Written by Katherine Zobre, Director of Training
CEO and Founder of TaxxWiz, Tevin Harrell (pictured second from the left), is an Alabama native, a husband, a father of three, and a trained industrial systems engineer. TaxxWiz is the “new kid on the block” of DIY tax preparation software and something you’ll want to know about well before April 15th of next year. TaxxWiz specializes in innovative tax software solutions for taxpayers and professionals alike. They are poised for amazing things.
I’ll admit, I’ve been bragging about Tevin and his team since I met them. So it is my absolute pleasure to celebrate his business for this double header holiday—Father’s Day and Juneteenth.
TaxxWiz is a fintech startup located in Innovation Depot. TaxxWiz is one of only 17 IRS-approved DIY tax prep softwares. They are the only IRS-approved DIY tax prep software that is founded and led by a minority and the only company led by someone under 40 years old. Tevin is a true disruptor.
All of Tevin’s family is from Bessemer, Alabama, and most of them still live there. His great grandmother had 13 kids, and he spent a lot of time with family growing up. His family’s move to Pleasant Grove at the age of 13 helped shape who he is today. After moving, he had a lot more resources at his fingertips: “I got into all the AP classes, and it was OK to be on the Math Team. I also played basketball, so I was able to fit in with both crowds. I think there I really got to fully be myself.” The diversity of those experiences helped Tevin feel comfortable negotiating many types of situations in his professional life.
But after graduating Auburn University in Engineering, all he could think about was getting out of Alabama. “Most people don’t even leave the city! So the first engineering job I took was in Texas. My whole goal was to get to New York. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I’d heard that was the place to do something big.”
Then, two things happened at once to make Tevin shift his focus back to Alabama: his soon-to-be wife got pregnant with their first child, and he got a call from a tax office in Birmingham asking if he knew how to build a mobile app. Tevin’s engineering can-do, “fix it or figure it out” mindset kicked in, and he knew he could figure out how to build a mobile friendly, DIY with assistance, fully virtual tax prep software.
Tevin’s first taste of business was through his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, during his time at Auburn University. Once pledged, he became the Social Chair where he planned all the service events, negotiated with the event venues over price, organized parties, reviewed financial statements and profit and loss statements, and learned how to constructively disagree with his friends and brothers. “That’s where I really realized I loved the business aspect of organizations.” For the next few years, aside from classes, initiating Auburn events was the center of his focus. Even when he got his first job in a different field, he knew he eventually wanted to go into business.
So when he made up his mind to try to develop a fully mobile tax prep business, he just called some friends and fraternity brothers. His friends knew him as the person who was great at taking on the world. He asked his friends if they could add their expertise. “One of my co-founders, Olu, stepped in for operations, and another of our fraternity members, Justin Robinson, is a marketing genius. And then we had Jordan who is really talented at videography, visuals, and IT. I just knew this team could make it all work. We then continued to add extraordinary members with different skill sets like Bria, Will, Mayo, and Corsavius, just to name a few.” TaxxWiz keeps adding devoted young superstars every year.
Tevin used his full time engineering job to fully fund TaxxWiz until 2021 when he and his team were able to go full-time with the company. Until last year, Tevin was a project engineer traveling around the country for Parker Hannifin—all while still running this dynamic business. “During tax season, I just wouldn’t sleep. I’d go to work all day and then stay up all night—no exaggeration—until 4 or 5 am. Then I’d wake up at 6:30 and do it all again.”
TaxxWiz has built a substantial business-to-consumer market base and is now focused on helping other tax professionals. “Originally we focused on building the software for ourselves, but now we’re focused on small iterations to help tax professionals.” They have been admitted to Alabama Launchpad and are busy raising their seed round to expand their Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C) segments.
Tevin wanted to share the following advice and resources with future minority entrepreneurs:
“You don’t know what you don’t know. Join as many business programs as you can. Get advice from people in different needs of your business that have done your same thing before.”
“Get around as many people doing things better than you and bigger than you as you can. The more things you’re exposed to (that’s why reading is so great), the more dramatically it expands your possibilities. It makes it realistic. I now say yes, I can create a billion-dollar business all because of meeting someone who has done that. I realized, ‘Wow that’s a regular person that did that!’”
Books & podcasts:
Zero to One
Y Combinator Startup School
David Never Sleeps
Resources & advisors:
Victor Brown, Jay Spratling, and JC Matthews at Birmingham Business Alliance
Innovation Depot – training, events, meeting people at Depot After Hours
Birmingham Chamber of Commerce
A takeaway message from Tevin: “It’s possible. The resources are here in Birmingham. The accelerators are here, and there are a lot of opportunities. Link with Innovation Depot, the Birmingham Business Alliance, and other resources for as much support as possible.”