Over the last 2 years, I have had the privilege of getting to know many sensational women entrepreneurs around the country, and I cannot even begin to calculate what they have taught me. I am so excited for the first in a series of many interviews with women in start-up business. Many of them moms and wives/partners and business owners who are full of little golden nuggets for you and me.
I recently had a chance to chat with Nellie Akalp of CorpNet.com and discuss childhood ambitions versus who we, as women, really become and do…read on.
RB: Tell us a little bit about CorpNet.com? What is the 411?
Corpnet.com provides business filing services required for a variety of business needs such as forming a Corporation or Limited Liability Company (LLC), filing a DBA/Fictitious Business Name, Trademark Search and Registration services, and much more across all 50 states.
Corpnet.com has been in business for over 3 years. We are not some big, anonymous corporation with nothing but automated e-mails and recorded voice messages. We are a small business helping other small businesses. We are a team of real people who are on the phone all day talking with entrepreneurs in their journey to success.
Our Mission is to provide the most comprehensive and cost-effective service when it comes to starting, protecting, and managing your business. Our expert teams of business formation specialists are dedicated to assisting entrepreneurs in every stage of the business building process.
Hands down, we provide the best email, phone and web support in our industry so our clients can always expect to talk with a real person to help guide them through the process. We KNOW THIS because we actually got secret shopped and their testimonial about us is the best, all around email, phone web support EVER.
RB: WOW, secret-shopped! That is serious business, but certainly some of the best feedback you can get!
CorpNet certainly exceeds expectations for a small business, and I love that it is a small business helping other small businesses.
What is your personal story and how did it lead you to forming CorpNet?
Corpnet.com is my second incorporation filing service based on the simple philosophy of truth in business and my strong passion to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs in starting and protecting their business. Through the various “Do-It-Yourself” and “Business-Startup” services I have founded since 1997, I’ve formed over 100,000 corporations and LLCs for small business owners.
My last company MyCorporation.com was acquired by Intuit in 2005. Today, my husband Phil and I, operate Corpnet.com where we help small business owners establish their businesses and submit their legal filings in any state across the U.S.
As CEO of Corpnet.com, I am a strong advocate in educating small business owners and entrepreneurs about the importance of protecting their personal assets. I enjoy discussing legal and business issues concerning everything from business startup through acquisition. I am also responsible for overseeing and managing the daily operations of the business.
RB: What did you want to be when you grew up as a child? Is it different than what you are doing now?
I always knew I was going to be a business owner. My family members all had their own businesses and I was surrounded by the entrepreneurial spirit ever since I can remember. I never imagined I’d be involved in an online business that helps entrepreneurs start their business, but after dabbling in a few other industries, I found that is where my passion lies.
My husband and I decided to start our own business back in 1997 when we were in law school. We named the company MyCorporation.com and set off to help entrepreneurs incorporate their businesses online. In 1997 there were not many companies on the Internet yet. This was the time of Netscape and Lycos. We saw the opportunity and went for it.
So, we registered a domain name for MyCorporation.com and started publishing a website. I still remember our first call; it was Tom from Oregon. He was looking to form an Oregon Corporation. We actually had no idea how to incorporate in Oregon, but had to learn fast. Then came the next call, and the next…
Things moved incredibly quickly. My husband Phil left for two months to take the bar exam while I ran the business. He returned to find four workstations in our living room instead of our couches and television. In fact, I hired three of my fellow law school friends to help answer phone calls and process orders.
In March 2005, Intuit approached us on what seemed to be a simple strategic partnership arrangement. The discussions quickly turned into an acquisition offer. Even at this point, I wasn’t thinking ‘sell’. However, when the Intuit team walked up to a whiteboard in our conference room and wrote the number on the board, the offer was too good to resist.
After we sold MyCorporation.com to Intuit in 2005, we took a few years off to focus on our expanding family. We are currently the parents of four children, so we had a lot to focus on, but still that entrepreneurial urge started to set in after a few years. In 2009, and after the non-compete agreement with Intuit expired, we decided to get back into the document filing industry since that’s where our passion and excitement lies; making people’s business dreams into a reality. We started all over again with CorpNet.com, our latest filing service.
