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Spinelli struck out on her own to build a woman-owned CPA firm

February 18, 2019
Photo | Brad Kane
Photo | Brad Kane
Karen Spinelli

In May, Karen Spinelli left her role at president of Robert C. Alario Certified Public Accountants in Leominster to start her own accounting firm, launching one of the certified woman-owned CPA firms in Worcester.

What made you want to strike out on your own?

Previously, I was at a firm in Leominster for 21 years. I started right at the bottom and worked my way up, becoming a partner there after about six years. I actually became the managing partner in 2017.

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The firm had grown a lot over the last couple of years, but it grew to the point where I wasn't enjoying the firm as much. My partner and I weren't getting along the way we would like to, so – for a multitude of reasons – I decided to leave the firm. I felt I couldn't provide the type of services to my clients I needed to, so I wanted to do something different.

Which ending up being this entrepreneurial venture.

Originally, I thought I was going to get a job somewhere else. Then somebody said to me, "Why don't you just start your own firm?"

I do a lot of audits, nonprofit audits as well as tax audits. Since I did a lot of the audits at my old firm, I thought that business would follow me. I ended up taking a small portion the tax clients as well.

Five of the six employees here came from the old firm.

Why did you pick Worcester?

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Worcester is such an upcoming area. It is growing so fast. It is local to everything in the region. I felt being in Worcester gave me a step up, and I didn't want to be in the backyard of my old firm.

How do you like it so far?

I am so energized. Leaving the other firm was a very hard decision for me to make, since I probably was going to own it eventually. But I needed to make that decision, and it was the right decision for me.

It is scary starting a new business, but I love getting back into working closely with clients. I had moved more into management in the other firm, so it is really excited to get back with clients and provide them the service they need. Working on the marketing and building up of the business is invigorating.

Plus, working with clients on building up their business and helping them achieve their goals is very exciting.

And you are one of about a dozen woman-owned CPA firms in Mass.

I am 100-percent woman-owned business and certified in Massachusetts as a woman-owned business, which is always good. It is amazing to be a woman-owned firm because it is the new, exciting trend out there.

You are starting to see more woman-owned businesses, especially in the Worcester area, which has several woman networking groups.

Are you on strong financial footing?

Having that solid book of business from the old firm definitely helped starting the business.

I don't think I could have done this at any other time. I had two kids in college, and when I made this decision, my oldest was graduating college. I felt like now I had a little bit more financial stability.

There are always times when the money is easier than other times. It is all a matter of when work comes in and when people decide to pay. What helped me a lot is I learned so much at my other firm.

Do you want to grow?

Now with tax season just starting, we have been able to grow the business. With all the new tax law changes, they are literally going to impact every person who files a return this year. I have been doing so many talks trying to get people to understand what the impact will be.

I don't want to grow too drastically immediately. One of the issues at my old firm is we grew too fast. We bought out a couple of other CPA firms and took over new offices and new staff. Trying to merge different cultures together made it difficult for the team to work together.

Now, I want to slowly grow my way up there, so the staff is in a good position and comfortable with everything. I want to be able to still serve the clients the way I want to.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly said Spinelli CPAs was the only certified woman-owned CPA firm in Worcester and one of 11 in Massachusetts.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Editor Brad Kane.

Karen Spinelli, managing partner, Spinelli CPAs

Founded: May 2018

Employees: 6

Age: 49

Birthplace: Fitchburg

Residence: Leominster

Education: Bacherlor of arts in accounting, Fitchburg State University