How Jenny Groberg founded BookSmarts Accounting

How Jenny Groberg founded BookSmarts Accounting

How Jenny Groberg founded BookSmarts Accounting

The Founder Series is a column by and about Utah founders and how they got to where they are today. Click here to read past articles in the series.

In February 2023, after a long period of recovery from a traumatic brain injury, I felt renewed. While everyone was hibernating under record-breaking blankets of Utah’s famous snow, I pulled out my laptop and began to type up what felt like thousands of ideas running through my head. I had felt like a caged animal; my silent suffering had been unquantifiable. I was finally breaking free.

I was stepping back into my role as CEO of BookSmarts Accounting after a 3-year hiatus. With a great team behind me, our growth has accelerated by leaps and bounds. Today, we’re winning awards and building a community, and I am still ready for more. 

The beginning of BookSmarts

BookSmarts Accounting, started back in 2008 when my family was young. My husband was finishing podiatry school and, like many other young couples, we were struggling. Between his education costs and my staying home with our young children, we could not cover our basic expenses. 

I was willing to go to work, and I had valuable skills and experience—I went to school in finance and had been a CFO for more than one small business. My options for child care were limited, so remote work was the only option. I found a job listing for a controller position in Park City, and when I interviewed, I could not convince them to take a chance on me working remotely. 

I was surprised and quite deflated after not getting that position. I could have given up, but instead, I became determined to take matters into my own hands. I bought a $500 computer on a credit card and took a course to become a certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor. In a few short weeks, I had a few appointments. 

Initially, I was consulting, teaching, training staff and setting up accounting processes for small businesses. I would go to those appointments, and my clients would often hire me long-term to do their bookkeeping and accounting services. I could do it faster and more efficiently than they could, allowing them to focus on building their business. I honed my skills to find hidden profit leaks, help maximize earnings and provide customized services across the board. I realized I enjoy dismantling the perception that accounting is boring.

A budding business

I continued with my little business through my husband’s residency, but as that chapter of our life ended, so did my stamina for staying up until 2:00 a.m. finishing client work. I even considered selling my business. If I had, my life would have turned out very differently. 

Instead, I hired my first employee, a college student I trained from the ground up. With someone else depending on me, I was more motivated to find enough clients to keep us both employed. At this point, my role became more forward-facing. I started teaching seminars and classes at the University of Utah, Zion’s Bank and the Utah Nonprofits Association, which got our name out there and earned us enough clients to hire more people.

At about year eight, we hit a plateau. I had around 10 employees—all women—and we were doing well. I was maxed out in what I could oversee and the staff I could support, and I was happy with where I was. I had built a wonderful company offering women exactly what I had needed when I started: flexible, remote employment. Growth was the last thing on my mind. 

Tragedy and setback

On May 28, 2018, my entire world shifted under me. 

I jumped onto my countertop to grab a cream from the top of my bathroom cabinet. Unfortunately, there was water on the counter, causing me to fall backward. I hit my head on the floor. 

It didn’t seem life-altering at first, but the next morning, I realized I was not OK. I couldn’t even stand up. I had suffered a traumatic brain injury and didn’t yet know the scope of the damage. That started years of treatments. I saw a vision therapist, a chiropractic neurologist and occupational and physical therapists. 

I had such debilitating pain, fatigue and poor quality of life that I was unable to even run errands with my kids. I was drowning. I felt so much guilt that I could not do the things I did before. 

How Jenny Groberg founded BookSmarts Accounting

I had been a very driven and ambitious person my whole life. I cared for five kids, volunteered in the community, coached soccer and ran a business—I even won the Bair Gutsman race, a 13-mile race with 4,000 vertical feet in the first 4 miles. I thrived on my productivity and output. 

Now that I’d been injured, I knew that if I took on too much, I would pay the price—and so would my family. I had to learn how to prioritize what was most important in my life.

In one of the most gut-wrenching decisions I’ve ever made, I had to step away from my business. I humbled myself and turned to our COO, Emily VanBrocklin, who had the bandwidth to keep things running while I couldn’t. I knew her potential, and she stepped up in an incredible way. Using her fantastic skills, Emily doubled our staff, tripled revenue and increased camaraderie and friendship among our remote female staff. BookSmarts wouldn’t be where it is today without her.

After three years of living at my lowest, I was guided through faith and family to the Mind-Eye Institute in Illinois, where I received glasses tailored explicitly to my brain injury. That was a huge turning point for me. It took some time for my brain to adjust, but once it did, the difference those glasses made was astounding. I had been given a miracle and a second chance at my life. 

Finally, I had the energy to do something beyond just making it through the day. I was ready to get back to work.

My comeback

Returning to my role as CEO of BookSmarts was such a triumph for me. My main goal was to help others through community outreach and employment. I hit the ground running. 

It started with growth. In 2023 alone, we have grown our workforce by 20 percent, revenue by 36 percent, and our clients by 57 percent. These are huge numbers. Adding to our client base has allowed us to hire more people and set up a structure that promotes women internally, giving them more options and financial security. 

