Spotlight on Nayo Carter-Gray –

Have you ever heard of a word or a name for the first time, and then all of a sudden, it is everywhere you look? That was me when I first heard about Nayo Carter-Gray of 1st Step Accounting in Baltimore.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with her. I had met her only a few months earlier when I moderated a panel discussion during Insightful Accountant’s first “Future Forward 2022” event. She blew me away with her energy, knowledge and sense of humor (and, to be fair, so did our other panelist, Nicole Butler Davis).

And then, “just like that,” Nayo’s name was everywhere I looked.

Her story is compelling. She originally thought that she’d become a corporate lawyer, but destiny had other ideas for her. Her accounting path started in high school, but not the way you would think. After earning some money at a summer job, she went to the library and discovered she could do her own taxes and get a refund from the IRS.

So what did she do? A true entrepreneur, after preparing her own taxes, she started charging her friends with jobs to do their tax returns. She was 14. But she still did not realize that accounting was in her future.

And then, due to an administrative error, she landed up in a high school accounting class. She was hooked. Bye-bye, corporate law; hello accounting. Nayo took two years of accounting in high school, and then in college she took a management science program with a concentration in accounting.

From there, she went on to get her MBA (like me) and minored in Information because she always has loved technology and databases.

Over the years after college, Nayo had jobs in accounting departments of various industries (construction, nonprofit, medical, multi-level marketing, etc.), thus rounding out her experience.

When the recession of 2008-09 hit, Nayo started 1st Step Accounting. Her first tax season (remember, she knew how to do taxes) was 2010. As she put it, “We have been rocking and rolling ever since.”

Although Nayo does have a growing team (presently a full-time admin person and a full-time bookkeeper, as well as a part-time), she relies heavily on automation to do more with less employee. Zapier is a very good friend of hers.

What else does 1st Step Accounting use? Here is just a sampling:

Both Nayo and I really love AppSumo, for finding amazing apps at ridiculously lifetime low subscription prices. That’s where she found Nifty.

So how did Nayo come to be Advanced Certified in QuickBooks Online? She is a Stacy Kildl success story. Nayo took a training course from the Stacy K Academy. That was just the beginning of her journey with QuickBooks and Intuit.

Upon attending her first “QuickBooks Connect” in 2016, Nayo met many ProAdvisors and Intuit staff. As a result, she served on the Intuit Accountant Council from 2018 to 2019. Nayo wants to make sure there is diversity in her profession—and people are listening.

And yes, Nayo still does taxes. But she is so much more. She is a member of the National Association of Enrolled Agents and the National Association of Tax Professionals, and Nayo has speaking engagements and also offers courses on her website.

One niche of hers is service businesses that are using the internet, such as online coaches and social media marketers. She also has a handful of therapist clients because her name came up in a therapy Facebook group.

Nayo’s goal is to grow her Instagram account this year. She spends a lot of time recording and editing videos for her clients and her social media accounts. In fact, she was just finishing up a caption for an Instagram reel before she jumped on our interview. I don’t know how she does it.

Nayo has had an impact on me, too. Because of her passion for apps and turning handwriting into searchable files, I just took delivery of that reMarkable 2 we were discussing.

I’m hoping to share that experience with all of you soon.

Esther Friedberg Karp is an internationally-renowned trainer, writer and speaker from Toronto, where she runs her QuickBooks consulting practice, EFK CompuBooks Inc. Consistently in Insightful Accountant’s Top 100 ProAdvisors, she has been named to the Top 10 twice.

A ProAdvisor in three countries, she has traveled the world with Intuit, spoken at QuickBooks Connect in San Jose and Toronto, among other places, and has written countless articles for Intuit Global.

Esther has been named one of the “Top 50 Women in Accounting,” a “Top 10 Influencer” in the Canadian Bookkeeping World, and is a repeat nominee for the “RBC Canadian Women’s Entrepreneur Awards.” She counts among her clients many international companies, as well as accounting professionals seeking her out on behalf of expertise of their own clients for her in multi-currency and various countries’ editions of QuickBooks Desktop and Online.

She can be reached at or 416-410-0750.

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