By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
Symenthis Tutt loves her work and wants to make sure it's enough of a force for good for God to love it, too.
This year, she completed her first tax season in a storefront with her Trinity Tax Service at 1606 W. U.S. 190 in Copperas Cove, and she graduated from the Central Texas Business Resource Center's FastTrac NewVenture course, which taught her how to think as a business owner and not just as a tax professional.
She had entered the field with years of experience in tax preparation, some paid and some volunteer, but she learned about pricing strategies, cash flow charts, government rules and regulations, copyright laws for printed materials, and networking and accountability, she said.
The course is designed to analyze new businesses and business ideas. Most of the people in the summer class decided they were undercapitalized and put their plans on hold for a while.
"A person in business might love being independent but still needs someone to be accountable to," she said. "My partner in that is Lucy Diaz of The Jewelry Lady Boutique in Killeen. We talk all the time."
This is the first time she's had a commercial location after years of preparing taxes in her home. Her husband, Joseph, was an E-6 at Fort Bragg, N.C., when he got the chance to take warrant officer's training, and the family was transferred here in 2005. He was deployed shortly thereafter, and she did taxes in her home again until she found the location on 190, waiting for him to return to move into it.
"I've tried to make the office a part of my home that I brought with me," she said. "I want my clients to feel as comfortable here as I would try to make them in my home. This is a Christian business, and I want people to feel God's love and peace when they come in.
"People stress out over having to file their taxes, so I try to make it stress-free and peaceful. This business is really a God-given gift, and I want my clients and all residents to believe that God has blessed me to be a blessing to the people. I keep my prices reasonable and affordable, and my clients walk away feeling comfortable about the cost."
She gets continual mentoring from Leo Sullivan at the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corp., who said she is the first Copperas Cove business owner to complete the NewVenture course. The EDC, fostering an alliance with the BRC, helped with her tuition.
"And I'm finding that all the Cove businesses are a mutually supportive community," she said. And to make sure the spiritual dimension is foremost, she got Deacon Robert Nelson and Minister Marilyn Nelson of the Christian House of Prayer to bless the business. The name "Trinity Tax Service," for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, was suggested by a friend one night at dinner.
"Early in our Army career, I wanted something I could do no matter where we were stationed," she said. The family was at Fort Bragg, N.C., for 12 years, beginning in 1985. She started working with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance to aid soldiers in 1989 and continued for three years. "I fell in love with numbers and with doing tax returns then," she said.
She started working for a tax service in Fayetteville in 1992, and after four years, her employer, John Fletcher, said he had taught her all he could. She opened Trinity Tax Service there in 1996 as a home-based business and says she had her family's full support.
After a year, they moved to Fort Hood, and she continued her work from Comanche III housing "while juggling football season, wrestling season and track season between the three older sons while being a PTA mom with the youngest," she said.
Then the family was transferred to a Navy base in Naples, Italy, where she was not allowed to do taxes professionally, so she continued on a volunteer basis for four years. The Army gave her an office, and she won a commander's award for public service.
"Now I'm back in Texas, stepping out on faith and trusting God that Trinity Tax Service is out in the economy," she said.
Most people think of the tax business as seasonal, depending on a mad rush to file individual taxes before the April 15 deadline every year, but there is always a great deal of individual and business tax work through the year. Tutt is trying to increase her service to businesses. To help build enough year-around work for the office, she offers bookkeeping services, and she is working toward licensure in insurance and securities to offer further assistance to tax clients.
Right now, her husband, who set up the computers, helps her in the evening and Alice Rodriguez is a secretary and receptionist during tax season. Her sons Nolan and Timothy also help occasionally.
"I want to build the business so that it's an asset for my family if they need it. I want my husband to be able to take a few months off after he retires. My sons have plans of their own, but plans don't always work out, and I want this to be there for them if they need it."
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7557.