Nellie Akalp is a serial entrepreneur. She started MyCorporation in 1997, a business that helps entrepreneurs start a business. By 2005 her business had a gross revenue of $1 million in sales a month.
As soon as the 3-year non-compete expired, Nellie started CorpNet. CorpNet is a competitor of MyCorporation, the same business she built.
Say hi to Nellie at corpnet.com.
Success Harbor: Hi everyone, this is George Meszaros with success Harbor and I have Nellie Akalp with me. Welcome! Nellie is a mom of four (4) she is a serial entrepreneur she once founded MyCorporation but now she is the CEO of CorpNet.com, thank you for being here and welcome.
Nellie Akalp: Thanks George for having me it is a pleasure.
Success Harbor: Before we come to CorpNet.com, which is the company that you started, among the other companies, I just wanted to talk a little bit about the history, your entrepreneurial history and I wanted to bring up MyCorporation. It is a business that you started back in 1997 and by 2005 the business had a gross revenue of 1 million sales per month and you ended up selling that business to Intuit and I just wanted to get an idea for our audience, how did it feel to sell the business?
Nellie Akalp: It was really a great opportunity and a blessing and one that we weren’t really expecting actually when we started MyCoporation.com back in 1997. Phil my husband and business partner and I really didn’t have an exit plan or an exit strategy in place, so when we were confronted and approached by Intuit it was really under the guise of a partnership opportunity which soon turned into one of an acquisition type of a conversation and once we were approached with that offer it was really hard to resist and the timing was perfect and we decided to accept the offer and take it and it has been the best decision to and we are very happy with the outcome MyCorporation today is privately held they are no longer owned by Intuit it is headed by CEO Debra Sweeney who happen to work for me while I owned MyCorporation.com we wish them well, we wish them great success and we are healthy competitors in the industry today as we speak.
Success Harbor: According to a Press Release that was released by Intuit that was there sale price of 20 million in cash for MyCorporation.com and I just want to get you know just as most entrepreneurs dream is to be able to build a business and to sell it for substantial sum how did it change your life and how did it feel to be able to have such great success in business.
Nellie Akalp: so George you know the money itself really didn’t change my husband and I as individuals you know money is a tool as to what you can do with it and obviously you can do a lot with a larger sum of cash and as far as the business goes and the success that we felt as entrepreneur being able to build something out of nothing , create something out of nothing and then creating something bigger than yourself and then being approached by a publicly traded company and getting acquired for that sum of cash off course it is validation that you have entrepreneurship in you and you are able to create it and it is validation and it is the best reward that you can get as an entrepreneur that you have created it, you’ve built it and now the reward is that you have been acquired by a publicly traded company but from a personal standpoint for my husband and I it just allowed us to do more with more resources and create a really life for ourselves and our family and we were able to build our family and allow to have more children and now we are parents of four. So as individuals it didn’t really change us we are not the type of people that are really moved by materialism but it did give us the opportunity to create a comfortable life for ourselves and our children and to be able to take that money and after a few years after our non-compete run out to create something new which we did which is now CorpNet.com for us.
Success Harbor: Yes, actually that was my next question and that is I have read that after you sold to Intuit there was a three (3) year non-compete and as soon as that expired you got back into the incorporation business why is that? Why back into the same business? Have you tried anything else? Can you explain that a little bit?
Nellie Akalp: Sure there was actually a non-compete put in place when we decided to accept the acquisition of our firm and that non-compete was in place for a matter of three (3) years once that non-compete ran out in 2009 I decided to get back into the same industry because really I realize that this is where my passion lies and I love small business and I love making people small business dreams into reality for them and watching them blaze their own trail and in answering your previous question I did try other types of businesses and I dabbled in a few I as a matter of fact open up a line of clothing and decided to dabble a little bit into the clothing industry, but really it wasn’t as interesting to me as the idea of starting business for people and I also found myself while I was under the non-compete in sitting at friends shops and helping them build their business although I couldn’t open up my own shop during the non-compete so once the non-compete ended I looked into the industry I saw that really nobody was offering what I wanted to offer and I came back in 2009 and I decided to start CorpNet.
