The Society honors a well-respected female business owner for being a champion for women in the CPA workplace, and are pleased to present her with our Lead By Example Award.  This award recognizes those businesses that not only have a strong women’s program in place, but also strong women in leadership positions to show others that it can be done.  This year’s recipient is Esther Phahla.

Esther Naniki Phahla is the president and CEO of her self-named firm.  Esther is a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Tax Coach.  She holds a Master of Science in Taxation from Golden Gate University and she also holds a law degree from South Africa. Having worked for major accounting firms for several years she decided to start her own business after the birth of her daughter because she wanted to pursue her career and still be available for her family.

Welter-and-Phahla Esther is actively involved in empowering and educating female college students about the opportunities in the accounting profession.  Female college students need to realize that the accounting profession is broad.  Esther emphasizes the importance of getting certified as soon as they graduate college, and believes the CPA designation makes these young females stand out. She encourages them to stay current with the new laws affecting accounting and challenges young women to acquire as much knowledge as they can early on while never being afraid of entrepreneurship.

Esther is actively involved in teaching the concept of the lifestyle CPA firm.  She realizes that working 80 hours during tax season is not healthy for anybody but by building a system that spreads the workload throughout the year you can better service your clients and maintain better cash flow.

Esther advocates a gender-neutral working environment in her firm while women in some accounting firms still hassle with breaking the glass ceiling to get to partner level. Esther’s philosophy follows the words of Gandhi  - “Be the change you wish to see in the world!”  Hence, she got interested in entrepreneurship and building a lifestyle CPA firm to implement the changes she wished to experience as a woman and business owner and to be an example to other upcoming young female professionals.

Esther actively hires interns from local colleges to give them the working experience and the practical side of the tax field rather than gaining experience only through theories that they learned in school.   As a mother and wife she also promotes a work-life balance and prioritizing work-flow. Esther emphasizes the importance of continuing education and being a perpetual learner both in her firm, and with those she mentors.

Esther’s firm works with other women owned businesses in her area by utilizing their skills and expertise and promoting entrepreneurship in the community. Esther serves on the Women in Business Conference Committee for her local Chamber of Commerce.  Later this fall she has been invited to speak to a woman's group to share her story about running a successful business as a wife, mother and serving the community as a board member of organizations she supports.   She will share the day-to-day activities that help keep her focused and growing her business and mentoring other business professionals within the accounting profession.  Our congratulations to Esther Phahla as AWSCPA‘s 2014 Lead By Example Award recipient.