This Business Succeeds by Helping Entrepreneurs Follow Their Dreams

by Daisy McCarty

How did Staples® Succeed: Small Business Network community member and CorpNet co-founder Nellie Akalp become an entrepreneur, running an online legal document filing service that helps others navigate the murky legal waters of starting a business? Ironically, her husband’s law school woes were the catalyst.

“My husband was getting a D in his corporations class, and he felt immersing himself in the subject would allow him to bring his grade up,” Akalp says. So they bought an Internet domain name for $100, and “he started publishing content on a one-page Web site. Before we knew it, we had our first client wanting to form an Oregon corporation.”

The Akalps were not new to small business ownership. After Intuit acquired their first business, MyCorporation.com, in 2005, they jumped back in four years later with CorpNet. Today, they manage a half a dozen employees to help other entrepreneurs follow their dreams.

Here, Nellie shares her Succeed Seven insights on starting a new business in the era of social media, the biggest business mistake she ever made and her advice for her fellow entrepreneurs:

1. In my first year as a small business owner I did not have a roadmap. It was all based on instinct and watching my family as I grew up. My grandparents, who mostly raised me, owned a Mediterranean restaurant where I used to help as a cashier and take people's orders. They then opened a franchise business, where I used to help serve ice cream, waitress and manage other team members. Both of these jobs taught me a ton about running a small business, working hard and being dedicated to something I have always been passionate about — helping people.

So as a result, with my first company, I just knew that when the client called, you had to go out of your way, listen to their needs, provide a solution based on what they needed and deliver what you say you are going to deliver. It was so easy to gain Internet traffic back then that I was just trying to keep up with the influx of orders. The business was growing faster than I could keep up with.

With my current company, CorpNet, the first year of business was completely different. We faced more competition in a very saturated market and the new era of social media, which we didn’t understand right off the bat. We really tried to get our foundation in place so we could analyze clients and see where the traffic came from. The first year with this business was really spent fighting to get the client in the door as creatively as possible.

2. My biggest business challenge is increasing the lifetime value of our customers and perfecting analytics to the point that I can rely on the data and make decisions based on it accordingly.

3. My biggest business mistake to date is making marketing decisions based on feel and gut, instead of based on Web site traffic analytics.

4. I knew my second business was going to be a success when I increased our pricing and saw our volume increase. That was a validation of the fact that our clients are coming to us not because of our competitive pricing, but for our service and what we stand for in the business community: making business dreams into a reality with personal, professional and timely service.

5. The biggest lesson I’ve learned as a small business owner is to do more with less, and always look at your numbers and data before investing in anything within your business.

6. In five years, CorpNet will continue to grow as a leader in the online legal document filing industry. I want us to revolutionize the legal industry and become pioneers to make the business filing process and maintenance more streamlined.

7. I’d advise my fellow entrepreneurs that entrepreneurship is not for everyone. You need to have the stomach and patience to fail numerous times before you succeed. Before you launch, make sure you are ready for all of the ups and downs.

Bonus: My must-have tool is my smartphone, as it keeps me accessible to anyone at any time. I'm a mother of four and sometimes have to attend to business outside my office while at a kid’s activity or transporting kids. I also love my Staples Stickies® note pads, which I cannot live without as they keep me on track with my list of to-dos and what I need to do daily. I don't think I could ever live without them.

Daisy McCarty is a professional writer who covers a broad range of topics including business, IT, health and human resources. Daisy is based in the Dallas area and can be contacted via her Facebook page.

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