Success Harbor: I think other entrepreneurs struggle with that when they start a business that they think they would like and then they realize that this is not something that they are passionate about. How long do you think we should pursue something like that an idea like that and what tells you that this is not the way for me?
Nellie Akalp: So, for me, the turning point was when I had my clothing business, I often found myself not really paying attention to that business and focusing on helping others build their business and that was really the deciding factor for me that I was in the wrong industry and what I really needed to be doing was consulting and assisting people with starting businesses I use to do and for that reason I put an end to my clothing business and once my non-compete ran out I decided to start CorpNet.com and really the other things that you want to ask yourself is, how much do you love what you are doing? Are you passionate about it doing you? do you believe in it and for me although the clothing line was fun you know business ideas to dabble in it was not really what I was passionate about I wasn’t really excited about it, I felt that I was in it just to make some money and really that is not the best to start a business if you are really in it to just make money it is not really what you are passionate about and for me that was really the turning point. I really found myself always inspired and excited when I saw somebody starting a business and I also say myself in plenty conversation with those people and hence the reason why I really knew where my passion lies.
Success Harbor: Ok, I would like to ask you about starting CorpNet.com online business change so much since you start MyCorporation back in 1997 compared to starting CorpNet.com so what did you do to be able to compete again in the same crowded space I mean by the time you started CorpNet it was such a different environment give us an idea of what was your strategy how did you think things change from your first business to the second since the environment as changed so much.
Nellie Akalp: absolutely so me starting MyCorporation.com in 1997 it was really started at the birth of the internet during that time with us at such an infancy stage, whereby competition was not as fair into getting into the market and so we put up a one page website we really did not have to do much to gain traction or traffic if you had a great name and a great domain name and you had a website up so you would be listed and ranked in the top 10 and you would start getting order I mean people were knocking at our door even when we were out credit cards they would leave credit cards number on our answering machine so we really didn’t have much of a problem with gaining traffic and converting those traffic into sales and dollars and you know the business really ramped on its own and allowed us the opportunity to move and scale up quickly and once that money was coming it would give us the additional tools and resources we needed to make a more lucrative website and a more functional website with the additional functionality. Hence, the reason why we were able to scale and build up that business so quickly that we are doing nearly a million dollars in gross sales monthly and revenue come 2005 when we were approached by Intuit fast forwarded to now with my current company CorpNet.com we founded CorpNet.com during the height of the recession in 2009 and we were entering a market now that was truly, truly at its maturity where it was fully commoditize and now we are dealing with thousands of competitors in the same industry offering self help legal document, filing services not to mention I am coming back into an industry where now I am dealing with my old business which is now a competitor including several other reputable company so what I need to do on my strategy was to come out being disruptive and come out and check the market and really get a feel of how can I create a niche for ourselves that is going to be different and when CorpNet was formed it was at the infant stages of social media and the social media movement so when we came out and launched CorpNet we came out into the market with a very heavy, heavy social media angle when we launched the business and hence why we were able to again disrupt the market and create a niche for ourselves and grow rapidly in the last four and a half (4.5) years. I knock on wood where we are now back again on top competing with top leaders amongst them are legal zoom and we are very lucky and bless because we created the niche for ourselves that was working and we came out with a very, very, heavy social media angle as part of our launch.
Success Harbor: so talk about social media because there is so much talk of it and some did like you did with CorpNet and some are really struggling with it. So what do you do in social media that is not so much noise but it is real value for people and something to make people want to engage with your social channels.
