Nayo Carter-Gray ’99
Alumna Nayo Carter-Gray, has been an entrepreneur for as long as she can remember. “My parents aren’t rich, and I have always had a strong desire to become a mogul like Oprah. I knew in order to have an empire I had to build a business,” said Nayo, a 1999 graduate. A pivotal moment in her career was the recession of 2009. Nayo was let go from her full-time job. At that time, she owned a retail store and had a few tax clients. Instead of looking for permanent employment again, Nayo, with the urging of her then-boyfriend, decided to try her hand at full-time entrepreneurship. “So, I let everyone know that I was building an accounting practice. My first accounting client was another Coppin alum.” The young impresario’s determination and innovation has led from multi-level marketing, which she called “mini franchises,” to a successful accounting practice called 1st Step Accounting.
Nayo has seen her accounting firm’s annual profits grow exponentially. “The goal,” explained Nayo “is not necessarily to secure a bunch of new clients, but to provide service offerings that empower my small business clients and to help grow their communities.” One of the aspects helping her achieve this objective is being paperless. “I adopted the use of technology early on. My practice is cloud based so I can work with customers all over the US.” The last few years, Nayo’s aspiration has been to become a paid speaker to strengthen the African American presence in the accounting industry. “Last year I was hired as a breakout speaker at Intuit’s national conference, QuickBooks Connect. This year I have been booked as one of the keynote speakers for Conta Azul, the largest accounting and technology conference in Brazil.”
Nayo has a keen command of social marketing. She blogs to help simplify complex tax topics. “I also have a nice following on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I was named one of the 100 Tax Twitter Accounts to follow on Twitter this year by Forbes,” said Nayo. Many of her clients are from social media or family and friends’ referrals. “My clients love me,” she said gleefully. “They trust me, and recommendations are the biggest stamp of approval for any business owner.”
Nayo tries to stay in the moment, but her future looks very bright. “My personal short-term goal is to finish this CPA exam. For my business, I will finish developing a series of online courses for small business owners teaching them the back-office basics of running a business.” Nayo’s desire is to help boost local economy by hiring local accountants; and to continue to be a resource and inspiration for other African American accountants. Her ultimate goal is to give back to Coppin by creating an endowment. “Being part of the Coppin community,” said Nayo, “helped me to build some valuable relationships that ultimately led me to a successful career and now a thriving business.” Her investment in Coppin will do the same for current and future students; and help them enjoy their college moments.