Outstanding contribution award goes to Lucy Cohenby
The co-founder of the first subscription-based accountancy firm took home the 2021 outstanding contribution award for her constant innovation and efforts to help fellow accountants get to grips with their own mental health struggles.
Lucy Cohen has been awarded the Accounting Excellence Outstanding Contribution award for co-founding a fast-moving, always-evolving business while also giving back to her fellow professionals.
Cohen’s endless energy, generosity, creativity and drive may have propelled her into the national limelight, but it's also converted into exceptional growth for the innovative Bridgend-based firm she co-founded 15 years ago with her childhood friend, Sophie Hughes.
The outstanding contribution recognition was handed to Cohen as the final award at the Accounting Excellence Award ceremony this week at The Brewery in London.
The winner is chosen by the AccountingWEB team and its advisers to recognise an individual’s exceptional service and contribution to the accounting profession and working for the good of the wider profession.
Innovating from the start
Starting off with £100 in her spare room, Cohen and Hughes co-founded Mazuma 15 years ago. The pair spotted a gap in the market for the UK’s first subscription based accountancy service in 2006. Mazuma hasn’t stopped innovating, whether that’s the development of its own app or a new automation project.
But Mazuma and its trademark purple envelopes have innovated in other areas such as marketing, where Cohen and the team led the way with client tutorial videos and a hilarious spoof Blue Peter educational video in the style of Peter Serefinowicz’s Look around you.
From a boom mike intruding onscreen to announcing the prize of a trip to the British lawnmower museum with dead-eyed enthusiasm, the video was a masterclass in showing the human side of accounting.
Cohen also dedicated her time to supporting the small business community. This was none more true than in March 2020, as the UK plunged into lockdown, and the self employed income support scheme safety net wasn’t yet in place. Cohen teamed up with a group of fintech entrepreneurs to create a prototype app that let the self-employed use live banking data to verify their loss of income due to coronavirus.
But perhaps her greatest contribution has been her willingness to share her own vulnerability. Cohen has been very open and frank about her mental health. Talking about her own struggles empowered fellow professionals to acknowledge their mental turmoil while trying to keep up with furlough claims, client demands and ever-changing Covid support polices.
She has written articles on AccountingWEB about her year with depression and how a recent near death experience forced her to reflect on her career.
Drawing on personal difficulties
By drawing on her personal difficulties, Cohen has supported and educated the rest of the profession on the deep importance of looking after themselves. Cohen continued this in her AccountingWEB Live show People Matters, where she highlighted mental health and embracing diversity.
Cohen’s influence has extended beyond accountancy. This year she started a campaign for better pain relief for women undergoing IUD procedures. Cohen brought the conversation to the nation’s attention and her constant campaigning is set to improve women’s health in the UK. Throughout this campaign she was representing the profession.
Writing shortly after a near-death experience this year, Cohen summed up what she’s achieved. “I was offered the golden excuse – I almost died. I had the perfect out. A moment where I imagine many other people would jack it all in, up sticks and live on a tropical island (alright, that does also sound pretty appealing). But I didn’t. I chose to keep doing what I do. I wanted to do it.
“I have built a life that fulfils me and gives me purpose and happiness. And my business has been a huge part of that.
“Creating a business with my happiness at the centre of it allows me to set my own hours, take only the meetings I choose, work only with the people I want to work with. I can focus on the things that bring me joy and delegate or refuse the rest.
“This year sees Mazuma celebrate its 15th birthday. Maybe if I had almost died ten years ago, I might have felt differently about carrying on. While I was going through all the pains a growing business experiences, I most certainly did not feel like I was living my best life. But right now, I do. And it transpires that not even a life-threatening series of blood clots can put a damper on things for me.”
Lucy Cohen will be speaking at AccountingWEB Live Expo on 1-2 December.