Emboss Business Services is a local bookkeeping and tax accountancy business based on the Sunshine Coast. We asked how they weathered COVID-19 and what advice the owner, Emma, would give to aspiring entrepreneurs.
What makes your business great?
What makes me great is that I specialise in small business. My tax services are available for individuals, sole traders, work from home businesses, family partnerships and investment property owners. I prefer to look after local people who are just like me, and to get to know them personally.
Tell us about your professional background? What inspired you to create your business?
I’ve often dreamed of starting my own business. As a Mum of two (soon to be three), I craved the flexibility to be able to help out with reading at the school or cheering my son on at sports day, while still being able to have a satisfying career. I worked for a large national tax accountant, when coronavirus struck. Due to the industry’s ever-changing laws and subsequent training requirements, I had to make the decision back in March as to whether I would be returning for the main tax season in July. Around the same time, Coronavirus statistics were doubling every three days, and it looked like we could be locked down for months. I was home-schooling my 6-year-old, had my 3-year-old home from day-care full time, and just found out I was (unexpectedly) pregnant with my 3rd! Returning to almost full-time hours in July was not looking practical!
I decided to use the time I was “stuck” at home to work on building up my own business and ensuring that it was all ready to go by the time tax season arrived!
What are some of the challenges you faced starting your own business?
One of the first things I needed to do was to get all my documents and procedures ready. Because the taxation industry is so highly regulated in Australia, I needed to make sure that everything was compliant and ready to go before I even thought about trying to find my first client.
In Australia, anyone charging for tax agent services, also needs to be registered. Because I’m still studying, this meant that I needed to sign up with a supervising tax agent who would oversee all my work, prior to it being lodged with the ATO. The final step was setting up my online presence, such as my website, Facebook page and email address. Fortunately, I have a wonderful husband who was willing to do this for me, as this area is definitely not my forte!
How did you initially build the networks and partnerships needed to create a business?
At this stage, I’ve done all my networking through Facebook. I’m in a number of groups for small business owners, who are all needing their tax done at this time of year. I found quite a few people there. And I’ve found that once I’ve completed a tax return for someone, and they’re happy, they will often share their experience with their friends who are also looking. So, word of mouth has been great too.
What were the initial challenges you faced during COVID-19?
The initial challenge was the fear of the unknown, not knowing how long this was going to last for, not knowing if I would be safe going to work, not knowing when my kids were going to be back at school and day-care, not knowing if I would be able to safely give birth in hospital or not.
Did the pandemic change the way you had to approach your business, or reach your clients? How did you innovate? Did COVID-19 help or hinder your growth?
For me, COVID was certainly the moment that allowed me to grow. I saw it as an opportunity. I thought “When again am I going to have this much time at home to put into starting up a business?” I decided it was now or never! I’m also fortunate that I’m in an industry that allows me to work with clients remotely. I have a few clients in Victoria who are in lockdown at the moment and can’t leave the house to see a local accountant, however I’m able to complete their tax returns completely through online appointments.
What is the most important lesson you think COVID-19 can teach entrepreneurs?
Remember that if COVID is affecting you, it’s affecting your customers too. Be thinking about how their needs have changed, and how your business can change to meet their needs. Can you offer your service remotely? Is there a different product you can offer at the moment? Always be open to trying something new.
What’s on the horizon for the business?
My long-term plan is to expand my service offerings, specifically in the area of small business. Insurance is definitely on the cards, and also possibly digital marketing, though this is something I would definitely need to “outsource” to my husband.
Do you have any advice for professionals looking to establish their own start-up/business/company?
Just do it. Especially if the start-up costs are not high. At the end of the day, if it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world, but at least you will always know that you gave it a go and you gave it your best!