The How & Why of Launching a Side-Project as a Certified Professional Accountant

Three years ago, I had the good fortune of justifying the years I had spent studying (and earning a degree in) accounting by joining one of the continent’s better-known accounting firms.

I love accounting, and I grew immensely in my time performing at BDO.

Coming out of University was a scary and uncertain time. The best firms place heavy emphasis on scholastic grades even across college. But BDO gave me a chance to prove that I was more than what my transcript pictured me to be.

I’m happy I was able to more than validate their trust in me. By the way my colleagues and managers reacted when I announced my departure, and during the month of transition following it, I think it’s safe to say I’ve also left my mark.

I’ve done great work at BDO and am eternally grateful for the opportunity I’ve been granted to create meaningful relationships, perform as best as I could for my team and our clients, and to be able to learn with so much speed.

In fact, if someone were to scan my path so far, the choice of leaving BDO and giving up “a promising accounting career” with a renowned firm might seem out of context.

It’s out of the ordinary given the choices I’ve been making so far.

That’s fair, but as I explore the reasoning behind it, you might come to understand and share my perspective on things.

Seed of Entrepreneurship

The last ten years of my life have always been earmarked with a certain challenge. Some thing that I needed to work really hard to obtain.

While in school, that meant making it into the accounting program. Coming out of school meant finding a job in an ultra-competitive field — BDO was a huge stroke of luck in that regard. While at BDO, I finished a Bachelor degree and needed to be accepted for a Masters, which would ultimately lead to the CPA designation I earned last year.

There was always something to provide purpose — or a mirage of it.

There was always something until I reached my goals.

Without realizing it, the singular focus I’d applied against my scholastic and career challenges had left me in a state of tunnel vision when thinking about what life is or what it should be about.

I began exploring all sorts of scenarios. It was a scary, frustrating experience to think that I had invested so many years and so much energy into becoming what and who I was, to realize that I had forgotten to think about who I have been and what matters most in life. It was a question of purpose.

Worse, I didn’t feel like myself. As a teenager and early young adult, I was a hungry, driven and passionate community leader. Before higher education pulled me in and made me feel small, I did learn. I did explore.

These are questions my husband Eyal and I are comfortable asking ourselves, because it expands our horizons and reduces our misconceptions. But usually I’m the listener in these conversations — after all, he’s the entrepreneur.

As I dug deeper, I began to analyze how I spent my days (read: my life) to try to understand where my discontent was coming from.

There are 24 hours in each day, and the way you choose to spend each of those hours comprises life itself. We sleep for 7–8 of those 24 hours, so you really need to make them count; otherwise you’re just coasting through life like a spectator.

I figured that if I could solve the question of time, I might have a chance to reorganize the way I live life to achieve satisfaction and a sense of purpose.

A Gap in Routine

“Routine” is life. So to achieve happiness, I need to be happy with my routine. And of course, that routine cannot stagnate, it needs to feel invigorating and empowering and challenging. It needs to stay fresh or I’ll lose steam.

As I studied my own routine, a gap began to form which explained my state of mind. The way I structured and spent each day made it impossible for me to do anything other than follow the routine.

My day was such that I could not deviate or things would break. I could get in trouble with work, I might forget home chores I’m responsible for, I might miss a family commitment, etc.

There was no time to explore and learn and do.

I’m not talking about filling time. I’m talking about jumping out of bed in the morning looking forward to the day’s challenges ahead.

My typical day looked like this:

  • 5.30AM — Wake up
  • 6.00AM — Walk the dog every other day
  • 7.00AM — Shower, prepare lunch, make to-go coffee, get dressed
  • 7.30AM — Drive to work
  • 8.30AM — Arrive to work
  • 12.00PM-12.30PM — Quickly eat my lunch and make some calls
  • 5.30PM — Leave work
  • 6.30PM — Arrive in my neighbourhood, 3/5 nights go to the gym
  • 7.30PM — Arrive home, take a shower
  • 8.00PM — Prepare dinner 3/5 nights
  • 8.30PM/9.00PM — Have dinner, decompress
  • 9.30PM-11.30PM — Hangout with my husband, do a few chores, watch a Netflix episode or read a book chapter
  • 12.00AM — Go to bed and wake up exhausted the next morning.

