By Jasmine Shaw
For the Birmingham Times
With the COVID-19 pandemic having a major impact on both the financial markets and the personal assets of many, Cicely Jones, CEO and founder of MPA Financials, remains on a mission to equip the Birmingham community with tools to attain financial freedom and establish generational wealth.
Though she prefers to meet with clients on a personal level, due to social distancing, “Zoom conference meetings now take the place of in-person meetings,” Jones said.
“Also, having a secure portal through which clients can upload their personal and business financial information allows them to know that their information is safe,” explained the 41-year-old Mobile, Alabama, native, who strives to provide a stress-free experience to earn the trust and confidence of each client.
Jones said, “MPA stands for ‘My Personal Accountant.’ My goal is to service clients in all things accounting and be a personal confidant.”
Via her website and social media pages, Jones educates the community about matters like the extended July 15 tax deadline, as well as how to properly apply for economic injury relief payments, stimulus packages, and Small Business Alliance (SBA) loans and grants.
“This pandemic has placed an immediate change on the economy, individual incomes, and employment. My professional advice? … Be conservative about spending,” she said. “Evaluate your current bills, reach out to your loan holders for deferment on your auto or mortgage payments, cancel any memberships or subscriptions you are not using—re-evaluate or create a budget and streamline your finances. Tough times don’t last always, but tough and smart people do.”
After opening its doors in November 2001, MPA Financials has since expanded to include two employees and offers an array of professional services.
“As I grew, so did my business and services,” said Jones. “We now offer accounting, bookkeeping, full-service payroll, corporate and individual taxes, notary, sales tax preparation, tax resolution, credit repair and restoration, retirement income, estate planning, and corporation formation.”
Jones set her sights on leadership at an early age, with aspirations of becoming a teacher, like the many women she grew to admire at Mobile’s Bessie C. Fonvielle Elementary School. After school, she’d rush to her grandmother’s house to play games with her cousins, five siblings, and beloved aunt Elvira.
“We would chill in the yard, joyride, or go to one of our favorite spots, [a place named] Tom’s, and get ice cream,” Jones recalled. “Those were good, simple times.”
Her mother, Carolyn, opened a grocery and convenience store and game room called Kathy’s Korner in 1984, providing a safe place for children to gather after school. Her father, Johnny, who worked in the labor industry, often reminded her of the “Good Times” television show character James Evans, the father who was regularly seen in his khaki uniform from one of his several jobs.
Jones’s parents not only served as examples of the importance of hard work but also shared valuable wisdom: “Along with her work ethic, my mother would instill in us such powerful affirmations—‘Be Smart and Strong’ and ‘Work Smarter, Not Harder.’ My father always said, ‘Don’t nothing come to a sleeper but a dream, and sometimes that’s a nightmare. … Wake Up!’”
Watching her parents uplift the community and maintain multiple streams of income reaffirmed Jones’s motivation to find a career that allowed her to earn an income while making an impact.
“Minority women control 44 percent of women-owned businesses in the United States, up from 20 percent in 1997, according to the most recent census data,” she said. “Black women are the only racial or ethnic group with more business owners than their male peers, according to the Federal Reserve. This is why I started my business. I wanted to become a trusted financial resource to assist our own when resources are scarce.”
“From Pennies to Prosperity”
After moving to New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1993, when she was in the 10th grade, Jones continued to excel at Alcee Fortier Senior High School, being named homecoming queen during her senior year and graduating with the third highest grade point average in her class.
“I was also heavy into art and was honored to have had an art piece displayed in the New Orleans Museum of Art,” she said. “Nowadays, I blog and … I’m finishing my newest manuscript, [a book entitled] ‘From Pennies to Prosperity: How to Have a Healthy Relationship with Money.’”
Art was Jones’s favorite pastime until she had her son, E.J., who is now 21 and serves as an inspiration.
“My son has witnessed me work hard, hold down multiple jobs, … run a business while working full time. I hope and pray that my hustle inspires him to do the same and even go harder,” she said. “The ultimate goal is to make sure our children and their children’s children are better off than we were.”
After moving to Birmingham in 1999, Jones began her professional career in the accounting department at an executive firm.
“I worked under the vice president of the company and learned basic accounting on the job,” she said. “I spent almost 10 years there, [going] from an administrative assistant to a full-charge bookkeeper, handling the full cycle of accounting duties for small businesses, which included handling all of a company’s banking needs. … I loved this new career change so much that I went back to school at the University of Phoenix and earned my degree in accounting in 2013.”
Jones counts working on the finance team for the committee to elect Randall Woodfin for Birmingham mayor in 2017 as a great honor. One of her fondest memories, however, was helping one particular client launch their first business.
“I found that they were only 18 years old and wanted to start their own business,” she said. “That was such an exciting moment! I was able to help a young person start their entrepreneurial journey.”
Jones also serves as vice president of the Heart of Birmingham Chapter of the American Business Women’s Association, a nationally recognized organization that empowers women from diverse occupations through leadership, educational, and networking support. She also sits on the junior board of Grace House Ministries, an organization that seeks to end the cycles of poverty and abuse by educating, equipping, and empowering young girls to become mature, godly women. In 2018, she was recognized by the Birmingham Business Journal as one of the 2018 Top 40 Under 40 recipients and Who’s Who in Birmingham Accounting and Women to Watch.
To learn more about MPA Financials, visit mpafinancials.com or call 888-316-3830.