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The journey to entrepreneurship -and financial literacy

by Meredith Carter

Toula Zoumboulakis is an accountant with a difference. Musing on what a great topic to follow International Women’s Day Toula began her chat with the Women's Table  reflecting on how far we’ve come...and a few thoughts on how far we have to go. She told us there are more women than men in their 40’s and over leaving the workforce to develop small businesses. Women run at least 32% of small businesses in Australia. Perhaps unsurprisingly women business operators are less likely to work as tradespersons or managers and much more likely operate clerical and service related businesses.

For some inspiration on why to go into business for yourself Toula recommends Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk (see it on Youtube here

Relationships with money

However here’s the rub. In Australia there’s a real need for better financial education, especially for women. The Australian Financial Attitudes and Behaviour Tracker (the Tracker developed by ASIC gives clear as well as worrying evidence that women too have inadequate financial management skills. (Trying to turn this around ASIC has also developed a National Financial Literacy Strategy – let’s hope it works!).

Women business owners are also more likely to do this part time. Toula’s experience is probably not atypical of why. 

One woman's journey

Born in the mid-50’s young Toula grew up in the back streets of Fitzroy with migrant parents with a typically strong ethos of the need to strive to better yourself. Decades later she found herself the twice divorced (slow learner she says!) single mum of two kids. Post-divorces and needing part time work she went from well-paid management accountant to bookkeeping and clerical work and feeling terribly underutilised. After a year or so of introspection Toula came up with the concept for Your Smart Accounts Now she spends her days helping women in business to grow their businesses and business skills.

A collaborative model

She says her approach to supporting women in business is much more collaborative than the traditional accounting business models. She recognises that women often feel vulnerable when they come to her for help. Her focus is educating her clients to manage their finances for themselves. She starts by encouraging them to take an active interest in managing their money. She helps them learn how to do that, promoting accountability and action on new financial practices through for example, monthly mentoring via skype.

Automation makes it easier

Toula also loves automating things via technology to make things easier. One of the key tools she uses is Xero Accounting software. One of the things she likes about it is that it gets rid of paper based receipts – you just photograph them and it uploads them ‘to the cloud’. She also likes Strategyzer which she finds great for business development ideas.

Today Toula is a long way from that frustrated single mum. Doing what she loves her dream is to spend at least part of each year looking after her clients from a beach somewhere in the Mediterranean doesn’t seem so far off. I might just join her!

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