Nellie Akalp: I think with social media the reason why people are not successful at it is because frankly I think that number 1, they are not really utilizing the social medial the way social media is to be utilized which is really engaging and taking a sincere interest in building up an engagement conversation with people that is not self promotional or with an agenda of selling or pushing your product or services at them and that is what really social media is about and that is why we have been able to be successful at social media. Social media is not something that is going to get you immediate sales, social media is a tool that needs to be used to engage with people in the area that your business niche is and in order to engage with people and really, really, softly acting as a resource to those people you can’t just be like hey, I am an incorporation filing service, incorporate your business for $49.00 that is not what social media is, it is a method of engaging with people and letting them know that you are out there and you are an expert in your specific market that you are selling your services for me for example I make strong voice out there as a small business expert who also happens to be the CEO of CorpNet so when I am engaging in social media it is not about hey come and start a business with CorpNet it is really giving out tips small business tips, lifestyle tips, balancing tips as to me as a small business expert how I run my life as a small business owner.
Success Harbor: So your business as how to incorporate over a hundred thousand businesses that is a huge number can you give us some common mistakes people make as they incorporate.
Nellie Akalp: Sure so on the top of that list in my opinion there really five common mistakes that small business owners make when they want to start a business or embark on the journey of entrepreneurship on the top of that list you know when you come up with a business idea the first thing entrepreneurs what to do is to ensure that they come up with that really cool name for their business and often time what we see happening is not making sure that name is available before they start using that name in commerce or add their business name and printing u business cards or letter head so you definitely want to make sure that the name is available before you start using that name for you business a quick way to do this is to do a quick online search with a reputable company such as my company CorpNet.com where we offer free business name searches online and a research expert can quickly join the online name search for you free of charge to make sure that, that name is available so that you are not ending up on the wrong end of the trademark dispute down the line.
Success Harbor: Ok, now briefly I don’t know if you can do this quickly but this comes up so many times is it and LLC, is it a CCorp, is it a SCorp, what is the rule of thumb for somebody that starts a small business which way should they go and why.
Nellie Akalp: So George as you know CorpNet.com is strictly a self-help legal document filing service we cannot provide you with legal, tax, or financial advice generally speaking however, for small business owners with less than 10 employees LLC or the SCorporation is great for a small business owner with the SCorporation there are requirements that have to be met before somebody can elect to be a SCorporation however, if you meet those requirements SCorporation is great for small business owners who can qualify and does not mine the corporate formalities that goes with a corporation on the other hand he LLC is great for small business owners any small business owner can qualify to be a LLC which also stands for the Limited Liability Company there are no requirements that need to be met in order to become a LLC anyone can form a LLC and it is great for a small business owner who wants that liability protection but also wants minimal formalities and does not want the headaches of all the paper work or all the corporate formalities that goes with a normal corporation that you have to abide by so rule of thumb for small business owners is Limited Liability Company or the SCorporation we have a great tool on our site which is called the business structure wizard literally you come to the website that is CorpNet.com and on the homepage you can click on it and answer a few questions and the wizard will provide you with an answer of what the best business structure is for your particular small business.
Success Harbor: Can you talk about the size of your team at CorpNet and the reason I brought it up is because I think a lot of people think that everything is just software but in the back end there is a lot of people working right mean it is not that you press a button and it is all software driven incorporation.
Nellie Akalp: So, in our company we try to automate as much as we can because we are a service business and my husband and my goal in the small business industry is a self help legal document filing system is to continue to innovate and come up with application that will really streamline the process and make the small business owners much, much less complicated when it comes to starting, running and protecting their business but with any service based industry off course you are going to have the App Support Staff and with our company we are a smaller size company we have approximately 15 people in house that work for us that (inaudible) sales and support staff and then in addition to that we have our executive team members that help me in really leading the company and really bringing my ideas as for strategy and innovations in to life at CorpNet as we grow the business.
Success Harbor: So what advice do you have for other entrepreneurs that wants to differentiate themselves you have done it once when the competition was not even close to what it is now and you are doing it again in a very highly competitive field and yet you are able to succeed what ideas do you have for others I mean there so much competition going on in any area what do you think people should focus on.
