Student Profile Jaime Ziegenfuss Whitehead

JaimeWhen Jaime Ziegenfuss Whitehead moved to Boone, N.C., 20 years ago, she wasn’t quite sure what the future had in store for her. Having grown up in Boise, Idaho, she decided to take a risk and move to North Carolina with a friend who needed a roommate. Thus began a journey as a restaurant owner, wife, mother, and, most recently, a CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) Scholarship recipient.

Jaime’s first job when she landed in Boone was serving at a local restaurant, where she eventually met her husband. She spent three years there, in various roles, before she and her husband were given the opportunity to purchase the restaurant in 2006.

It was an exhausting, but exciting, undertaking. The restaurant, Coyote Kitchen, offered Southwestern Caribbean food in a casual setting. “We started with lots of vegetarian options, but then moved on to gluten-free, dairy-free, allergy-friendly, and being able to accommodate many, many dietary needs,” Jaime explains.  

The restaurant experienced tremendous growth: What started as a 50-seat establishment eventually grew to 150 seats, with annual sales of approximately $1.8 million.

Just before the pandemic hit, however, Jaime and her husband (with their now three kids) considered that it might be time for a change, given the demands of owning a restaurant. “Then COVID lit a fire under us,” Jaime recalls. Forced to close the dining room, Jaime and her husband pivoted the restaurant to takeout, which offers a different set of challenges as in-person dining (for example, with in-person dining, there’s a limit to the number of orders to fill but with takeout, the orders can pile up fast).

In January 2021, Jaime and her husband both decided to go back to school – him to finish a BS program in Mathematics and her to attend a nearby community college while still working at the restaurant full time.

During her year and a half at community college, Jaime discovered she liked accounting. Actually, it wasn’t so much of a “discovery” but more of an affirmation. “In my work at the restaurant, I was involved in that side of the business: analyzing costs, auditing daily receipts, keeping the books, making sure that our menu was priced appropriately, and more. I loved this role, and so it’s been a great experience to study these topics in an academic setting,” she says. 

In April 2022 she and her husband sold their restaurant. After completing her associate’s degree, Jaime enrolled in Appalachian State this fall, where she’s a full-time student and expected to graduate with her BSBA in May 2024. She also plans to continue her education to earn her MSA. She’s especially enjoyed her cost accounting, intermediate accounting, and tax accounting courses. “It’s definitely a good fit for the way my brain works,” she explains.

Jaime hadn’t ever heard of IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) while at community college but this summer, as she was getting ready for her classes at App State, she heard someone mention the IMA Student Chapter. She decided to check it out on Google and, curious, attended the chapter’s orientation meeting this fall. She was hooked.

She immediately joined the chapter, signed up to join an IMA Student Case Competition team, and traveled to Pittsburgh last month to attend the IMA Student Leadership Conference. She’s slated to step into the chapter president role in January 2023 and most recently, she received a CMA Scholarship, which will allow her to study for and take the CMA exam for free. 

“I’m thrilled about the CMA Scholarship,” Jaime says. “For, me, I know that focusing my time and energy to earn my CMA will help give me a foundational knowledge in management accounting. I really think it will open up more doors for me as I move forward in my career.”

Looking back rather than forward, what would Jaime tell her younger self? Her answer came quickly: “Take in what life presents to you and don’t miss out on opportunities that come along, even if they present challenges. Often, it’s the difficult things that give the best opportunities for learning. Be open to where the universe guides you to and try to embrace a gratitude mindset.”