At Corpnet.com, we pride ourselves on providing the best email, phone and web support in our industry. We help business owners on a daily basis form LLCs, Corps, S Corps, C Corps. We help entrepreneurs file DBAs, register trademarks and more. Really a one-stop-shop to get your business started off all while talking to a real person in our small office.
Our new business is growing steadily and I cannot be happier knowing that I get to wake up each and every day and do just what I love to do – help entrepreneurs make their business dreams into a reality and succeed.
RB: Why do you think that happens? Our goals/priorities change?
One’s circumstances can change at a blink of an eye. What one had thought or envisioned will never ever happen the way one envisioned it. For us, we went to law school together, thinking we were going to do one thing, and then when we got out and saw the average salary of a lawyer and the time requirements…it really did not fit into our lifestyle and we ended up realizing it really was not for us. We are just plain and really simple and not into playing the political game and better off doing something on our own and running our own business.
RB: What words of wisdom would you lend to other moms who are a little leery to take the plunge?
I truly believe, that the reason I’ve been able to be so financially successful is because my focus has never, ever for one minute been money. If you’re a new entrepreneur, I suggest not worrying about being successful, but working towards being significant – and the success will naturally follow.
If you do work that you love, and work that fulfills you, the rest will come. And, I truly believe, that the reason I’ve been able to be so financially successful is because my focus has never, ever for one minute been money.
In a nutshell, here are some tips for any start-up:
- Live within your means and don’t be afraid to start small.
- Don’t dwell on your least favorite tasks.
- Learn to say no.
- Don’t overlook the legal bureaucracy.
- Don’t forget to celebrate YOU with each success.
RB: Work Family Balance – truth or myth?
Definite Truth, but there are exceptions!!! As a serial entrepreneur, I know all too well the hectic ways of building a business. It’s intense. But, it gets a bit more intense when you’re building that business with a spouse. Throughout these 15 years (actually just celebrated our 15th this month), we’ve struggled to keep our sanity and have some fun along the way.
Here are a few things I’ve learned to keep our lives balanced as a husband and wife and as business partners:
- Leave business behind at the dinner table. With four young kids, it’s virtually guaranteed that we won’t be discussing company matters over dinner. However, even before our children arrived on the scene, Phil and I worked very hard to refrain from discussing business matters over dinner. It was the one time during the day that we made a clean break from being ‘business partners’. I believe this simple rule helps us stay healthy and multi-faceted, both as individuals and as a couple.
- Mandate date night (just like a business meeting). When you’re running your own business, especially with your spouse, you’re going to move mountains in order to squeeze in a meeting with an important client. The same should hold true for your spouse. Even to this day, Phil and I try as hard as possible to have our own date night each week. I know that schedules get busy, and it’s all too easy to put off time for yourself ‘just this week.’ But having this special time together is critical to recharging the batteries, both for yourself and your relationship.
- Accept that complete separation is impossible. Separating business and home life is important, but it’s simply not always going to be possible. And that’s okay. From time to time, Phil and I realize that the office is the only time we can discuss important issues free from interruption from the kids.
RB: What is the one thing you wish you had more time for?
Aligning the business tasks that I enjoy doing the most with the “must do” business tasks that make the business more profitably. My hubby/business partner always has a tough time just pulling me in for some creative time because I am either blogging, or managing the dailies or off to a conference or shooting a video so it does not leave much room for quickly pumping out new products and services, but we try to manage and do the best we can. I wish I could be cloned!!!!
Nellie Akalp is Founder and CEO of CorpNet, an online legal document filing service where she helps entrepreneurs incorporate or form an LLC for their new businesses. She founded her MyCorporation.com with her husband in 1997 (sold to Intuit in 2005). She is a passionate entrepreneur, small business advocate and mother of four. Through their various business ventures together, Nellie has formed more than 100,000 corporations and LLCs across the U.S. Follow her on Twitter at @CorpNetNellie. Nellie is a popular blogger at a variety of small business outlets, including: Small Business Trends, Mashable, Freshbooks, and AMEX Small Business OPEN Forum.