Entrepreneur Spotlight: Ramona Cedeno on migrating from the corporate world to the startup world

Ramona Cedeno, founder of FiBrick Financial Services

Some businesses are forever destined to remain small, especially if you as the entrepreneur are the business. Scaling was never a priority for Ramona Cedeno, founder of FiBrick Financial Services, who came to Baruch College recently as a guest speaker for the ‘Entrepreneurial Experiences‘ undergraduate class. A Baruch alum, Cedeno launched her business two years ago to provide accounting and tax planning services for startups at all stages of the life cycle so that they could outsource work at a fraction of the cost of establishing a full finance and accounting team.

Popular culture paints entrepreneurs as being born with a purpose, but Cedeno admits she was a late bloomer. While attending college, Cedeno worked for People en Espanol, a Time Inc. publication. After graduating from Baruch, she started her career as a CPA for Geller & Company, a mid-size accounting firm, but she had no notion of what entrepreneurship was. “I wasn’t reading about the latest developments in technology,” she recalls. “I was just doing my job.”

After 10 years, she found herself raring for a change of scene. She joined a tech startup called Handy, which provides on-demand cleaning services through a mobile app, and has raised over $110 million since its founding in 2012. Her perspective shifted overnight. “Everyone there was about creating their own thing and building the best product and competing with Uber and Airbnb,” she marvels. “They were saying, ‘We’re the Airbnb of home cleaning.’”

Fibrick Financial Services

The entrepreneurial ethos proved infectious, and she sensed her mindset shifting from that of dutiful worker bee to ideator and innovator. One particular question kept intruding in her mind: What is the next product I can create and build?

Writers are frequently told, Write what you know. Similarly, Cedeno decided to start a company based on her decades of expertise. As a veteran in the industry, she had an extensive rolodex of former colleagues and mentors from from her time at Geller and Handy. She called on them first. “All I had was the confidence that I do what I do very well,” she recalls, “and that I was going to be able to get people to buy my services.”

She now employs just under 10 people who do much of the day-to-day number crunching, but she still checks their work before it goes back to the client.

“I have employees but I am the business,” she says. “I’m the one that has to be there 24 hours and has to face the clients if something goes wrong.”

Cedeno, who earned an MBA at Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, prides herself on being a top-notch networker, but every day on the job as a startup founder means switching between the functions of a marketer, human resources manager and customer service representative. One day she’s attending back-to-back client meetings, the next day she’s training a new hire on how to do bank reconciliations, and later that day she’s on the phone handling client’s inquiries or scoping the next project.

With no co-founder or business partner, Cedeno also has her hands full raising two sons, ages 16 and 7. But her only regret is that she didn’t take the plunge into entrepreneurship earlier.

“I’m a great accountant and I love what I do, but I would love to have started a more creative business, one that that incorporates the accounting with the technology,” she says. She feels inspired by her clients, many of them tech startups offering products or services through mobile apps. Her next big dream? To design accounting software that helps automate more of the accounting process.