I’ve been writing for Nellie’s Small Business Blog at CorpNet.com for a little while now, and I recently had a chance to talk with Nellie Akalp, Founder and CEO of CorpNet.com, to learn more about the story behind her business. As a freelance writer, I get to work with a lot of different clients in all sorts of industries, and from talking with Nellie, it’s clear that she is incredibly passionate about her business. It’s always fun to see people who are doing exactly the kind of work that they were meant to do!
Nellie Akalp has built a career out of helping other small business owners start a business, incorporate a business, form an LLC, and manage their business filings. Starting in 1997 with a single-page website offering online incorporation services, Nellie and her husband Phil founded MyCorporation.com, which went on to become a highly successful company that eventually was acquired by Intuit in 2005.
“Our business started kind of on a whim back in 1997,” said Nellie. “Both Phil and I had gone to law school – I was still finishing my law degree while working, and Phil was home studying for the bar exam. I remember one day I came home from work and Phil was sitting on the couch with his laptop, and he said he had an idea to do this thing called ‘online incorporations.’ This was 1997, and so the Internet was still young. And I said, OK, what do you need to do? And he said, ‘I need $100 to buy the website URL.’ And that was where it all started.”
Nellie and Phil got a fast start with their online incorporation business. “Money started coming in almost immediately,” said Nellie. “This was in the early days of the Internet, so it was easier to plant your flag and find a place online; there wasn’t as much competition for traffic.” Over the next 8 years, Nellie built the business, helping thousands of small businesses incorporate, file business documents, and educating small business owners on how to properly comply with regulations and protect their personal assets by creating a corporate shield.
In 2005, Nellie and Phil sold their company to Intuit. They stayed on in a management role, but Nellie quickly decided that she wanted to be back on her own as an entrepreneur, rather than an employee. However, since she had to sign a 3-year non-compete agreement prior to leaving the company, Nellie wasn’t able to do the same kind of business incorporation work that she had loved before.
“Leaving our old company was a really emotional process and a HUGE learning experience,” said Nellie. “I was kind of at my wit’s end during those 3 years – I thought about starting a fitness gym, or designing a clothing line – but nothing was as fulfilling to me as helping small businesses. Once our 3-year non-compete window was up, I knew I wanted to get back into this field.”
Nellie Akalp is a law school graduate, having graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of La Verne College of Law, and so she has a professional perspective on business incorporation, deciding on a legal structure, and properly filing business documents that many other online services might not be able to provide.
“There are so many other online business incorporation services out there now,” said Nellie. “The climate has changed completely since 1997 – to think that we started with a single-page website is kind of incredible to me now! But what we try to do is provide a highly specialized, personal, attentive level of service for small business owners. We’re a small business, and we really ‘get’ the challenges that small business owners are facing. We give people advice, we help them navigate the complexities of making the right decisions for their business, and we see a lot of customers who come back to us as their businesses grow over time.”
Helping people incorporate a business and filing business paperwork might sound like a rather mundane, technical field, but Nellie will be the first to tell you that for her, this kind of work is a labor of love. “It is so fulfilling for me to talk with business owners and entrepreneurs every day, I love coming to the office every day,” said Nellie. “At CorpNet, we are in the business of helping make people’s dreams come true. I really believe that. Every day, we are helping someone get their business off the ground, protect their personal assets, and have the peace of mind of knowing that all the paperwork is done right. It’s a wonderful way to make a living, and I have huge amount of passion for what we do.”
Nellie Akalp is not just your typical CEO/ Entrepreneur, she’s also a mother to four children, including a 3-month old. She especially enjoys having a chance to advise other women who are interested in starting businesses, whether it’s a home-based business or another venture.
“One of the interesting effects of the recent recession and changes in the labor market is that we’re seeing many more women who are becoming the sole breadwinners and heads of household for their families,” said Nellie. “I want women to know that yes, it is possible to have a family and have a successful business. I love my life. I love having kids, I love my family and my husband, and I love my work. Every day I feel like I’m making a meaningful difference to help new companies come into the world. It’s just like Oprah says, if you want to be successful, work first to become significant. I truly believe that if you are doing work that is fulfilling to you, and you’re making a difference for other people, the money will follow.”