With nearly 80 clients in Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Texas, Jennifer Stewart of Stewart Income Tax & Business Services has a lot to celebrate.
A few years ago Stewart started a seasonal home-based business preparing income taxes as a way to earn extra income, but on Thursday she cut the ribbon on her first commercial location at 4395 Ogeechee Road.
“My first tax season, it was amazing. I outgrew my home that first season, but I thought it was because it was January and everyone was excited,” she said.
But Stewart said her clients began telling their friends and associates, and her client list continue to grow. Soon, she said, her driveway was full of cars, so she knew she had to branch out to be fair to her neighbors.
“It was just overwhelming, and I had to start turning away business because it was just me,” she said.
She started preparing taxes after stepping down from her office job in 2014 because of complications with multiple sclerosis, which she was diagnosed with in 2013. She
underwent training through Atlanta-based McNeil Planning & Consulting Firm and worked for the company for the first season and then was encouraged by the owner to go out on her own.
“(Jamika McNeil, CEO of McNeil) told me I got more clients my first year than she did her first five years. I didn’t want to step out. I begged her to let me stay under her, but needless to say she didn’t,” Stewart said of the push to get started on her own.
Her new Ogeechee Road office offers tax preparation for individuals and businesses in all 50 states as well as payroll and bookkeeping services. They are an authorized e-file provider for the Internal Revenue Service, and Stewart is registered with the IRS and is a member of the National Directory of Registered Tax Return Preparers and Professionals.
Stewart admits that she was never a huge fan of mathematics while in school, but now she can’t imagine doing anything else. Stewart takes continuing education classes, does research to keep updated on new tax laws and will be teaching tax classes starting later this month.
“… I want to teach people that you don’t have to be a math whiz — you just have to be passionate about what you do,” she said.
Stewart, who said she was excited to finally have her own location, is looking forward to giving back to the community in terms of jobs, and said that she plans to hire administrative staff, accountants and independent contractors that want to work seasonally.
At her grand opening Thursday she’s already kick-started her plan to give back by collecting donations for Second Harvest Food Bank.
“I believe in paying it forward and I’m a giver. Second Harvest took a big hit during the hurricane and I wanted to give back,” she said.
Stewart said her passion isn’t about the numbers, but about the response from her clients and hopes to also send a positive message to others suffering from medical conditions.
“I just want to say to people, even though you’ve been diagnosed with something medically, don’t allow that to take over your life,” she said.
“You can live a very normal and happy life if you want to, and I think it’s my thriving business that keeps me going because I feel like I have additional purpose.”