What do you do when you are in your early thirties and the company you started and sold has already netted you $20 million in cash? If you are Nellie and Phil Akalp, you do it again.
Nellie Akalp and her husband are business partners, the parents of four children, and an attorney husband and wife team. Back in 1997, Nellie’s schedule was grueling—she was working full time, going to law school at night and driving a car without air conditioning in 100-degree heat. When Phillip told her that he had an idea for a company that would enable entrepreneurs to incorporate online and all he needed was $100 to buy a domain name, she said “yes.” MyCorporation.com was born and it was one of the first web-based online legal document filing services. Eight years later, Intuit approached them about a partnership, moving quickly with an offer to buy the company. Nellie and Phil accepted.
By 2009, their non-compete agreement had ended and Intuit was no longer in the business. At this point, LegalZoom had become the undisputed market leader, while thousands of smaller online businesses competed. With a passion for entrepreneurship and a belief that there were ways to innovate, Nellie and Phillip jumped back into this highly competitive market, launching CorpNet.com on July 1, 2009. Unlike their competitors, who offer personal legal services (e.g., estate planning and divorce), CorpNet is solely focused on helping startups with their legal needs by providing new and existing business owners with the most comprehensive cost-effective legal services when it comes to starting, protecting, and managing a business. Many of their services like trademark search and compliance tools are free. In addition, they offer strong customer service phone support, including a free business consultation.
Nellie says that she has learned more from the second business than the first. “I am a better person, parent and leader now. With the first business we threw the dice and the business grew, while the second business requires much more granularity to be successful,” said Nellie. Everything from outbound calls, marketing ROI, budget and sales projections involves more micro management than before.
With their first business, they could make their own hours—they owned the market and functioned in a pre-social media world. Today, CorpNet requires the typical 24/7 energy of a startup.
Not that Nellie is complaining. Properly managing a company’s name—including trademark—can potentially save a firm a great deal of money. If an existing business discovers that another company owns the trademark rights, their name becomes unusable—along with their brand and marketing materials. Protecting hundreds of thousands of businesses from this type of heartache is what fuels her passion.
CareerFuel can vouch, first hand, for the importance of such services. Our Google Alerts recently uncovered a firm that was using our name in a related industry. The owners of the firm had not conducted a trademark search before settling on the name CareerFuel. Once we, the owner of the registered trademark, brought it to their attention, they quickly agreed to pull down their website and change their company name. Fortunately for them, they were early in their company lifecycle and had little name recognition or branded promotional material. Often this is not the case.
Nellie says that “getting your legal ducks in a row is good for beginning entrepreneurs and good for CorpNet. If done well, we could be partners for life to our clients.”