My name is Juliet Aurora.
And I am an entrepreneur.
If someone had told me when I started my business in the year 2000, that years later I would have launched a second business to help other bookkeepers and would also be writing a book about my journey, I would have told them that they were crazy.
Even if they told me that it was a certainty, I would have told them that they were crazy! Never, in the remote recesses of my mind when I took the plunge into self-employment all of those years ago, would writing a book about being in business have crossed my mind. At the time, it was fear, and sleepless nights, and “what if this doesn’t work” conversations.
The journey certainly wasn’t an uphill trajectory all the way. There were a lot of peaks and valleys and some years more valleys than peaks. So I guess that is why I wanted to write this book with Steve. To give hope. To tell those out there, who are questioning whether to take that leap of faith or hang up that sign, that there is hope. That anything is possible.
So here goes…. AIS Solutions started out as Aurora International Services (AIS) in the spare bedroom of my semi-detached house in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in the year 2000. The name arose because I thought it made me sound bigger, and at the time, if your name was included in your business name, you didn’t have to spend the $60 to formally register the name, so I was also being cheap. (That’s frugal in business owner speak!)
I had no grand aspirations of a business at the time. I just didn’t like how much time my daughter was spending in daycare, and I honestly felt like I was missing out on so much. I had a corporate job and so I started AIS really small. I dipped my toe in the water to see what happened, but did not really commit to anything or really put anything on the line.
Fast forward just over one year, when fate intervened and sent some signals my way. I went through a messy divorce and became a single mom. The company I was working for at the time was purchased by an international conglomerate and being relocated to the US. It was still too close to 9/11 and the colour of my skin was not conducive to living in the US. So it was do or die.
Either I throw myself into this venture and give myself the freedom to spend time with my daughter, or I pound the pavement and find another job. Don’t ask me why I chose the former. I certainly didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur. I didn’t view myself as a leader of any sort, or a visionary. I simply was trying to have a little control of my life and my time and be able to play with my daughter and read her stories whenever she wanted. I gave myself six months. That was about what I had in funds that I could survive on if I didn’t have a single client or make a dime. If after the six months I couldn’t support myself and my daughter, I told myself that I would go back into the corporate world.
That was 2002.
My first client ended up being my former employer. My second client was in Barbados, as a spin-off from my first client. My third client was my real estate agent. My fourth client was her friend. And then it just morphed from there. My clients grew from word of mouth, and I pretty much performed any service that was related to finance: taxes, accounting department support, year-end assistance, bookkeeping, accounting, and accounting system conversions.
If there was a job that was related to numbers in any way, shape or form, I took it.
I worked in the morning before my daughter woke up, played with her in the mornings, dropped her off for a couple of hours at daycare, and then worked again after she went to bed. There were long days and nights, but I was energized. I had control of my life and had clients who allowed me to pay my bills, keep a roof over my head, and put food on the table.
My business ran as just me until about 2006, when I hired my first subcontractor. By then, I had met Steve and relocated my business 60km (37 mi) west of Toronto to Burlington, Ontario, so that he and I could be together. That story is probably a book all on its own, as there was a great deal of discussion as to whether I was moving to Burlington or he was moving to Toronto. Steve says we compromised but I am not sure how since I moved to Burlington. 🙂
From 2006 to 2010, the business ran from my home with staff meetings around my dining table. As we moved along I was very frustrated with the disparity in what was passing as bookkeeping for small business, I started offering Bookkeeping and CFO Services as a package. My subcontractors provided the bookkeeping and I contributed the CFO skill-set.
My business continued this way for many years with me working all the time. Having an office in my home. Getting up in the morning and heading to the office. Going to the office before going to bed at night. Work/life balance was a myth. It didn’t exist, and there was no separation for me. I didn’t have the personality or the discipline to ever turn it off.
In 2010, I took what I believe was my first big leap into the business world by moving the business out of my home. It was also the birth of AIS Solutions. Aurora International Services disappeared, and we created this exciting new business. Steve had always been my silent partner with Aurora International Services. He was my sounding board, my voice of reason, my biggest ally and support system, all while still running his own retail business at the time. But in 2010, we formalized that participation and he joined AIS Solutions part-time to help build this conglomerate that would shake up the bookkeeping world. Or at least that was our goal.
The last eight years have been unbelievable for us. I’m not going to tell you that it has all run smoothly from 2010 to now because I would be lying – remember the roller-coaster analogy. There were days that we seriously thought about closing the doors, and that perhaps it wasn’t all worth putting everything on the line.
At the end of 2015, Steve joined AIS Solutions full time, and we entered into another exciting phase of our business journey with the creation of Kninja. You can learn more about our Kninja story here.
Our focus today is to provide business owners with “no hassle” bookkeeping and QuickBooks training. We do not provide just data entry service, but valuable, accurate bookkeeping and accounting, which allows business owners to have up-to-date financial reports that they can use to make better business decisions throughout the year. By working with us, every client has access to financial expertise without incurring the large fixed overhead costs involved in maintaining a full time person in every field on their payroll.
Today, cloud technology is playing a bigger and bigger role in business. But, long before it was popular, we recognized the opportunity to provide better service and support for our clients and so, in 2010, we launched a brand new exclusive service called AIS Cloud – a remote “cloud accounting and bookkeeping solution”.
I’ve seen my daughter and my business grow over the years and am very proud of both. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for both.
P.S. – We feel very proud and honoured to have been recognized with several awards over the past few years.
First, we were chosen from over 85 local companies as winner in the small business category for the Burlington Chamber of Commerce “Business Excellence Awards”.
That was followed up by being named the Canadian Bookkeeping Firm of the Year by the IPBC.
And, when we didn’t think it could get any better we were incredibly humbled to learn we had been selected from almost 1000 firms globally as the Intuit Global Firm of the Future.
Although we personally receive the awards we know that without our awesome team and great clients there would be no awards at all. Thank you to everyone that has made it possible.