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CFO by day. Baker by night. Caitie Copley of Accodex explains how she was able to quickly progress in her accounting career while also running a small side hustle.
Caitie Copley has got a secret. By day, many know her as an ambitious accounting professional, who, in her short career, has already climbed her way into the chief financial officer seat at her firm, Adelaide-based Accodex.
Ms Copley has also already earned reputable industry awards, including Rising Star of the Year at the 2018 Australian Accounting Awards and Newcomer of the Year at the 2018 South Australia SMSF and Accounting Awards – both of which recognise her as an outstanding professional making great strides in her career.
And yet, there’s another side to Ms Copley. By night, you can find her in the kitchen, baking and decorating cakes until the wee hours of the morning. Ms Copley says she started her side hustle, known as Cupcakes by Caitie, over a year ago as a way to express her creativity.
“When you think of the life of a CFO, it’s generally all numbers and data-driven. Whereas, my little cake business helps me get my creative side out and de-stress from the day,” she says. “I’ve always loved being in the kitchen. I love cooking and baking and making people happy through food.”
But Ms Copley’s cake business is not totally separate from her accounting life. A lot of the skills she’s learned throughout her career have come in handy.
“I’ve got a kick-ass spreadsheet that I use to cost my cakes up. I’ve broken it down per gram cost and all the ingredients so I know exactly how much I need to be charging,” she says.
“So, while it’s a bit of a creative side hustle, I definitely got my accounting influence in there as well.”
However, this isn’t the beginning of a bigger cake business just yet. Ms Copley is still completely focused on growing in her accounting career and adding new partners to the Accodex network. She adds that her customers and colleagues are very understanding when it comes to balancing both commitments.
“Sometimes, I can only bake on the weekends or late at night. I’m a bit of a night owl anyway. It’s pretty common for me to be up past midnight finishing up a cake,” she says.
“But I want to keep it my little side hustle just for the next few years while I’m building up my corporate career. My 20-year goal would be to open up my own cupcake store, but only after I’ve done what I needed to do in the accounting industry.”
A passion for business
Ms Copley didn’t always want to work in accounting. When she was younger, she had dreams of becoming a primary school teacher. That was, however, until she took a business class in high school.
“I fell in love,” Ms Copley says. “I thought, ‘How can I turn this into a career?’”
So, she enrolled in a Bachelor of Commerce degree program at Flinders University and was offered a spot in the school’s leadership program.
Ms Copley also became the director of finance for the Flinders Business School Student Association and the business development officer for the Flinders University Chapter of AIESEC. If that wasn’t enough, she was also a mentor at her school, helping first-year students become accustomed to university life.
Ms Copley got her start in accounting in 2013 as an intern for Cirillo Hooper & Company, an Adelaide-based accounting services firm. There, she learned how to work on client accounts, complete their tax returns and prepare end-of-year compliance. The job had solidified her desire to work in the industry.
“I loved working with people and watching them grow and develop,” Ms Copley says.
“It’s a great opportunity to be able to influence other people’s lives through numbers.”
That same firm would later rebrand as Accodex in 2015 to reflect a new direction. In addition to providing traditional accounting services, the company now offers a tech-enabled platform for other accounting professionals that emphasizes both cloud-based technology and business intelligence.
It achieved this through a merger with Clear Business Dynamics, a cloud integration specialist. Ms Copley had worked as the firm’s finance manager before being named CFO and company secretary in 2015.
Today, Accodex has “partners” around the world, with accountants based in Australia, the US and Canada. Ms Copley says the firm has been able to grow its network by keeping its partners happy.
“We have been improving and adding to our value proposition and building our Accodex platform to keep our partners happy. Because if they are happy and successful, we are happy and successful,” she says.
“It’s about building the infrastructure that the partners can work off to eliminate any of the redundant tasks and roles, such as their workflow planning. If they don’t have to develop their own system. They don’t need to think too much about the back end of their business.
“We handle that for them, the billing, the finance, the workflows.” Ms Copley describes Accodex as a high technology firm that has truly embraced change and innovation in the accounting industry. The company, for example, is 100 per cent “cloud”, she says, and uses accounting software such as Xero to automate many tasks.
“The accounting apps that we use are constantly being changed and upgraded. It’s almost a full-time job in itself just maintaining the product updates so we can make sure we are advising our partners the best accounting software apps to help service their clients,” she says.
“We also like to try and automate as many of the mundane and easy tasks as we can. By eliminating as many of those jobs, our partners can actually focus on offering more value to their clients.”
As for the future of Accodex, Ms Copley says the goal is to add more partners to the network and expand to different parts of the world.
Working towards the dream
In her role, Ms Copley single-handedly manages the internal finances for the growing firm. She also looks after a portfolio of clients, providing traditional accounting services.
“I still get my hands dirty in the client book,” she says.
“But most of my attention is focused on Accodex.”
Ms Copley’s career progression is what makes her stand out from her peers. It’s also what ultimately earned her two industry awards last year – the Rising Star of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.
Both awards are intended to recognise an outstanding accounting professional who has demonstrated an exemplary commitment to success in their career in the accounting industry. It considered the activities, strategies and actions of the rising star in terms of positioning themselves for future success.
Ms Copley says she was honoured to receive both awards. She says a certain quote had inspired her to work hard to get where she is today.
“‘Dreams don’t work unless you do’. I read that as nothing comes easy. You need to work hard to make your dreams come true,” she says.
“I went into those awards not expecting anything. I was honoured enough just to be nominated. It was a great surprise to actually win both of them. I’m just glad that my peers see potential in me.”
It just might lead her towards accomplishing another dream of hers. As a passionate fan of the Australian Football League, Ms Copley says she hopes to one day become the CFO of the Adelaide Crows.
“Growing up watching football with my family is among my fondest memories of my childhood. I hope to one day combine my skill sets in finance and accounting with my love for the Adelaide Crows,” she says. “It would honestly be a dream come true.”