Could you tell us a little about yourself – how you ended up starting CorpNet and how important is it for you be online?
My husband and I were both in law school when we saw the need to help entrepreneurs with their legal filings. We realized that much of these services could be provided online and save entrepreneurs thousands of dollars in legal fees. So, we launched our first online legal filing business. This was 1997 – the early days of the Internet. We actually sent a check to Earthlink for $100 for the domain name, put up a one-page website, and were shocked when our first customer came in.
It’s been an exciting journey ever since. We sold that first business to Intuit in 2005 and then launched CorpNet a few years later. Our entire business model is based on the Internet- we wouldn’t be able to reach our customers across the country and make our service so convenient and affordable if we weren’t online.
You have a beautiful website. Did you build it yourself or reach out to a designer?
Thank you! Most of the credit goes to my husband, Phil. He’s the designer. Phil and I direct the design and art direction, and our developers handle all the coding. As for the design, it was really important for us to convey that we’re a small, family-oriented business. We like to have fun. The biggest difference between us and our competition is that you won’t get a recorded message when you call us. So, it was important to convey this spirit in our web design.
The right domain name is important. How long did it take you to come up with the domain name for your online business?
Honestly, by the time we launched CorpNet, a lot of domain names had already been taken – I’m sure that’s a familiar challenge for many. We wanted a name that was just one or two syllables and seven letters max. So, we went to GoDaddy and picked the only seven letter word available that came close to what we do!
You also have a blog included within your site, so tell us – do you enjoy blogging? How much time do you spend blogging?
Blogging is one of my favorite aspects of running the business. I blog on the CorpNet site, as well as other places like Mashable and Huffington Post. It’s an amazing opportunity to express my thoughts and reach out to other small business owners. When I first started blogging, I only wanted to talk about how great CorpNet was. But, my blogging has evolved a lot since then and now I think about what topics will resonate with and be the most useful to small business owners. I try to be as honest as I can about my struggles and what I’ve learned as a CEO, mom, wife, and business partner.
Treating a website as a business is a big jump—how would you recommend others go about evaluating whether or not they’re ready to make that leap?
It really depends if you’re planning on jumping in full-time with the website or if it will be a side project for awhile. If it will be your full-time gig, you need to make sure you have enough money socked away to support you for 6-9 months (at a minimum) and you need to be very realistic about your finances.
You should also ask yourself: “Am I motivated enough to be my own boss, or do I work better when a manager tells me what to do and when?” I think that running your own business is the most exciting, fulfilling thing you could do, but it’s not for everyone. You have to be comfortable setting your own agenda, and weathering the inevitable ups and downs of entrepreneurship.
Great question! I think, first and foremost, we picked an industry where there was a huge problem that needed to be solved. Small business owners were paying lawyers thousands of dollars to handle relatively simple tasks. So, there was a very big need for what we were providing. Second, helping other entrepreneurs and small business owners is something I genuinely love to do. My grandparents and parents are entrepreneurs, so this is something I feel very passionate about. And lastly, I’m very persistent: people either love it or hate that about me! Over the years, I’ve come to realize that failures are just bumps in the road; they’re not the end of the road, so I just keep moving forward! I rarely take ‘no’ for an answer- I just think of a new way to get to ‘yes.’
If you had to pick the top three things people do wrong, the things holding them back from success, what would those be?
This is a tough one. From what I’ve seen, the top three issues are: 1) people starting a business just for the money and getting frustrated when success doesn’t come overnight; 2) people are too afraid of what others will think that they never even really try; and 3) some entrepreneurs are full of BS, and can talk a good game, but then never actually deliver.
How would you suggest people avoid these mistakes?
I would say be sure that you’re genuinely invested in helping your customers and making a difference. Most importantly, stop caring what others think, or what you think they might think. If you’re passionate about something, just do it.
Would you encourage other people to make their own blogs?
Yes…and no. If you have a specific point of view and you want to share your thoughts, experiences, and advice with others, then definitely. If you want to get to know your customers better or build a community around common interests, then please start a blog.
However, if you’re considering a blog because you think you need one or because ‘everyone else has one,’ then I’d advise you not to pursue it right now. Running a blog is time intensive, and you’ve got to stay committed week after week. If you’re not motivated for the right reasons, it will get tiresome very quickly.
Please give us some advice for web beginners and for people who considering starting an online business?
The opportunities online are incredible; you have a chance to reach customers all around the world, and can get started relatively quickly and with little cost. That wasn’t possible a few decades ago. The web has created a whole new generation of entrepreneurs.
If you want to start an online business, I’d offer the following advice. Take your legal obligations seriously…meaning look into your tax obligations, business structures, and possibly a trademark. You want to protect your assets and your brand as much as possible. Even if you’re starting a side business, it’s still a business and you need to treat it like one (and start considering yourself a business owner too!).
And, most importantly… don’t be afraid to fail. There’s no “right” time to start a business; sometimes you just have to dive in. Let’s get real: you most likely won’t make millions in your first week. But, there are a lot of different ways to measure success; for me, following your dreams and challenging yourself are two of the biggest signs of success!
Photos ©: Nellie Akalp