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Immigrants are Integral to the DSM USA Community

Global DSM

January 22, 2019

I never imagined of owning my own business, but that is where my life story took me! I was born in Beijing, China, then immigrated to Canada, and finally immigrated and settled into life in the United States. This settling and resettling process has taught me to apply my newfound understanding of life’s journey when helping people from all walks of life in accounting, tax and financial areas. An opportunity finally allowed me to pursue my true passion of helping people when I was able to start an accounting firm called Community CPA.

Education and Work Experience

I was born and raised in China until I was 19 years old, when I immigrated to Canada. I arrived in Toronto in the early ‘90s and studied at York University majoring in Business Administration. I met my husband there while finishing my last year as an undergraduate. In 1996, my husband obtained a job at Iowa State University as a math professor. Soon, Greater Des Moines (DSM) became my new home.

I worked at Iowa State University as well as an accountant for three years.  In 2003, I took a new job at Wells Fargo Financial in downtown DSM and was later promoted to be Vice President of Controllers to manage financial reporting for Canadian operations. With my position at Wells Fargo, I traveled back and forth to Canada a lot, which also allowed me to see my family who still resided there.

During my five years at Wells Fargo, I still had roughly 50 private clients in Canada, to whom I provided tax services and financial advice. I made a promise to myself that I would not let my entrepreneurial role interfere with my position at Wells Fargo. When I realized I could no longer hold myself to my own standards, I made the difficult decision to immerse myself fully into my own business. A client’s generous donation provided me the seed money to find a space and allow me to start my dream business in 1998. The five years of experience I gained at Wells Fargo laid the solid foundation for me to be successful as an entrepreneur.  

Although I had been exposed to Western culture by living in Canada for many years, there was still an adjustment when moving to the U.S. I quickly noticed there was a smaller minority population and that brought some challenges. One experience I remember is the stereotype of all Asian people being Chinese and more specifically, owning a Chinese or Asian-based restaurant. This idea quickly follows with the assumption of having multiple family members living in one household. When my husband and I wanted to buy our first home, we went back and forth with the building company, who ultimately didn’t want to sell us the home. After talking with my then secretary, she told me, “Of course they’re not going to sell it to you, because all the Chinese restaurant owners would have so many people living in that house.” We were both working professionals.   

Benefits of Community CPA

After discovering my strength in understanding people of different cultural backgrounds and my effectiveness in connecting and helping people, I strive to give back to my community through the services I offer at my firm. I changed my company name from Ying Sa, CPA to Community CPA. My firm offers financial services, such as tax auditing, governmental auditing, tax planning, tax auditing and filing, as well as accounting and payroll services. I’m able to reach several different minority communities by having staff that can speak Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, French, Mandarin, Cantonese and Thai. That is why it’s called Community CPA because it’s not about me, it’s really about the community effort.

I encourage everyone to embrace the concept of inclusiveness, equality and diversity. I want to be the force to implement that.

Through the Global DSM international talent strategy, The Partnership works to establish Greater Des Moines (DSM) as a global community attracting and retaining foreign-born persons to the region. Check out more Global DSM stories.

Through the Global DSM initiative, the Greater Des Moines Partnership works to establish Greater Des Moines (DSM) as a global community by bolstering global trade and foreign investments and leveraging international talent.