Funding from the Business Incentives Program helped Kelly Mann launch her innovative startup during the pandemic- now, her business is growing rapidly.
After quitting her accounting job at a company she no longer felt was a good fit for her, Kelly Mann went home and immediately got to work building her own CPA practice. Kelly had just come back from the prestigious American Institute of Certified Public Accountants ‘Leadership Academy’, where 40 people from across the US are selected each year to participate in a four-day, intense leadership workshop intended for fellow Certified Public Accountants. After attending the Leadership Academy, she had a whole new outlook on life.
“While I was there, it was an incredible experience, like literally life-changing for me,” said Kelly, “Leadership Academy helped me to believe in myself again.”
She came home and began calling all the large audit technology providers asking if they had any technology that was specifically intended for 401k audits.
“Nobody had anything. And so, every company that I called had a representative call me back and say, ‘Hey, we heard you were interested in 401k technologies, but we don’t have an expert with a vision.’”
There was a huge need for technology that could automate many of the routine, mundane, repetitive processes that every CPA must perform as part of an audit. However, no one had figured out how to automate these time-consuming tasks. Every company Kelly called showed interest in her vision, and soon she had a hot commodity on her hands.
“It was so cool. I felt like my ideas were being valued. I was getting a lot of interest… And other people were identifying that this was a problem that potentially could be profitable to solve.”
After realizing the value of her ideas, Kelly became concerned that a company might take them to make their own product—leaving her behind.
“I was thinking, ‘If all they want is my vision, I want to try and own it.’ So, I cancelled the remaining Zoom calls, and I Googled how to start a software company.”
While researching that night, Kelly came across The Startup Collaborative, and she immediately reached out to connect. The next day, Kelly was in downtown Omaha meeting with Nathan Graham about creating a startup.
“I Googled how to start a software company, found them, and then the next day I was pitching my idea. It was so crazy.”
Soon after, Kelly had written a 50-page business plan, and she had officially incorporated AuditMiner. That set her up to receive her first Prototype Grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. The award allowed AuditMiner to build its initial software product, which is still on the market today. Six months after she incorporated AuditMiner, and weeks before a product release, Kelly discovered she had breast cancer.
“After launching my business, I got my confidence back and lost weight. Because I lost all that weight…I found my own cancer. I was stage three and close to being terminal. Quitting my job literally saved my life,” said Kelly. “That’s why I say the Leadership Academy was legitimately life-changing for me. They were the catalyst.”
Kelly kept a positive attitude amid the diagnosis and COVID-19 outbreak, all while raising three children. Her confidence and hope-filled outlook have enabled Kelly to succeed. By spring 2022, she had already surpassed all her goals for the entire calendar year.
“In the first quarter of 2022, we did six times our 2021 annual revenue” Kelly said, “and in just one month, May, we did 50% of the sales we did in the prior 13 months.”
AuditMiner has served six of the top 100 CPA Firms and 16 of the top 200 CPA Firms, and they’re rapidly expanding. Kelly does not take all the credit though. She attributes these company milestones to the strength of her team.
“Our team is top notch,” she insists. “They’re amazing. And they’re not traditional hires.”
AuditMiner is a team of 11 that all work remotely, mainly from the greater Omaha area. This format clearly works for the company, as it is constantly releasing new features.
“There are two things that we need to build a feature. And bottom line for number one is customer requests. Two is the ability to generate additional revenue. So, we don’t build the bells and whistles just for the sake of it. It’s a dirty, scrappy product. But it solves a problem.”
When asked about being a business in Nebraska, Kelly had this to say:
“When I’m traveling, I love when people ask where I’m from. ‘Oh, I’m out of Omaha, Nebraska.’ They’re surprised that a company, a rocket ship company like ours, is from Nebraska. You don’t hear about that very often. And it’s exciting to put us on the map in both the startup world and the accounting industry in general.”
Kelly went on to share more about her experience starting a business and gave some friendly advice to other aspiring business owners.
“The hardest part is taking that first step. And the first step doesn’t have to be spending money. Talking to your potential customer and not making a guess as to what the market wants but validating what the market wants.”
Despite some initial hiccups with AuditMiner, Mann doesn’t focus of the past. She’s looking ahead to the future.
“I’m pretty much an optimist. So, I don’t have a lot of regrets. I don’t reflect back and think ‘What should I have done differently?’ It’s a learning experience, so it all plays into my future.”