How to Start a Business That Helps Others with Wendy Uken

One of my favorite things about running Side Hustle Mom is getting to connect with so many smart, fascinating, and inspiring people, which is why I was thrilled to cross paths with the great Wendy Uken!

Like John and Avanti from Feast Box, I have actually been following Wendy on Instagram for awhile now and was so impressed by what she was doing that I was praying she would share some of her insight. Lucky for us: she did/is!

Wendy is an Enrolled Agent, Tax Resolution Expert, and Host of Tax Tribe the PodCast who is not only super smart and gracious, but funny as well (“I know many people find taxes intimidating, but I read Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘The Canterbury Tales’ in its original text, and after deciphering that monstrosity taxes were a breeze).

Without further ado, here in Wendy in her own words:

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What is your background? Did you get any sort of degree in business/finances or did your interest in accounting come later?

I grew up in Santa Monica, CA. At the time, it was a city with minimal tourism and an overabundance of sunshine and beach. Living there exposed me to a myriad of careers and professions but I didn’t really have a clear vision of what I wanted to be; all I knew for sure was that I loved reading and writing.

When it was time for college I still didn’t know what I wanted to be, and my decision was made more complicated by the fact that I was undocumented. This meant that I didn’t qualify for federal, state, grant or scholarship money so I had to choose wisely to make the most of my limited resources, and my thought process was “If I can read and write then I can learn to do anything”. So I chose reading and writing as my degree, and in 2010 I proudly graduated from UCLA with my B.A in English Language and Literature.

With all the reading and writing in my life, I’ve never developed an interest in the ‘tax’ or the ‘finance’ industry; in fact, here’s a little known secret: I probably dislike tax preparation as much as the next person, and my interest in accounting is non­existent.

Now, I know this probably sounds really weird given the fact that I’m a tax pro; but, in my profession, the focus is protecting the taxpayer and advocating on their behalf. I don’t do this by auditing their books or advising them financially or preparing their returns. I do this by finding ways to apply the tax code to their current situation or researching for new/forgotten/little known caveats that we can use to give them an advantage. There is nothing more satisfying than replying to a difficult agent with:

Per IRM 5.8.5.12 (03­23­2018) Exclude $3,450 per car from the QSV of vehicles owned by the taxpayer(s) and used for work, the production of income, and/or the welfare of the taxpayer’s family (two cars for joint taxpayers and one vehicle for a single taxpayer).

So, you see, what I do requires a lot of reading, analyzing text and writing; but it doesn’t require bookkeeping or tax preparation or an interest in finance.

Before launching Tax Tribe, what did you do?

Hahaha...I’ve done everything under the sun! I was a matchmaker, bookkeeper, a mascot for a frozen yogurt place, hostess...the list goes on and on. But I’ve been in the Tax Resolution industry since 2013 so its safe to say I’m here to stay.

What inspired you to create Tax Tribe, the blog, and podcast?

People. I’ve seen what fear, anxiety and stress can do and how thoroughly it can destroy a person’s life. When you owe taxes you have the biggest, baddest and most ruthless agencies on your back. In addition to that, the code is complex and most people haven’t been trained, as I have, to delve into complex material and make sense of it. Even I have to put it down and come back to it, when I’m feeling stuck. That’s when I remind myself that the Canterbury Tales was the hardest piece of text I’ve ever had to figure out.

How did you go about getting everything together to do it?

I had a lot of help. My husband is a techie so he’s helped me with the technical aspect of things (website, hosting, domains etc). I also joined communities for newbie entrepreneurs and they provided a lot of guidance, and I had a business coach to help me with the sales process.

What pearls of wisdom do you have for moms (and dads) reading this who have a background like yours and want to start their own company?

Do it. Any skill you might need you can learn. Any resources you might be lacking people will help. If you’re using your superpowers for good, like I am, the world will bend to make it happen.

Can you walk us through your workday?

I don’t really have a typical day. Sometimes I’m up and ready to roll at 7 AM and sometimes I wake up a little later because I need a more gentle rhythm. Regardless, each day includes phone calls to the taxing agencies, preparing resolution proposals, and listening to and addressing questions/comments/concerns from my clients.

On the personal side: I try to have two hour long walks a day. One of those walks with my pups and the other just me. Then the hubster and I (that’s what I call my husband) will find time to hang out. Believe it or not, in my personal life I’m not nearly as organized as I am in my business life so its usually ‘fly by the seat of your pants!’ which is great because I get to do what I want but it really sucks when groceries haven’t been restocked for weeks.

How have you marketed Tax Tribe and your accounting services?

I don’t. The majority of the people I help come from an overflow of other companies, and the individual clients I do take on are thoroughly vetted. I don’t work with anyone who is not a good fit. I’m really excellent at what I do and I’m really committed so I need to make sure the clients I take on are just as committed to putting their tax liability behind them.

What would you say is the most rewarding part of your business?

I get to fight for the little guy. The big guys all have tax pros that exploit the code when they’re in hot water so it gives me great satisfaction to use the code to help my clients find relief from aggressive collection action.

I don’t know about you, but I am ready to get out and do something BIG like Wendy!! Want to connect with Wendy and/or Tax Tribe? Check out her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram.

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