I was stuck, and I didn’t even know it. To me, this was the way life was going to be. You work hard at work, and try to make it through. But I felt guilty for watching Netflix in the one hour of chilling time I had in the day.

Because something in me wanted to take action.

In June of last year, Eyal started talking to me about his plans for 2017. That was mid-2016, and he was scouting a founding team for a new startup.

He had found an amazing duo he wanted to move forward with, but due to previous experience he wanted to take the time to get to know them. As time went by, turns out they were too busy to work on the startup.

Too busy working to be able to explore and learn.

As I observed my husband take a more deliberate stance against this stalemate, I began to realize and define my own options.

Eyal is launching 12 products in 12 months as a team- and portfolio-building exercise meant for their trio to get to know and fund each other as they embark on their new startup adventure.

You can follow his story from your inbox if your want:

As we talked about his plans, he explained his thought that most people out there focus on their job as their one shot to create impact.

Some people develop a trait which causes them to want to actively go influence that impact with their own hands — at their peril.

We call those crazy people entrepreneurs.

But as it turns out, there aren’t that many entrepreneurs, because — well, it means you go against the whole game.

Quitting your job and starting a company means you know the rules most of the population abide by to play the Game of Life but decide not to play the game by them. You have your own game you want to play.

I was dissatisfied and tired, in spite of living a great life we are so blessed to enjoy. But I learned that my dissatisfaction was actually a derivative of my inaction, not from any one element in my life. I loved BDO.

My inaction was a derivative of the way I chose — or was “forced” — to spend my time. After all, having a steady income means being somewhere from 9AM to 5PM. You learn something at school then get a job doing that. That’s the way the world works. There is no learning beyond that.

Entrepreneurs are interesting because of the wealth of information they contain. There’s always something going on in their head. I’m fascinated by this trait in my husband. He’s always on. But it never feels like work to him. He says “I get paid to do something I would do anyway — I’d still do it if it made no money. We’d just be homeless.”

He made me realize that he has this edge because he spends his 9-to-5 doing what he calls “optimizing for learning.” He explains it as, you need to get really good at something before you can help the world using that discipline.

For him, that means spending most of his time in the field actually helping startup grow. The rest of the time is invested learning; where the focus of learning this year is to get really good at building and validating prototypes.

As I understand it, you should see the investment of time acquiring a set of skills or building relationships with people as the single most important expenditure of your time up until such point that your skill and the timing dictate it is time to create value for the world.

When asked what my skill was, I immediately, almost instinctively answered “Accounting, of course.” This was wrong, though. I already enumerated my skills above: “a hungry, driven and passionate community leader.”

Making sense of it all

Leaving BDO was the result of my decision to be deliberate about the future I want to create — for myself, my family and for the world. As an accountant in a firm, I can create value, but I don’t get to be hungry, or passionate about anything. It’s not a place of innovation.

There’s still much to learn and I’m not convinced that learning more Accounting would be “optimized.” I need to expand the disciplines I excel at by translating them into other activities beyond Accounting or Tax.

Over the last little while, I’ve felt the need to become more well-versed in the technology world my husband operates in.

I’ve been consistently surprised each time Eyal talks to me about the new things he’s learning or doing. He’s extremely deliberate and tactical about where, how and who he spends his time with. Not in a snobby way, but because he optimizes for learning and wants to surround himself with people in situations where he’s the least knowledgeable around. He’s totally forthright about it too, and the results are nothing short of astounding!

His ability to create something out of nothing is incredibly inspiring, and I feel compelled now that he’s starting his Digital Founder project to take action.

Challenge accepted

Last week, Eyal challenged me to launch a project that I could build, grow and learn from entirely on my own (with some help of course!).

