Nellie Akalp, the CEO CorpNet —an online legal business document preparation service, is a trailblazer in the small business world. She has helped more than 100,000 small business owners protect their assets by forming an LLC or incorporate their new ventures and has been recently recognized as a 2012 Top 100 Small Business Influencer. In addition to being a small business advocate and pioneer within her field, Nellie is also happily married with four beautiful children. Nellie took time away from her extremely busy schedule to share her business experience and the secret to juggling family and work to achieve the ultimate balance (without the help of a nanny!).
Nellie recalls always wanting to be an entrepreneur, growing up the majority of her family members were business owners and she had the opportunity to work in different jobs that she always found her self taking initiative and being in charge. However she was not quite sure what field she would ultimately excel in until she met her husband. The two met in their last year of college and both wanted to attend law school. They ended up going off to separate schools but continued to date. In 1997 Nellie recalls being a broke law student and clerk with a job that paid a mere $10 per hour. Her husband came to her with this brilliant idea of providing businesses all over the United States with a quick and easy way to protect their assets and get their business up and running by preparing and filing their legal documents via the internet. She believed in his vision so much so that she give him $100 as an initial investment to launch MyCorporation.
“Our first customer was a business owner from out of Oregon, I had too quickly learn the legal documents and process to file for business ownership in Oregon,” Nellie chuckled as she recalls the beginning. “I was able to get through it utilizing my law clerk experience and after that customer, the calls started to coming in.”
Shortly after the launch Nellie’s husband left to take the bar so she was left to run MyCorporation on her own. “I turned the living room of my apartment into a workstation and hired three law students to assist me. When the orders first started coming in, I didn’t even have a credit card machine to process the orders. Since my mom owned her own business she was able to aid with processing payments until I was all set up,” Nellie reminisces.
$1,000,000 a month…
By 2005 Nellie and her husband were singing to a different tune… a tune that rang out $1,000,000 a month in gross sales. But Nellie admits she wasn’t moved by the numbers, she was excited to get up everyday and play a pivotal (sometimes life-altering) role, assisting new business owners from all over the country realize their dreams of business ownership. So when Intuit approached her with an offer to acquire her and her husband’s business, initially she was reluctant to sell. “How do you sell something that you are so passionate about?” Nellie pondered. After careful consideration Intuit acquired MyCorporation leaving Nellie to oversee the overall operations. Noticing how the control had shifted greatly after the acquisition Nellie knew that it was time to move on. As a true entrepreneur at heart she took time off to spend time with her family and also dabbled in a few entrepreneurial endeavors including; teaching aerobics and kickboxing, and opening a clothing company. None of these ventures inspired her, she knew that her passion was helping small business owners realize their dreams by becoming a company. The non-compete clause in the contract with Intuit would keep Nellie away from her passion for three years.
CorpNet is born…
In 2009, when the non-compete clause section of the contract had expired Nellie readily dove right back into helping small business owners realize their business ownership dreams with the birth of CorpNet. Her company thrives today because she is a small business owner, helping other small business owners succeed. Nellie and her staff provide the very best customer service that there is to offer and they get the job done efficiently and effectively. Added alongside her top-notch customer service and ethical business practices, Nellie graces the front page of her website not a stock image. This reiterates that Nellie is a real person and a small business owner just like her customers’ making her brand more personal and approachable, unlike her larger competitors in the marketplace.
Top reasons small business owners should protect their assets…
Nellie asserts that is a smart idea to have liability protection no matter how small the business is. If a business happens to be sued, with the proper protection the business owner will be shielded from judgments against personal assets. Having a business structure in place also aids with the correct way to file taxes, boosts overall credibility, adds a layer of privacy (the business address goes on public record not a home address), access to business lines of credit, and helps to attract investors.
Nellie affirms that she is strictly a online legal business document preparation service, so for in depth legal advice she advises that small business owners seek a business attorney within their respective states. She also reassures that for the services she provides an attorney is not needed, “For general questions we can guide them in the right direction.” A small business owner can be educated about the structure of each business formation and make an informed decision for a fraction of the cost that an attorney would charge. In addition to the lower fees, as previously mentioned, Nellie and her staff make the whole experience personal for the small business. She admits to being a happy fun-loving person that rolls up her sleeves everyday and works in a cubicle right next to her employees, “I share my day with people that I love, and I get to talk to people with amazing dreams and help them make their business become a reality.”
A commonly asked question by small business owners about business structure…
“What state should I incorporate my business in?”
While it is common knowledge in the business world that Delaware, Nevada, and Wyoming are the most business-friendly states in terms of incorporation. Nellie notes that small business owners with under ten employees should incorporate in the same state as their; employees, residence, bank account, and shareholders.
Business challenges Nellie faces everyday…
Even as a successful business owner Nellie has her share of hurdles to get over. The two challenges that plague her as of late:
“Aligning the tasks that I have to do versus tasks that I like to do.”
“Corpnet is growing rapidily, outside my core group of staff members, I find that it is hard find to good ethical workers to bring onto the team. As a result I’m always trying to automate where I can.”
How Nellie balances family and business…
Like some entrepreneurs her co-founder and business partner of close to 15 years is her husband. She often gets asked by her small business peers how they make it work with four children (no nanny) and a business —together! Nelly admits that building a business is intense, but they key is to look at the big picture and take everything as it comes. She also shared the following tips regarding what works best for her and her husband:
- Leave business behind at the dinner table. For her and her family it is not everyday that they all get a chance to sit at the dinner table together —with them being entrepreneurs and active children (a couple of football players, a gymnast, and a baby). So when they get together for dinner actually focusing on each other is most important.
- Have a date night. Just like business meetings are mandatory, Nellie advises so are date nights. “My husband and I spend one-on-one time together even it means just getting in the car and driving for an hour. If you don’t have date nights before you know it three years have passed and you’ll be wondering where the time has gone.”
- Separation of business and home life is not always possible. Nellie also points out it is important for small business owners to realize that there are times when it will be impossible to separate business from personal when you are in business with your mate. She advises when these moments occur handle the situations immediately and accordingly and get back on track.
An interesting small biz diamond Nellie shared…
Quite honestly throughout the entire interview Nellie shared several small biz diamonds, but there was one in particular that made me do a double take:
A sole proprietor without the protection of a corporate shield, if sued can experience a judgement that can last up to 22 years!
That sounds like a real nightmare! Even with the deepest pockets who wants to spend up to 22 years in litigation? While being a sole proprietor is a great match for some business owners, Nellie made me realize that it is important to do your research and have a full comprehension of the business structure that you select for your small business.
A small biz diamond from Nellie to small business owners…
“If you are really considering entrepreneurship, NEVER have the focus of money. Don’t worry about becoming a millionaire —don’t even worry about being successful. Find something that you are passionate about, allow your passion to shine through and you will realize your dreams. Focus on being significant and in turn you will become a success.”
To learn more about a business structure that will be best suited for your small business visit www.corpnet.com. For updates follow Nellie and her company on Twitter @CorpNetNellie and @CorpNet. Additionally connect with CorpNet on Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn, and Google+.
Read more: Make Your Brand More Personal