Starting an RIA can be an audacious task, whether you’re a newbie in the business or a seasoned pro branching out from an existing RIA or jumping ship from a wirehouse firm. Everyone who’s done it has their own story to tell.

In Ashley Murphy’s case, the story began in Australia, went through a couple of different careers and recently included a three-year stint with a large financial planning firm in the San Francisco Bay Area where he began as a paraplanner and later became a full-fledged financial planner for nine months before he struck out on his own this past August. When he opened Arete Wealth Strategists, a one-man shop in Berkeley, Calif., he had no clients or assets under management. Ultimately, he hopes to do business on three continents.

“August 6 [Arete’s first day of business] was five years in the making,” says Murphy, 32, who notes he got interested in financial planning when he inherited some money and was dissatisfied with the advice he was getting. Murphy relocated from Australia to the Bay Area in 2005 and worked as a corporate financial analyst before he transitioned to financial planning starting in 2008. He attended UC Berkeley’s financial planning program and later earned his CFP designation, and in 2010 was hired as a paraplanner with David White & Associates in San Ramon, Calif. In September 2012, he graduated to financial advisor status there.

But Murphy yearned to run his own firm, so he hammered out a business plan and took the leap with Arete (pronounced ahr-i-tey), which he says refers to the habits or patterns of behavior that seed and nurture self-actualization. Arete’s service offerings include financial planning, investment management, business coaching, succession planning, asset protection and tax mitigation strategies. Murphy’s mainly fee-based practice includes commissionable life and disability insurance products.

“I approached the launch of my RIA with a shotgun approach with five target markets I might get traction with,” Murphy says. These markets are small business owners, tech/biotech/creative executives, professionals, Australian expats, and individuals and families. “It’s more about who matches with my beliefs and with who I am. I’m not getting much traction with executives or professionals, but I do seem to be getting traction with small business owners.”

As of early November, Murphy had six clients representing $800,000 in assets. As a solo practitioner, he believes his growth goals are realistic. “When you look at two to four meetings a year and the hours of prep that goes into them, I think I can handle only 35 clients if I want to have a positive impact on clients,” he says, adding that number could expand if his firm grows and hires additional planners.

Arete’s custodian is Interactive Brokers Group Inc., an online discount brokerage firm that was recommended by one of Murphy’s mentors. “Interactive Brokers lets me establish accounts in multiple currencies and has phenomenal trading capabilities,” Murphy says. “They’re a globalized, trading-centric custodian.”

He believes Interactive Brokers’ capabilities could someday help him realize his long-term goal to have operations in the U.S., Australia and the U.K. (he’s a citizen of all three countries).

Murphy spent roughly $30,000 to launch Arete, and he hopes to run a lean shop by going paperless and relying on Web-based meetings and cloud storage systems. Things are tight now, but he’s optimistic about his future. “It’s been a helluva journey during the 15 months I’ve been an advisor,” he says.