From stay-at-home mom to CEO, Brittany Brown blazes a trail for caregivers

The BYU grad had to reinvent work to support her family. Now she helps others do the same

Brittany Brown’s cropped hair, brightly colored clothes and laid-back demeanor suggest cool art teacher. Hip librarian. Maybe landscape designer. Not accountant.

And definitely not an accountant who was recruited by the top four firms in the country. 

But Brown, who lives in Orem, is an accountant, a sought-after one. She’s also the founder and CEO of LedgerGurus — a multimillion-dollar e-commerce accounting firm — despite being on a completely different life trajectory 20 years ago.

Brown was a married, stay-at-home mom in 2005, when her husband moved out. The divorce left her with three young children — 5, 3 and 9 months — and no viable path to provide for them long term.

She was forced to make a significant pivot from the life she had known. Ultimately, however, the pivot allowed Brown, now 43, to pave a new career path not just for herself, but for many other women and primary caregivers she would eventually employ at LedgerGurus.

A natural talent

When she found herself a single mother at age 26, “I couldn’t even work at McDonald’s and make more than I would pay in child care for three little kids,” Brown told me.

She had not finished her college education so she decided her best course of action was to return to school, using child-support payments to keep the family afloat. She registered for classes at Utah Valley University and enrolled her kids in the university’s Wee Care Center, where the small tuition fee was determined by income. Her children happily spent their evenings at the center while she was in class. 

As a new student, Brown had every intention of studying marketing until a professor pulled her aside and suggested she pursue accounting, saying that field would pay better, be more flexible and would open more doors. Then he told her she was naturally skilled in accounting. Contrary to popular belief, being skilled in accounting does not necessarily mean being good at math. Instead, as Brown explains it, it requires an innate understanding of business. 

“Accounting fundamentally tells the story of business,” Brown explains. “I’m a very natural entrepreneur, and I have a very natural business mind. But I did not know that at all. The most work experience I ever had prior to getting married and becoming a mom was like Arby’s and Kmart. I literally never had any jobs that were even meaningful jobs before I became a mom. So I just didn’t know that about myself.”

Brown knew that if she was going to study accounting, she wanted to study it at Brigham Young University. But the transfer posed significant challenges for her and her children. BYU did not offer the same kind of affordable child care options as UVU and all classes were held during the day. However, Brown still felt strongly that she needed to be at BYU so she applied to the school’s highly competitive accounting program and was accepted. 

The program was rigorous. She had class from 8 a.m. to noon every day, and met in study groups often. She received a single-parent scholarship through the Marriott School of Business, which covered the cost of a babysitter who was with her kids until 2 every afternoon. Brown would spend the next five to six hours parenting until bedtime, then do her homework until 2 or 3 in the morning, go to bed, wake up and start all over again.

“It was a really crazy time of my life. It was like an out-of-body experience for me,” Brown says. She explains that she is not a naturally disciplined person, but during this period she became hyperfocused on efficiency. She carried her backpack with her everywhere she went. She would read a chapter from her assigned textbooks in the pediatrician waiting room. She bought a membership to a trampoline park. Her kids would spend all afternoon bouncing while she completed her assignments.

“I was juggling a lot more than the average student and I was juggling it very well,” Brown tells me. She earned the respect of her peers and professors, and graduated in 2010 with offers from the four most prestigious accounting firms — KPMG, Ernst and Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte. Being a highly recruited student coming from a world-class program, Brown said, was “transformational in every single way.”

While the offers from big firms were flattering, accepting would have meant working 80 hours a week and having no time to see, let alone parent, her children. So she accepted an offer at Squire, a firm based in Orem, which allowed her to work part time.

Brittany Brown poses for photos at her home in American Fork on Friday, March 24, 2023. Brown founded LedgerGurus, a company that allows organizations to outsource their bookkeeping and employs primarily women. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

While at Squire, Brown attended an accounting conference where she learned the future of her industry was digital. She realized she could build an entire firm of remote workers.

She had begun to feel like there was no real place for her in the world of accounting because of her responsibilities as a mom, but suddenly a path became clear. Accounting was now a viable job that could be done from home. “I just felt like I had found my calling in life,” she says. She knew she needed to start her own firm.

But at first, she didn’t want to. She didn’t want the burden and responsibility of running her own businesses. She had remarried in 2011 and had a baby, and was hoping to return to the life of a full-time mom. But, she tells me, “I felt this compelling desire to build for others what had never been there for me — the ability to work remotely in meaningful work while maintaining flexibility to meet the needs of your family as well as the needs of your profession.”

Brown stewed on the idea for months. Her husband, Stephen, was excited about it and encouraged her to pursue it. It was all she could think about. But she was nervous to make the jump from employee to entrepreneur. 

Then two things happened. Someone reached out and asked if Brown would be willing to do some freelance accounting, and a friend approached her and asked if she knew of any remote accounting jobs. She suddenly had a first employee and a first client. 

From the ashes
Split decision

Soon they had another client. And then another. Then they had so many clients they needed more employees. Brown felt unqualified to be at the helm of the operation, having only recently graduated and only worked part time. But she also felt passionate about solving the problem for which there had been no easy solution for her.

Two years into its founding, LedgerGurus had $250,000 in revenue with eight part-time employees. “I was losing my mind,” Brown tells me. “I was basically building a house of cards.” She desperately needed a partner who could focus on the business operations. So her husband left his well-paying job to join the company as COO. From that point on, they were all in. 

The next year they had $615,000 in revenue. Then $1.1 million. Then $1.8, then $2.9. Today, LedgerGurus has 68 employees, 60 of whom are female, and about $5 million in yearly revenue.

‘The future of the industry’

Brown describes the culture at LedgerGurus as nurturing. She and the rest of the leadership team are focused on elevating their employees. “We want working at LedgerGurus to be the best career decision our employees ever made,” she tells me.

Half of their employees work part time and most are primary caregivers for their families. They have the option to scale their workload depending on the needs of their family. These accommodations, Brown explains, help LedgerGurus maintain a high employee retention rate and overwhelmingly positive employee satisfaction numbers gathered from surveys. 

“We have a lot of incredibly capable people who have small children at home who I see as the future of the industry. They’re that capable,” Brown says. She explains that flexible scheduling allows caregivers to keep a foot in the profession, progress their skills, and stay relevant without having to give up their home life.

Early in the company’s history, Brown felt too young and too incapable to run the organization. But when a personnel issue arose, she knew exactly what to do and when to do it.

“It made me realize that I have innate strengths and abilities and that those things are key to the success of an organization,” Brown says. “And it made me realize that I really was right where I was supposed to be.”