#FinInTech is Luminari’s initiative to introduce CPAs to the start-up world.
BizFeed loves profiling CPAs who take an unconventional path for their designation. Similar to how these 5 CPAs are taking the start-up scene by storm, Erin and Pascal have a fascinating story.
In April 2017, Erin Godard left her job as an EY auditor in Toronto to embark on a crazy adventure: starting a new business in Kigali, Rwanda. Joined shortly thereafter by her business partner, Pascal Ambrosino, the two Canadian CPAs created FinanceYOU. Luminari spoke with Erin and Pascal to learn about their story and how they are elevating the finance and accounting industry in Rwanda.
Erin initially began volunteering with a Non-profit in Rwanda, which provides agricultural education for families dealing with malnutrition. She explains how it was through this past volunteer work in Rwanda that she noticed the massive gap the country was experiencing in terms of CPAs:
“There was a huge need for accounting support. The economy here is growing very quickly with not enough qualified CPAs to support it. After getting back to Toronto, I decided to use my own skillset to create a CPA training program that could help address the problem.”
“To put it into perspective,” Pascal adds, “the population of Rwanda is about 12 million, or approximately a third the size of Canada. But, there’s only about 400 CPAs, compared to around 185,000 in Canada. Word traveled quickly that two Canadian CPAs had arrived and were offering their expertise. People have been really open to talking and learning about the expertise we can offer.”
What is FinanceYOU
FinanceYOU is a social enterprise based in Kigali (Rwanda). It seeks to advance the accounting industry in East Africa so that it can support the significant development and investment occurring throughout the continent.
With Pascal joining full-time in August, they developed a training method to help their local clients succeed.
“We meet with decision makers in the Finance function (e.g. CFO or Controller, or even the CEO) and work with them to understand their needs. We help determine their accounting team’s strengths and weaknesses and then customize our training program to best fit the needs of each client.”
“We work really closely with management and members of the team to make sure we are creating the best plan of action for them.”
Life in Rwanda
Although moving to Rwanda has been an adjustment, there is nothing but optimism when describing their new lives. The connections they’ve made in their new country are making all the difference not only in their day-to-day happiness, but their business as well.
“There have been so many amazing people that we’ve been meeting. There’s also a very welcoming ex-pat community here since there are so many international NGOs that work here. You meet a lot of interesting people from around the world working on exciting projects”
“We haven’t really needed to advertise FinanceYOU yet because our connections are really helping us expand our network here.”
The other big difference? The pace.
“Nothing gets done instantly here. In Toronto, there was always that extra pressure to get everything done right away. Here it’s a slower pace. You can go hiking on the weekend. It’s nice because we can achieve a lot, but since the pace is slower we can also take advantage of living in a new place.”
Erin and Pascal have big plans for the future of FinanceYOU. As they continue to help SMEs train on accounting and business principles, they continually look ahead to the potential impacts they can have on the country:
“Although our current B2B training programs create major impact for our clients, our goal is to prepare the next generation of Rwandan accountants. To do that we need to think bigger than just working with individual corporations, who already have a finance team.
Our goal is to create an intensive boot camp-style program for future accountants. Through our programs, individuals with no professional experience will develop the hard and soft business skills that will ensure they’re able to secure entry level accounting or finance positions. The eventual goal is that our graduates will successfully complete the Rwandan CPA program, becoming qualified accountants, with a rewarding career ahead of them.”
“Even though university graduation rate is fairly high, youth unemployment is still a huge problem in Rwanda. We want to bridge the gap between education and what working as an accountant is really like.”
Check out more about Erin and Pascal at FinanceYOU here.
Interested in diving into the start-up world yourself? Learn about our #FinInTech program to see how you can get placed with a start-up!