After more than four decades as an accountant and business advisor at Martini Akpovi Partners LLP, founding partner Mary Akpovi has stepped down from her work to pursue a philanthropic career full time.

“It is not retirement. Rather, it is a change in focus and a brand-new career,” Akpovi said. 

Her long standing relationships with charity and volunteer organizations, locally and abroad, have been as important to her as her office work, so now she is merely shifting her focus to make philanthropy her priority, she explained. While she is not yet sure what form her career change will take, Akpovi has faith there will be an opportunity that calls to her soon and will continue her work with area organizations doing pro-bono accounting work and volunteering until her next project reveals itself.

As a high school student, Akpovi had been immediately drawn to accounting and economics classes because the material focused on real-world problems and allowed her to help people realize their financial goals and build their lives from that stability. She became a CPA in 1978, just seven years after immigrating to the U.S. from Nigeria. 

The drive to support others has followed Akpovi through her career, motivating her to complete a doctoral degree, co-found a CPA firm, and work with Exceptional Children’s Foundation and Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, as well as vocational training centers and orphanages abroad, like Mercy Childcare Ministries in Uganda, Africa.  

“My passion is to make a difference whenever I can, to add value, and to put a smile on somebody’s heart so it cannot be wiped away,” Akpovi said.

Hands-on volunteer

Having previously served on the board at Hope of the Valley for two years, Akpovi is particularly passionate about working for people experiencing homelessness. 

“Mary has a way of challenging you and bringing out the best in you. Every time I leave Mary’s presence, I feel challenged, I feel like I can do better,” Ken Craft, chief executive at Hope of the Valley, said. “She’s not one to just give from a distance. I mean, she gets right in there. She wants to love people up close.” 

During and beyond her time on the mission’s board, Akpovi has sponsored numerous events and often volunteers to drop off clothing and shoe donations in person so she can meet with the people she helped. 

“People need to know that they matter to somebody. When you know that you truly matter to somebody, obstacles become challenges that you can overcome, because somebody believes in you. And that’s the key,” Akpovi said.“Sometimes I look at society and look at the disenfranchised, some of these people in gangs or whatever it is they do, they’re just crying for somebody to believe in them.” 

Akpovi co-founded the accounting firm where she worked for the majority of her career with partners Robert Mischel and Don Iosue in 1991, specializing on estates and trusts, and the tax and business needs for small and international companies. At the time she began her career, women accountants — especially Black women accountants — were rare. Women now make up roughly 40 percent of accounting roles, but less than a quarter of partners in CPA firms, according to statistics by Journal of Accountancy. Black people still make up less and 2 percent of the field. During her career, Akpovi used her position of influence to help small and large businesses alike as they were founded, grew and sold — some for millions of dollars. 

‘Destiny helper’

The accounting firm Akpovi helped to found remains open at 16830 Ventura Blvd. in Encino, run by partner Steven Martini, who joined the firm in 1997. In honor of her lifelong commitment to volunteer work, the firm sponsored a house in Akpovi’s name in the Tiny Home Village, a transitional housing service run by Hope of the Valley, to support people transitioning out of homelessness. 

“I really loved what I did and hope to keep doing it, in many other ways,” Akpovi said. “I am hoping that people will be able to use my knowledge to bless people and come along as a destiny helper, either to help train the disenfranchised or be there for those already building and help them finish well.”