IAM1762 – Founder Helps Black Entrepreneurs through Financial Bootcamps

Podcast Interview with Tara Spruill-Jones

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In episode IAM1378 of the I AM CEO podcast, host Gresham Harkless interviews Tara, the founder and chairwoman of Impact Profit, a non-profit organization dedicated to making entrepreneurship more accessible to Black founders. Tara is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with over a decade of experience in the field and founded Impact Profit to use her skill set to do some good in the world.

In the interview, Tara talks about her personal journey and how her experiences led her to found Impact Profit. She emphasizes the importance of making entrepreneurship more accessible to Black founders and shares her approach to helping them through financial bootcamps. Tara also discusses the challenges of being a non-profit founder and the rewards of making a positive impact on the community.

Tara shares her CEO hacks and nuggets, which include reading the book “What Happened to You?” by Oprah and Dr. Bruce Perry and seeking therapy or a safe and supportive community for personal growth. She also defines what being a CEO means to her, which involves strategy and risk management for a financially sound business.

Overall, the episode provides valuable insights into the importance of making entrepreneurship more accessible to underrepresented groups and the impact of non-profit organizations on the community. Tara's experience and passion for helping Black entrepreneurs make this episode a must-listen for anyone interested in supporting underrepresented groups in entrepreneurship.

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Tara Spruill-Jones Teaser 00:00

The numbers are a representation of your strategy, and yes, there are outliers, but without a solid strategy, you are not going to have a long lasting financially sound business. It's got to start with strategy first and then you incorporate the risk management.

Intro 00:22

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs, without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of.

This is the I AM CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:48

Hello, hello, hello, this is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them, business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners. Or what I like to call the CB Nation architects, those that are looking to level up their organizations.

In this month, we are focusing on knowing thy numbers. I could hear the phrases from Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank, and if you understand or don't understand exactly what numbers is, think finance, economics, accounting, capital, investment, funding, bootstrapping, anything that's around numbers. So, we have to understand how important it is to know your numbers and how important that is for you to forecast, make decisions, and to be able to truly strategize around your business and do that successfully.

Things are gonna be a little bit different obviously, this month. So look for CEO hacks and CEO nuggets and interviews that focus around this. But more than everything else, make sure that you know your numbers because they're extremely important to the life of your business.

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast. I have a very special guest on the show today, I have Tara Spruill-Jones of Impact Profit. Tara, it's great to have you on the show.

Tara Spruill-Jones 02:14

Oh, thanks. I'm so glad to be here.

Gresham Harkless 02:17

Yeah, super excited to have you on as well. Before we jumped into the interview, I wanted to read a little bit more about Tara so you can hear about all the awesome things that she's doing.

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Tara is founder and chairwoman of Impact Profit, which is a nonprofit dedicated to making entrepreneurship more accessible to black founders. Tara has been a Certified Public Accountant for over a decade and founded Impact profits who use her skillsets to do some good in the world.

She received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and her master's in Accounting and MBA from Northeastern University. She is a New Jersey native, but currently resides in Washington.

Tara, appreciate you for all the work you're doing, Of course I appreciate your time as you're taking today. Are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Tara Spruill-Jones 02:57

I'm ready.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 02:58

Awesome. Let's make it happen then. So to kick everything off I wanted to rewind the clock, hear a little bit more on how you got started. What I call your CEO story.

Tara Spruill-Jones 03:06

Sure. So, I think that my path has a lot of twists and turns, but the ultimate reason on why I started Impact Profit is because the work that I was doing as a CPA was incredibly unfulfilling. So for a little bit of context, I worked in the high net worth space for the majority of my career, and that was not what I envisioned when I signed up for the profession. I became an accountant on a whim because I volunteered with Vida, and that's an IRA sponsored program. It stands for volunteer income tax assistance, where you prepare tax returns for low to moderate income families.

