As a kid, Slater Solomon was never interested in accounting. He imagined accountants as lonesome number crunchers. Then college professors encouraged him to give it a try. To his surprise, Slater loved the connection between accounting and helping businesses–and that, believe it or not, accountants are quite sociable. But it wasn’t until moving to Asheville in 2003 that Slater’s career truly found its spark.
“I responded to a help wanted advertisement for someone who needed help with audit work,” Slater said. “The next thing I knew, I had met my mental partner, Stephen Corliss.”
Stephen, a licensed CPA with a master’s in sociology, had operated his own firm since 1997 and initially just needed an extra employee. He saw his accounting practice as a way to blend his passion for the nonprofit and social service sectors. When Slater began working with Stephen, it didn’t take long for them to realize that they shared something: the ambition to help as many people as possible.
As is his nature, Slater said, he quickly proved his leadership abilities and helped Stephen develop the vision of the accounting firm further. The more Slater proved himself capable, the closer Stephen moved towards forming a partnership. By 2008, Corliss and Solomon PLLC became official.
Like many firms, they initially offered a bit of everything; but always saw nonprofit work as their passion.
“The sheer number of nonprofits in Asheville is amazing,” said Slater. “It speaks to the spirit of our community that so many independent and creative people see the gaps within our social network and work to fill them.”
One of the firm’s earliest clients was Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), which has since bloomed into a community pillar for the local foods movement.
“It’s neat to think about how small they were when starting, and how big they’ve become. How much they have influenced Asheville and boosted local agriculture,” said Slater.
In 2012, the firm made the decision to exclusively serve area nonprofits, so they could focus on helping those who needed their services the most.
“It felt like a break-up when we told the for-profit companies we would no longer be serving them. But after we moved through that, it was pretty exciting,” said Slater.
“We’ve made it part of our mission to provide services at a price point that can be as affordable as possible. Sometimes doing what you love is more important than a little more net income at the end of the year.”
Together, the firm’s six employees have supported over 150 area nonprofits through audits and the development of financial stories.
“Every financial statement tells the story of the organization. We tease out that story so it can be used for promotional materials and grant applications. I feel enormously blessed by the clients we get to work with. I love seeing the financial statements fall into place and balance,” Slater said.
“That’s the geeky part,” he added. “You gotta be at least part geek.”
Congratulations on winning July’s Small Biz of the Month, Corliss and Solomon!