I started attending industry events and reconnecting with the business community here in Utah. In April, BookSmarts was selected as one of 100 Companies Championing Women by the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity. In June, I was invited to participate in a Utah Business roundtable discussion about women in the workplace. This spring, we awarded two scholarships to local female students going into business and then started an internship program to further assist women on the path to success. I was on FOX Business Live and cited on, Yahoo Finance, Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, KSL and ABC4.

Last month, I was able to take my mother—who is battling Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer—to New York with me, where BookSmarts was awarded four silver Stevie Awards, an international high honor in business. I can’t wait to see where we go in the coming year. 

We’re just getting started

It’s crazy for me to look back to even a year ago and see how far BookSmarts has come. Accounting and bookkeeping isn’t a flashy industry. In a movie, the accountant is the person everyone makes fun of, but finance is the backbone of every good business. If the numbers don’t add up, the company will not succeed. It’s as simple as that. Our clients see our immense value and stick with us, which is the best compliment to me. 

My origin story—finding flexible work to raise my family while still using my skills—could be any woman’s story. 

With my success, I have felt called to be a solution for women facing this same dilemma. A 2016 report by the Utah Women & Leadership Project found that Utah has the largest gap in the nation between fathers’ and mothers’ participation in the labor force at 42.7 percent. I believe that more women would be involved if corporations offered the type of work that women are most interested in. That’s not to say that certain industries are “more suitable” for women—I mean the exact opposite. If every field had job opportunities with part-time options, flexible work hours and a support structure for those who may need to take a temporary step back for any reason, we as a society would be much better situated to take advantage of the skills of many uniquely talented, driven individuals currently sitting on the sidelines because they don’t believe that a job will fit with their other priorities. 

This is exactly the model that is serving BookSmarts so well. We are a female-owned, female-led, all-female workforce. We hire and train women and give them ultimate control over their careers. They can work just a few hours or take on more. We make provisions for maternity leaves, mental health, family emergencies, volunteering and just the daily demands of life. 

I took a step back for my health and family when needed. I want my team to have the same freedom. I protect my greatest asset—my workers—and in turn, our clients are always cared for. It works, and it shows in the way that our clients trust us and remain loyal. 

“There is always a chance to create the life and career you want, and there is much to be said for just hanging in there and plowing forward.”

Each year, I bring my entire staff together for an all-expenses-paid retreat at my family cabin in the mountains. Women fly in from all over the country, and we spend time together relaxing, eating, training, and mainly just connecting and having fun. Everyone looks forward to it. The only complaint I have ever had is that the retreat isn’t long enough!

At this year’s retreat, one of the ladies could only come up for one day due to family demands. We had never met in person, and she pulled me aside to tell me her story. Her husband had recently finished school and was trying to switch industries from banking to education, and had been unable to find a job. 

Several months into this job search, this family was at an impasse. The husband would either have to look for a job in his former industry, or the family would have to go further into debt while he pursued a graduate degree. 

While they were hoping for a miracle, the woman felt drawn to a job listing for BookSmarts that she found through a connection on social media. She was filled with uncertainty. They had been looking for employment for her husband, but could this be a solution? 

Her husband encouraged her to apply, and she was hired shortly after that. She told me, “Jenny, this job completely changed our lives.” Because she was able to bridge the gap in their finances, they had the gift of time to find a teaching job for her husband. 

Stories like hers are my “why.” They are the biggest payoff to the hard work and stress of running a business. 

Work gives people purpose, confidence, freedom and so much more. I know there are more women out there needing the type of opportunities that BookSmarts offers, and I will continue to fight for them every step of the way. 

Moving forward

Two or three years into my recovery, I kept thinking, “If this is the rest of my life, it’s not good enough.” I always knew I had more to give and that there was more out there for me. 

What I want to say to everyone who is struggling, no matter what that looks like, is to keep going. There is always a chance to create the life and career you want, and there is much to be said for just hanging in there and plowing forward.

What I thought would be a good side hustle to keep my family fed while my husband finished medical school 18 years ago has turned into something so much bigger. I may have been happy with my small business of 10 people before my injury, but now that I am back (with a vengeance), I am ready to build and grow and provide as many opportunities to as many women as I possibly can. 

As I celebrate a year back at the helm of BookSmarts, I am so grateful for the capacity to spend my time dreaming up new ways to better serve our clients, support my employees, serve our community and propel us into the future. 

I am still ready for more.

How Jenny Groberg founded BookSmarts Accounting

Jenny Groberg is the visionary force behind BookSmarts Accounting and Bookkeeping. Committed to empowering women at every life stage, she orchestrates a dynamic team of over 20 talented women. Jenny is armed with a finance degree from the University of Utah and her insights have propelled countless clients and businesses to extraordinary heights, nurturing financial awareness and exponential growth. A distinguished four-time recipient of the 2023 Stevie Award, she has strategically positioned BookSmarts as a powerhouse, earning accolades as one of Utah's top 100 companies dedicated to championing women. Jenny's financial expertise is cited across esteemed platforms such as Nasdaq, Yahoo Finance, GoBankingRates, U.S. News World Report and beyond, solidifying her as a standout figure in the financial arena.