Universal Bookkeeper plans to move to new offices

From left to right, Kaleigh Fazekas, Accounting Specialist; Meagan Stanton, staff accountant; Beth Miller, Chief Operating Officer; Justin Miller, CEO; and Accounts Payable Specialist Brittany Sheldrick form the team at Universal Bookkeeper, Inc. (PHOTO BY SIMON EISENBACH)

UTICA, NY — What started as a hobby in 2015 for Justin Miller has since grown into a full-fledged business with a staff of five and a new location coming later this year.

Miller was working as the CFO of Hospice & Palliative Care in New Hartford at the time, but began providing accounting services alongside a business. Then he added a few other businesses, working on their accounting needs through nights and weekends. Before he knew it, he and his wife Beth, who previously worked as an accountant in the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in Rome, worked on this “hobby” every night and knew that they had a decision to make.

The couple decided to turn the hobby into a business and opened Universal Bookkeeper, Inc.’s first office in the shared workspace thINCubator at Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica. The space was ideal for Universal, which offers all of its services remotely as well as in person. These services include accounting and bookkeeping, outsourced CFO services, consulting, tax preparation, and do-it-yourself payroll with Gusto Payroll software for small businesses.

Working in this space has proven extremely helpful for a start-up company, says Beth Miller, COO of Universal Bookkeeper. “The [incubator] helped us transfer our hobby into a finalized business plan,” she notes.

The Millers were the company’s only employees for the first six months, before hiring their first employee in early 2018.

“Obviously we were growing and ready to look for a bigger space,” says Beth Miller. Universal Bookkeeper spent about a year in the thINCubator before moving to 421 Broad St. in Utica.

In 2019, Universal Bookkeeper added two additional employees and continued to expand its client list. The company currently operates a 2,800 square foot leased space which includes a reception area, three offices and a large conference room.

Since the company was already operating mostly remotely, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t derail its growth. In fact, Universal Bookkeeper was able to offer even more robust services to customers by sourcing all available support, such as Paycheck Protection Loans and other small business benefits.

“We tried to step in to help our small business owners,” says Beth Miller. “We researched and helped them apply for these things,” referring to various government assistance programs available to small businesses.

With plans to continue to grow at a “right click” as the pandemic subsides, it made sense to seek out a space that will accommodate future growth, CEO Justin Miller said.

This led to the purchase of the 14 Genesee St. property in New Hartford in late 2021. The Millers worked with Bradley & Bradley Real Estate in Barneveld, and it took around six months to find the perfect site. Oneida County property records show Universal Bookkeeper purchased the building for $250,000 from John and Arlene Capraro’s trust. The building previously housed a hair salon and a screen printing business but was empty at the time of the sale.

“We’re basically gutting it to the posts,” says Justin Miller. Their vision is an extremely modern office space with an open concept and lots of glass. “A space where employees want to be,” adds Beth Miller.

The Millers expect Universal Bookkeeping to move to the new space this summer. The lease for their existing space ends in August. Although the new space is smaller at 2,000 square feet, it is designed with the Millers’ needs in mind. “It’s our right size,” notes Justin Miller. They work with King Office Interiors of Rome to design and furnish the space. The Millers declined to disclose renovation costs.

The space still allows the company to grow, says Justin Miller, and they hope to attract “the most talented” new employees to the company where everyone is a Certified Professional Advisor for QuickBooks. He estimates the space can accommodate up to eight employees, allowing the company to add three more people. The building also has eight parking spaces in a rear lot and ample street parking for guests who prefer to meet face-to-face.

While the company’s location in downtown Utica has been great, Justin Miller is excited about the new prospects at the new New Hartford location. “It’s an opportunity for us to attract and market a different clientele,” he says.

Universal Bookkeeper (www.universalbookkeeper.com) currently works with 55 monthly recurring clients, approximately 400 business and personal tax clients, and provides outsourced CFO services to four hospice organizations across the state.

The Millers expect customer growth to come organically as current customer businesses grow with the addition of new customers. Current Universal Bookkeeper clients include The Balanced Chef, Center for Leadership Excellence, Nail Creek Pub & Brewery, Mohawk Valley Wellness, McGrogan Design, and law firm Passalacqua & Associates.

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