounting firm. When she became a full-time entrepreneur, she expanded her team and reached the seven-figure revenue mark. Fola Financial provides bookkeeping, tax preparation, tax planning, financial consulting, and business advisory services.
“My biggest ticket service is tax planning,” says Wilson. “That’s our revenue driver.”
Since tax planning has produced the majority of her profits, she developed a Tax Essentials Learning Program (T.E.L.P) to share the information with others who want to follow in her footsteps. The program allows her to train more aspiring tax professionals, add them to her team, and show them how to create profitable businesses. T.E.L.P is now a six-figure business that’s part of the Fola Financial enterprise.
“Never lose sight of the importance of infrastructure. The reason I have been able to grow so quickly is that whenever I see growth, I automatically think about ways that I can improve our products, systems, processes, and offerings. This is how you keep your clients and team excited. Most of our clients come from referrals. I make sure that each client feels like they received good service and know a lot more.”