Nellie Akalp: I think if you are already in a business and you are trying to figure out how you really define yourself and how you separate yourself from the competition my suggestion to you is to really start with your current client base and engage with your clients your clients are really, that’s your pot of goal and if you have a business with a strong client base you definitely want to start there engage with them listen and see how you can really, really improve your products and service offerings and for those entrepreneurs who haven’t started a business as yet and are in the process of wanting to start a business my suggestion is it always starts with you and making sure that about your business idea and what you are kind of bringing to life and really if you believe in it and if it is going to make a significant change in the environment because if you are not passionate about what you are trying to start and if you don’t believe in what you are about to start then nobody else is going to purchase your products and services and ultimately you are probably not going to be successful at it. Really, really it really start with you and whether you are passionate about whatever it is that you are trying to start and innovate out there.
Success Harbor: let’s I mean you have had a lot of success in business but I am sure there have been some challenges so let’s talk about the challenges in building a business, how do you deal with the roller coaster ride or the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur as it become easier or is it still very difficult, what is your advice on dealing with the ups and downs.
Nellie Akalp: So for me I will be lying if I told you as an entrepreneur there is no roller coaster ride and in my business as competitive has my industry is I mean I deal with it on a daily basis and really you have to have the stomach to be an entrepreneur and you have to have the stomach to be able to be in a competitive industry such as my industry and the way I deal with it is basically I take it every day at a time, I take it one day at a time and frankly I am very reactive and I try to react and be able to be flexible with wherever the market is taking me because you have to have the stomach for change and you have to be able to adapt to change quickly because specifically with a competitive industry such as our industry you have to be able to look at everything in a granular level and take the emotions out of the process otherwise you are just going to drown.
Success Harbor: What is the greatest high you had owning CorpNet.
Nellie Akalp: The greatest High that I have had to date owning CorpNet is that we start a company before we were able to be acquired and we started CorpNet at a very, very, tough economic time and in four and a half (4.5) years we are at the top again and really it is the rave and the testimonials that we get from our clientele and how they truly name people on my team that they have worked with on a daily basis and how they really enjoyed working with CorpNet and they are so happy that they went with us than going with our competitors so for me that is definite validation that Ii am in the right business and I am doing the right thing.
Success Harbor: if somebody came to you that had a job but saw your success in business and said I would like to become a successful entrepreneur what would be the first thing that you would teach that person.
Nellie Akalp: I would say how are you defining success that would be the question I would ask them is how do you define success because truly I believe that success is something that you achieve based on how much you put into whatever it is or whatever it is that you would like to see success from so that is the first question I would ask them is how do you define success because that is really where I would be able to gage that person to see if they are really up to the work and the obstacles and up to the task of being an entrepreneur up to the battle.
Success Harbor: What do you think is the biggest time waster for entrepreneurs especially early on in the business?
Nellie Akalp: Well I think it really depends on the type of business that you are in but I think as an entrepreneur you definitely want to owning in the path that you are really good at doing and delegate the ones that you are really not good at doing and give them to other that are great at doing those task.
Success Harbor: And do you have any last words of wisdom to share about starting a business or taking a business to the next level.
Nellie Akalp: not really, I think we have covered everything George I just want to let you know that if anybody have any interest in wanting to start their business or have an existing business and they would like CorpNet to assist them with keeping their existing business in compliant you can always reach out to us at email@example.com and we will make sure that your business is established legally and professionally and for those of you who want to maintain an existing business we’ll make sure that your business remains in full compliance and you can always reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.corpnet.com.
Success Harbor: Well Nellie thank you very much and make sure that you check out their website CorpNet.com again thank you and wish you much success again with your business.
Nellie Akalp: Thanks George for having me on you Podcast.
Success Harbor: Thank you.