What does it mean to take a leap of faith in business? For Kenesha Williams-Aro
, it meant leaving the safety of a stable and established business to pursue something with the potential for unlimited growth.
Aro is the founder and owner of Imperial Business Management, a venture dedicated to helping small business owners with taxes, accounting, and other payroll services. Williams refers to herself as the "Outsource CFO."
A problem-solver by nature, she recently made the transition from owning and operating a childcare service for the last 9 years. She also did tax preparation on the side for 3 years, helping out a friend who owned a local Liberty Tax franchise.
Since she enjoyed the work, and it came naturally to her, Aro eventually found herself at a crossroads.
“I wanted to (keep) working for myself. So I was thinking… people would always ask me for business advice. What if I were to go out on my own?” she says.
She made the move last fall and hasn’t looked back since. She says the proverbial secret sauce to her success so far is a combination of her knowledge, expertise, and connections.
Aro grew up on the Southeast side of Fort Wayne, so she embraces the power of that network.
That’s why she’s located at the Fort Wayne Urban Enterprise Center
(UEA), at 1830 Wayne Trace. The UEA is a small business incubator, which provides space for manufacturing, research and development, and offices.
Aro's office is located at the Fort Wayne Enterprise Center at 1830 Wayne Trace.
Aro heard about the UEA around the time she was in the process of purchasing a building across the street. When she looked into it, she realized that it made sense from a financial and strategic perspective to set up shop there first. She now has a place to meet clients and the intangible benefits that come from being a tenant, like camaraderie and moral support, she says.
On the practical side, she got her startup off the ground with a laptop and briefcase.
“This is my million-dollar bag,” she says about the briefcase.
Aro says her business has already been met with interest from the local business community. One of her first clients was a gas station owner who needed basic business documents drafted. After she helped him, more work came her way from word-of-mouth marketing.
“They referred me out,” she says. “I was getting calls left and right from people asking me to set up their business.”
For instance, Aro often helps gas station owners with the necessary forms to sell tobacco and accept food stamp benefits. The turning point, she says, was when someone called to inquire about a particular service. She was not familiar with how to do it, but that didn’t stop her from doing it.
“I didn’t turn them down,” she says. “I figured it out. The one time you tell them ‘no,' they won’t call you back.”
This can-do attitude has served Aro well. Although she has a formal education in business administration, a lot of what she does on a day-to-day basis is not taught in the classroom, she says. It’s a matter of putting in the time to become proficient. Microsoft Excel and QuickBooks are essential to her operation, too.
In this way, she views challenges as hidden opportunities.
"If you're not uncomfortable in your situation, you're not growing," Aro says.
Looking to the future, she hopes to employ tax preparers as support staff. In the meantime, she's content doing what she does best.
Her message to prospective clients is simple.
"I can't help you run your business, but I can help you (plan for the future)."