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“A surge in startups:” Milwaukee-based McMurtry Financial Services stands ready to support the new crop of entrepreneurs

This story first appeared in the Blueprint365 Magazine. Click here to request a copy.

Cheryl Muldrew-McMurtry stepped into entrepreneurship through an effort to slow down.

The Chicago native came to Milwaukee more than 30 years ago to work at Firstar Bank – now US Bank – and found the demands of the career incompatible with the quality of life she wanted.

“Once I got married and started having kids, just being in that corporate private sector was demanding with this career field,” she recalls. “I switched over to the nonprofit sector and became a financial manager for a charter school here (in Milwaukee), and just did all of their books and finances. That’s where I cut my teeth on nonprofit accounting.”

She went on to launch McMurtry Financial Services in 2004 to serve a need she identified in that sector.

“I saw a need to support that small business community, the nonprofit sector,” she says. “A lot of businesses were launching, but then had no longevity and sustainability because they didn’t have the partner of a trusted accounting resource.”

Now nearly 20 years on, McMurtry Financial Services provides accounting tax preparation services, business consulting, organizational assessments, and training and education for small businesses and nonprofit organizations in Milwaukee and across the United States.

“Our goal is to really be that partner with the small business and organizations that we serve for their financial reporting, financial resources, and then also to partner with them to build sound financial systems,” Muldrew-McMurtry says. 

She says she sees a similar surge in entrepreneurship that she saw when she first started – and with that, the need for those startups to team up with a trusted partner.

“The pandemic, I think, sparked a new surge in startups, small businesses. I think a lot of people were motivated and knew, ‘I needed to do something different, I have the ability as a small business person to get what I do out to the masses,’” she says. “But I don’t know if the necessary due diligence of just getting information and gaining an understanding of what you’re stepping into, and some of what you may need to have in place before launching, happened.”

She says that due diligence isn’t as hard or as intimidating as it seems, especially because organizations like a variety of chambers of commerce exist to serve specific populations of entrepreneurs (See the resource directory on Page 5). There are also plenty of options for financing, including banks, credit unions and community development financial institutions.

“You don’t just have to stick with the chamber that fits your culture,” she says. “They all are willing to help and serve the community. Tap into those resources where maybe you do feel comfortable…take advantage of (of those resources) where you do feel comfortable. There’s really no excuse. You just gotta go and look for it.”

She cautions, though, against letting that due diligence feel daunting.

“Just do it,” she tells anyone thinking about starting a business. “Don’t allow the due diligence to make you think it’s not achievable.” 

Beyond being a new startup’s accounting firm, Muldrew-McMurtry wants to be a consultant, partner, and connector.

“I am always happy to refer people that have expertise in areas that we do not so that people can get the support and help that they need,” she says.

In addition to providing one-on-one support for small businesses and nonprofits, McMurtry Financial Services will hold its second annual financial symposium on April 24, 2024, to “bring in resources that we work with, that we have relationships with, to provide that support to that the small business and nonprofit community,” she says.

The theme for the 2024 symposium is “All About Accessing Capital.” Speakers will include Tim McMurtry as master of ceremonies; Kimberly Alexis Newton of Alexis Enterprises as keynote; and panelists Nina Johnson of US Bank, Amanda Aliperta of Momentum Nonprofit Strategies, Theresa Scott of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Errol Barnett of Legacy Redevelopment Corporation, Denise Pachuca of BMA Bank and Akayna Morrison of Northwest Side Community Development Corporation.

About 150 people attended the first symposium last year.