In 2016, Certified Public Accountant Serika Sterling decided to take the leap to start a business that would assist micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) in becoming tax compliant.
Mrs. Sterling tells JIS News that she had recognised at the time that entrepreneurs were not able to take advantage of opportunities due to lack of tax compliance and improper records.
“You always hear about small entrepreneurs not keeping proper records. I realised they don’t understand the structure of taxation and they aren’t able to afford the firms to help them with their taxes,” she notes.
“This business was my way of helping to bridge the knowledge gap for entrepreneurs in terms of financial and tax literacy and also to help them with services that they usually are only able to access from the bigger tax firms,” she adds.
Senior Accounting Services was born with the objective of providing tax advisory, compliance and accounting services for MSMEs.
Mrs. Sterling tells JIS News that things were tough at the start.
“On day one, I had zero clients. I went to these businesses, but I found that you are not readily accepted on day one. It takes time and I got ignored by a lot of persons. But that did not deter me and I established a mantra that if I made one meaningful connection, then it was useful,” she notes.
Mrs. Sterling says she found that many business persons did not know the value of taxation services, and the challenge was “to educate the potential clients about the importance of the service and why I should be the one to help them”.
It was then that she approached the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) and was able to work with the agency to improve knowledge about tax and financial literacy among local entrepreneurs and to get them to become more compliant with their tax obligations.
Mrs. Sterling says that in working with the JBDC, she realised how much she needed assistance in areas such as marketing and business development.
And, as she could not afford to hire persons with the requisite skills, she again turned to the JBDC for assistance.
“JBDC and I had a series of meetings where they broke down all the details for me and provided guidance on how I could achieve my goals and gave me a good sense of direction. I learnt what makes a business strong, as working with the JBDC shows us how to create an environment of balance that entrepreneurs need to survive and thrive,” she tells JIS News.
Four years since its establishment, Senior Accounting Services has been able to establish itself as the firm of choice for more than 100 businesses, including MSMEs and larger entities.
Mrs. Sterling says that through continuous improvement and innovation, “I have been able to increase efficiency and also the value I add to my clients’ businesses. You have to be willing to put in the work, assessing the structure and resources needed as time goes on”.
In recognition of her achievements as a business owner, Mrs Sterling was recently named the JBDC B.O.S.S. Lady of the Year.
“This award is a testament that I am working to establish the best business possible. It is a testament that hard work does pay off and it tells me that you did it already and you can do it again,” says the proud business owner.
The B.O.S.S Lady/Man of The Year awards were held as part of the JBDC’s Global Entrepreneurship Week celebrations in November.
The winners were selected from a pool of nominees who embody the entrepreneurial spirit and mindset, embrace a culture of innovation, have evidenced significant change in revenue, entered the export market or increased the value of current exports, and introduced a new product/service into the market.
Mrs Sterling lauds the JBDC for its commitment to developing Jamaica’s MSME industry.
“When persons come to me struggling, I send them to the JBDC, as it is the most important organisation for entrepreneurs because they provide the kind of support that entrepreneurs need. Many of us aren’t strong in many areas, so they show all the other aspects that make up a strong business,” she outlines.
She advises upcoming and established business operators to engage the services of the JBDC.
“Entrepreneurship requires a lot of hard work. You need to be mentally tough to handle rejection and the consequences of making mistakes as you absorb all the blows for every decision and you are taking on the risks, so it requires a fighting spirit.
“You have to believe in yourself, as you will encounter persons who doubt your abilities, so you also definitely have to be strong in assessing areas you need help in and reach out for support from organisations such as JBDC,” she says.
The JBDC is the Government’s business development agency that assists in the sustainable creation and development of MSMEs in Jamaica. The entity offers technical services, business advisory services, marketing and research and project management.