In spite of the fact that I’m already very busy helping SMBs simplify their accounting at SimpleKeeper, I saw this as a great opportunity to take action and build a foundation when it comes to understanding what it takes to launch and operate an organization of my own — which is my ultimate goal.

I have big plans for the future — but for now, it’s time to experiment, fail, learn, iterate and sponge up this whole new world.

As of yesterday, I’ve launched my very first side-project — which is looking like it might turn out to be much more than that. Thanks to some magical husbandly help, I’m very proud to announce the creation of CakeMyBake! is launching soon!

We’ll Cake Your Bake

CakeMyBake is a marketplace helping local bakers sell homemade cakes & pastries to foodies in their neighbourhoods.

I didn’t actually come up with the idea. It sort of came up on its own — which was really amazing to observe from a market research point of view!

I’ve been seeing a lot of activity lately in Facebook groups from home bakers trying to sell their cakes, cookies, tarts and so on to groups. Generally it looks like that works pretty well, but for others not so much.

There’s quite a bit of volume in response to these posts, and people often try to ask for other recommendations when a home-baker goes out of stock.

Additional to the fact I actually love baking, this was the basis of the idea. I wanted to do something in baking, and it looked like the market for buying and selling homemade baked goods was pretty fragmented.

So I’m going to try solving that.

If you’re wondering about the name, was taken — but we wanted something witty and sticky, and was not only available, it was hilariously fun and gave the brand its personality!

Eyal quickly identified the potential marketplace opportunity this represented and decided to help me build the first version of CakeMyBake, which will enable any baker who works from home to find and sell to people in their neighbourhoods.

My husband rightfully underlined the exciting nature of this peer-to-peer bakery concept:

“Yes, home bakers are trying to sell their stuff. But something much bigger than that is at play.

There are people who crave very specific comfort foods from their home town or country — let’s say Turkey — and it’s often really hard to find those specialty baked goods in bakeries or when they do — they don’t taste like home.

Could you imagine being able to order fresh Turkish cake from a local Turkish family on your way to or back from work?

Freshly-produced and directly supporting a family who’s already trying to sell cake. Conceptually, it works.”

I was provided with a functional website, now I needed to source some supply and prove the demand was willing to participate before I could attempt to grow this with any reaching out.

Whether this thing was economically viable was totally to be determined. But first, I needed to start removing some risk and validate some key assumptions I had about CakeMyBake.

First things first: Supply

The first thing to validate was that I could reliably and consistently build a supply of home-bakers.

To do this, we agreed we’d focus our launch in the City of Montreal. We live in Montreal and it happens to be a very multicultural city, which lends itself nicely to the sale of niche baked goods.

So I needed to find supply in Montreal. I started scanning the Facebook group posts I had originally explored and actually found many leads. But I was soon reminded that I could create my own supply. D’uh!

Apparently I’m a pretty good baker. I make a few things here and there, never really thought of my stuff as professional or anything worth selling. I’m just a person who bakes sometimes. And apparently it’s yummy!

This is actually how many of our prospective suppliers feel, too. They’re just everyday people who make really, really yummy stuff but aren’t confident that these things are good, never-mind will sell!

So I got to work and … voila!

I started out by making something simple but absolutely delicious. If you’re in Montreal, definitely pick up a dozen of my Thursday Night Soft & Chewy Meringues. They’re just five bucks and you’ll thank me later.

I’ll be seeding the first few listings on CakeMyBake by baking and selling my own goods.

Once I see some traction from that, I’ll reach out to our first 100 suppliers in Montreal and prepare for our first city launch (Montreal). You can follow CakeMyBake on Instagram at We highlight beautiful homemade cake & pastry creation. You’ll love it.

For those who have been telling me to become a baker for a little while — and I can’t believe I’m actually writing this — sorry for shooting you down. You can now order some of my homemade cakes and pastries on CakeMyBake!

It’s an exciting, new, unsure, anxious, scary, wild time. And I’m so glad to be exploring and learning again in anticipation of my next venture as a professional accountant.

But for now, it’s time to optimize for learning. 👩‍🎨

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