Tania Ibarra

My day job is principal and owner at Tania Ibarra CPA. I’m also co-founder, owner and lead facilitator at Step Up: Equity Matters, which is a movement to help create more equitable, inclusive and diverse workplaces.

My home country is Ecuador and I came to the U.S. for college. My original plan was to major in hospitality and tourism. I fell in love with the idea of sustainable tourism while I was in high school. I looked at it as a way to protect the natural and cultural beauty of Ecuador while creating a viable tourism industry. But while I was traveling to the U.S. for college, I read a magazine article about how most Fortune 500 CEOs had a finance or accounting background and I decided to major in both!

After I got my CPA, I spent years in the corporate world but came to realize it wasn’t an environment that was the best fit for me. I had launched Equity Matters as a passion project, but it kept getting bigger and bigger. I realized that moving away from corporate finance and becoming an entrepreneur was a better fit and launched Tania Ibarra CPA in late 2019.

Part of my strategy during this first year was to work with a variety of clients to find my niche and figure out my long-term business model. At this point my clientele has organically focused on non-profits and small to mid-size businesses. I currently have a staff of three, including me. We’re all women, all Latina and all moms—and that’s happened organically too. 

One of my goals in opening my own firm was to create a place to develop financial services talent among people who didn’t have that opportunity in the past. I also wanted to create a cultural context to motivate and develop talent.

During my career in the corporate financial world, I often felt like I was code switching—having to change who I was depending on whom I was with. It takes a lot of energy to be technically good at your job, and also switching back and forth like that. Plus, I was often the only woman or the only person with a child or the only person of color. I dipped into my heart and decided living like that the rest of my life wouldn’t be a good way to live.

Starting your own business isn’t easy, especially during a pandemic. But I’m very happy—it’s been an adventure.  

My most memorable caffeine was the Mt. Dew a friend introduced me to in college. I had no idea it had so much caffeine. I discovered Mt. Dew one night—it was so refreshing and I drank it all night. I didn’t know what it mean to be overcaffeinated and I was really freaking out!

My current caffeine of choice is a homemade mocha made with coffee and lactose-free chocolate milk.

My favorite place for caffeine is Beans ‘n’ Cream Bakehouse in Sun Prairie. My family and I live close enough to bike or walk there and we love to go for coffee or ice cream.

The person I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with is my grandmother on my dad’s side. My family lived with her when I was about five years old. I remember her making dolls and sewing but I don’t have any insights into what she was like as a person. Based on the stories I’ve heard about her it sounds like she was a little bit of a rebel in her younger years. I’ve always been intrigued by the stories I’ve heard about her and would love to know more.

We often talk about nature vs. nurture. Before I had kids, I might have said it was more about nurture, that we can shape people. But I’ve come to see people are who they are in their core based on their genes, their family, etc. I’d love to go back to my grandma and get a better understanding of that generational legacy. I think I’d learn a lot about my family, not just for me but for my parents—especially my dad.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: Our ability to figure out when we should try to fix something and when something is unfixable.

I’m so intrigued by the idea of why people do or don’t do something. I find that a lot of the time we get in our own way—why are some people good at getting out of their way while others aren’t? Understanding that would solve a lot of problems: We’d have fewer unhappy, hurting people, people who are in pain.

I’ve done a lot of reflection around what it takes to heal and I’ve come to realize that there are some hurts and pain that just don’t heal, that just can’t be fixed. We’ve all stayed in situations where we’ve gotten frustrated and resentful when we should have left. I’d like to have clarity about which things I should try to fix and which ones can’t be.