This year Small Business Sense is pleased to bring you a new series of interviews entitled “Entrepreneurial Insights”.
In this series, I will be sharing stories of inspiration and success in entrepreneurship and small business.
Today, I am excited to bring you the first interview in this series from Nellie Akalp.
Nellie is the CEO of Corpnet.com – a company that helps entrepreneurs start their businesses, file legal documentation and form LLC’s.
In 2005, Nellie and her husband managed to start and grow a company that was later acquired by Intuit. Yes…you read that correctly.
In this interview you’ll get some great business insights from Nellie. You will also discover how she (at the brink of massive overspending) made three simple changes in her marketing strategy that resulted in a 40% increase in her company’s bottom line.
Without further ado, here is Nellies interview.
SBS: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a mother of four, entrepreneur, speaker author and CEO & Founder of Corpnet.com. Through the various “Do-It-Yourself” and “Business-Startup” services I have founded since 1997, I’ve formed over half a million corporations and LLCs for small business owners.
My last company was acquired by Intuit in 2005 and 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.
Through my public speaking, media appearances, frequent blogging and networking with small business owners, I have developed a loyal following of entrepreneurs. In fact, I was honored as a Small Business Influencer by Small Business Trends in 2012, 2013 and again in 2014!
SBS: What is the single most important thing that you have learned in your entrepreneurial journey?
The most important thing I have learned is that true success comes from a plethora of obstacles and failures.
My past failures have paved the way to each future success and although you may hear it many times, it really is true that failures are just opportunities to be seized!
SBS: There are thousands of ideas for small businesses out there, why did you choose to start this particular business? How did you end up in this field?
Helping entrepreneurs navigate the murky waters of small business ownership is something I have long been passionate about. I love that I am able to help someone else blaze their own trail and help them make their small business dreams into a reality.
I want to be remembered for inspiring someone and helping someone become a success and hear that it was because of something that I said, or did or provided that they did not give up and followed their entrepreneurial dreams.
SBS: With recent changes in marketing trends and strategies, how do you manage your business’s advertisement and marketing? Do you think it’s effective?
Our business has created a very strong brand for itself as a result of our aggressive consistent social media efforts and content marketing which has proven to be very affective for us.
As such, we do not really invest a ton of dollars in paid advertising anymore unless it is providing us with a 6x ROI. We look at everything with granularity; it all comes down to ROI in our investments and if it doesn’t pay off, we move onto the next.
SBS: Is there one particular marketing channel that you use vs another? If so, can you tell us why?
We like to be diversified and present across all mediums as opposed to one because we are in a very saturated industry and provide a nationwide service. Hence, being everywhere is better than being in just one place.
SBS: What else are you passionate about? If you did not start this business, do you think you would pursue any of your other interests?
I love to dance, sing and play the piano. Music and dance is a huge passion of mine and I regularly fit dance classes into my weekly routine.
If I did not start this business, I would probably get certified as a ballet barre instructor and teach a fitness class, but since I am a business owner and run Corpnet.com, I found a way to mesh both worlds by working close with a client who is a dancer and choreographer.
SBS: Of course, every business has its ups and downs. What has been the biggest challenge/s for you so far and how did you overcome it?
Our biggest challenge until last July was how do we get profitable and gain more traffic and sales. We thought the answer was pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into paid advertising to the point that we thought we had to shut down the business because we would spend and get a negative return.
We were hopeless and were giving up until we decided to make a huge bold decision and just shut off all ad spending and did the following instead:
- Got active on social platforms. We went full force with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin and Pinterest and I have a personal presence as well as CorpNet. Invest about an hour a day to be active on each platform, follow and engage with users to spread word organically.
- Since we pulled advertising dollars on Google, we decided to play with Facebook advertising. We boost updates with a CorpNet blog post sharing startup tips and tricks which is great to provide helpful advice, bring traffic to our blog and introduce CorpNet to people who may not have heard of us
- We also did a big push via content marketing. We revamped the CorpNet blog and now have contributors share their tips on our platform so they can share their posts with their communities. I also contribute content to an array of online outlets like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Mashable and others to establish myself as an ‘expert’ in my space and boost SEO for CorpNet.com.
- The result: zero effect on sales and a 40% increase in our bottom line.
SBS: Are there any entrepreneurs that you admire? If so can you tell us why?
Of course! There are so many! I love and admire Oprah Winfrey for her entrepreneurial mindset, her passion for life, and her intuition and always listening to her inner voice and her values on achieving success.
I admire and respect Steve Jobs for the legacy he left behind and installing this notion in entrepreneurs about constantly innovating and simplifying people’s lives.
I also respect and admire Tony Hsieh for his customer centric values and the culture he created within Zappos because your employees truly are your biggest asset when you run a customer service based company.
SBS: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs launching a new venture?
Spend ample time testing your product or service amongst people who will ultimately buy it from you.
Try to stay away from any feedback by your family and friends because they are most likely going to tell you what you want to hear instead of providing you with concrete criticism.
SBS: Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
True success should never be about the money – it’s about creating something out of nothing, watching it grow, and making a significant change in people’s lives. Isn’t that how you want to be remembered?
Do what you love and love what you do each and every day! And if you’re going to do it, do it to win it, but play fair and have fun because you only live once so if you’re going to do it, give it all you’ve got otherwise, why do it at all?!
SBS: For individuals interested in contacting you regarding your services, where can they find out more about you?
Anyone can call 1.888.449.2638 during our office business hours. Visit our site at www.corpnet.com or email us to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will make sure your business is established legally and professional in the most quickest and affordable way!
If you have questions or are not sure about how to proceed, we also offer free business consultations: http://bit.ly/vLJ4Yk
I would like to thank Nellie for taking the time to conduct this interview and provide such invaluable information to the Small Business Sense Community. I truly wish her all of the best in her business efforts.
Interested in getting featured on the Entrepreneurial Insights segment here at Small Business Sense? Great! Send me an email here. I am currently looking for more stories to share on via the site for this series. I look forward to hearing from you.