I remember having such amazing conversations with my clients in that experience because you are preparing the return and they're sitting right in front of you, so you've got time and they've just given you their financial records. So it's an intimate setting and you get to chatting. It was such a rewarding experience and an enjoyable experience. At the time, I was working at a job that I hated, and so I thought, okay, this is it. I'm supposed to be an accountant and so I quit that job. I went to get my master's and my MBA and then I started working in Big Four.

If you're not familiar with the accounting profession, big Four just refers to the four largest public accounting firms by revenue and size. So when I got this job in Big four, the clients that I was working with were not at all the clients that I saw at Vita. No low income, no moderate income, no intimate conversations. There were barely any black people. It was just work and billable hours all the time. So I spent years bouncing around within firms and job hopping, just trying to find a place that was somewhat tolerable.

If we fast forward to the pandemic, I just got to a point where I could not take the incongruence between the work that I was doing and what was truly important to me. In all those years bouncing around, I would volunteer on the side, teaching financial literacy to individuals. I would teach accounting basics to entrepreneurs. On the one hand in my work life, I was in a profession dealing with the 1% and people that were largely unaffected by the pandemic and then on the other hand, my volunteer life doing work that was meaningful to me.

I was working with people that had a negative net worth and who could at best just hope to give by. People in that category were people that look like me. So here we are in the Pandemic World is on Fire and I decided, if I'm going down, I'm gonna go down fighting for the people that I care about. So I quit my job. I went out onto my own and I worked with small and micro businesses. Now, by sheer nature of me being a black woman, those were largely my clientele, which is great. But I quickly realized that these businesses needed far more guidance than I anticipated.

When you're working with large companies, there's adequate staff, there are systems, procedures, strategy. There's enough money to pay you, and these things just don't exist in the same way with a business that's smaller or just starting out. Then when you couple these sorts of growing pains with the barriers that black founders face regarding entrepreneurship, lack of proper funding, historically being excluded from participating in capitalism, lack of a supportive network, it just makes it that much more difficult to be successful.

So I created Impact Profit to help fill in the gap. I do believe that entrepreneurship is a pathway to wealth, and if we can get our businesses to be financially sound for the long term, then we can get to the wealth creation. So that's, a roundabout way of why I started Impact Profit.

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Gresham Harkless 07:45

Nice. I appreciate you so much for sharing that. And so I know you touched a little bit on how you're serving your clients. Could you go through a little bit more on how you're making that impact with Impact Profit and in serving the clients you work with?

Tara Spruill-Jones 07:55

Sure. So we're basically an entrepreneur support organization for early stage black founders. We have three main offerings, and the biggest one is a four week financial focus boot-camp. It's called the Profit lab. There we teach you a little more than the basics of business finance. There are three main sections of that.

First we go over decision making, so your money mindset, like your beliefs around money, and then your money team, so who you might need to work with or seek guidance from. Second part is financing, so we go over funding. Types of funding available, where you might get it. Then we go into revenue models, and that's basically how your business is gonna be bringing in revenue and the considerations around that.

Then we go over all the data stuff. That's the accounting process, what you need to know there, managing cash flow, and then going over financial statements. So what you should be looking for when you look at a financial statement and then going over some cues that'll help you know whether that statement is accurate and whether you should be relying on it.

Second thing we do is that we offer business grants. In order to be eligible to apply for a grant, you do have to first go through the Profit lab because we believe that combining the education along with the resources is really gonna be the most impactful way to serve our community.

The third thing that we are working on is implementing co-working office hours, fireside chats with successful entrepreneurs and just really looking to create sort of community and help our founders build networks. Everything that we offer is free and we do place a particular emphasis on small businesses.

Gresham Harkless 09:44

Nice. I love that. Do you feel like that's part of what I like to call your secret sauce. It can be for the organization yourself, or a combination of both, but do you think that bringing those worlds together, so to speak, under one, organization is what you feel sets you apart and makes you unique?

Tara Spruill-Jones 09:57

You know what? I think that I am the secret sauce. So, the nonprofit space, especially in terms of leadership, is pretty white. So you have all these organizations where the leadership looks nothing like the demographic they serve. I think that's dangerous because then you have decisions that are being made without consulting the people that are most impacted by those decisions.

