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1st Step Accounting – making accounting less taxing

Meet Nayo Carter-Gray, enrolled agent (EA) and owner of a virtual accounting firm. Learn what things and processes helped her grow, and what circumstances gave her the courage to start her firm.

Nayo Carter-Green

Nayo Carter-Gray is an EA Gusto Ambassador, and QuickBooks Online Advanced Certified Pro-Advisor. She was named one of the Top 50 Women in Accounting and Forbes Top 100 Tax Twitter Accounts to follow two years in a row – in 2020 and 2021.

Nayo founded 1st Step Accounting, a virtual accounting practice in 2009. Since then her main goal has been “making accounting a little less taxing” for small business owners.

Why did you choose to become a business owner?

I’ve been a business owner all my life. I started as a kid selling finger paintings to my dad. I realized early on that if I wanted to have money I had to sell something. So as I’ve grown in my career I’ve had a business alongside a full-time job. It was the recession of 2008/2009 that forced me to take the full-time leap into entrepreneurship. I got laid off and decided to take my part-time tax business full-time and help other small business owners.

Nayo Carter-Gray - founder of 1st Step Accounting in a meeting at the office

How did you get started?

I started my business by subletting an office inside of a rental office for $300 a month. I had a handful of tax clients at the time and I mailed them a personalized letter in a bright red envelope to announce that I was open for business full-time. The mailer stood out and I doubled my client base 100% that year because everyone referred a new person to me. And then I just kept asking for referrals, mentioning what I was doing to everyone I know and asking them to keep me in mind.

“The mailer stood out and I doubled my client base 100% that year.”


What do you wish you’d known before starting a business?

I think the most important thing to think about when starting a business is not pricing too cheaply. This can cause issues later down the road. My prices weren’t extremely low but I should’ve charged more from the start. Also, I didn’t have engagement letters when I started the process and I’m absolutely glad I added them when I did. Engagement letters set the terms of the relationship in case something goes wrong. I had something go really wrong and ended up in court. My engagement letter saved me because it proved that the client and I had both agreed to the services and the timeline.

Can you name two things that helped you in the beginning?

Two things that helped me at the beginning of my business were my high-output scanner and having an external office. I knew from the start of my business that I wanted to be paperless so having that high-output scanner allowed me to scan documents and return them right back to my clients. No storage is required.
The other is my office. I work better in a formal setting, so even though I may not see clients in the office, it helps me focus better on the tasks at hand.

What advice would you give to your past self?

Before opening your own business, really take stock of if you truly want the responsibility of owning a business. Running a new business comes with ups and downs, especially while you are growing your customer base. You have to be willing to hear those “nos” and use them as inspiration to keep pushing forward.

You have to be willing to hear those “nos” and use them as inspiration to keep pushing forward.



Nayo Carter-Gray is the owner of 1st Step Accounting, a virtual accounting practice.

*The purpose of this page is solely to provide information and should not be considered as financial advice
**Melio does not provide legal, tax or accounting advice; you should consult a professional advisor before making any financial decisions.