I am a black entrepreneur serving other black entrepreneurs. I know what we're going through and what our needs are. I'm also running an organization that has a financial education focus. I'm a CPA and I've been a financial educator for many years, and so my skillset and my background align pretty well with what I'm doing.

I think that all of my past experiences have happened so that I could create Impact Profit, and do a good job with it. I can't think of a better person to run Impact Profit other than myself.

Gresham Harkless 11:01

Awesome. Awesome, awesome. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit and I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. This could be like an app, a book, or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Tara Spruill-Jones 11:14

I am going to recommend the book What Happened To You by Oprah and Dr. Bruce Perry. So they explore the ways in which childhood trauma and even routine stress change our brains and impact us as adults.

Here we are going along living life, and we think that we're reacting to situations in the present as they happen, but actually our brains are pulling from something that happened in the past because we store connections based on our experiences. It's really fascinating stuff.

For anyone that has business anxiety or ruminating thoughts, you find your business experience very stressful. It could be something that you need to explore and I think this book is a great introduction to that.

Gresham Harkless 12:04

Nice. I love that. So, I want to ask you now for what I call a CEO Nugget. This is a little bit more of a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. It's something I might say that you might tell your favorite client. Or if you hopped into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

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Tara Spruill-Jones 12:18

I would say, if at all possible, and this relates to what we were just talking about, go to therapy or find a safe and supportive community. I'm gonna give these two options because I know that therapy isn't accessible for everyone, and you don't have to go to therapy just to have a therapeutic experience.

I have really seen and experienced how our past comes up in the way that we run our businesses. This is especially true with finances. Whether we wanna admit it or not, money is emotional and you are going to find that you're gonna be bringing up your beliefs about money, your self worth, your identity, what have you, good and bad from your personal life into your business.

I'll be the first to tell you that your accountant or your a bookkeeper, they are not equipped with the ability to help you unearth these sort of deep-rooted beliefs around money. So if you can find yourself a good therapist or find yourself a safe and supportive community, people that you can talk to about what you're going through because we don't live in a vacuum and being an entrepreneur can feel pretty isolating. You need to have someone else in your corner.

Gresham Harkless 13:39

Yeah, absolutely. I wanted to ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different CEOs on this show.

So, Tara what does being a CEO mean to you?

Tara Spruill-Jones 13:49

Two things, strategy and risk management. I think that is the ultimate role as a CEO. You're the one steering the ship and you have to routinely take risks where the outcome of those risks are better than inaction.

Even in terms of business finance, the numbers are a representation of your strategy, and yes, there are outliers, but without a solid strategy, you are not going to have a long lasting financially sound business. It's got to start with strategy first, and then you incorporate the risk management.

Gresham Harkless 14:31

Truly appreciate that definition and of course, I appreciate your time even more. So what I wanted to do now was pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know, and of course how best people can get ahold of you, find about all the awesome things that you're working on.

Tara Spruill-Jones 14:46

Sure. So the last thing I would say is be authentic. Find out who you are, and then find a way to like yourself. You can try to conform and cut out the pieces of yourself that make you who you truly are in order to fit into which you believe other people want you to be, but the pain of turning yourself into a jigsaw puzzle is never going to go away.

Go find your missing pieces and put yourself back together because that's all that there is, and there is nothing better than being you that is in life, and that is in business. I have seen people create businesses that are successful monetarily, but they are miserable because it is not related to who they are. It doesn't even align with what they believe in. So as best as you can, and I know it's difficult, but be yourself.

If you want to find me, you can go to Instagram and follow @impactprofit, or if you want to learn more about what impact profit does, you can go to our website, which is

Gresham Harkless 16:04

Awesome. Awesome, awesome. To make that even easier, we'll have the links and information in the show notes as well, so that everybody can follow up with you, find out about all the awesome things that you're working on, and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Outro 16:14

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast, powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 media. Tune in next time and visit us at I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community.

Want to level up your business even more? Read blogs, listen to podcasts, and watch Also, check out our I AM CEO Facebook group.

This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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