Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @CorpNetNellie. Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, small business advocate and mother of four. As CEO of CorpNet.com, a legal document preparation filing service, Nellie helps entrepreneurs start a business, Incorporate, or Form an LLC for new or existing businesses. For more information, visit CorpNet.com
SmallBizLady: New Year, New Beginnings, right? Why do you think this is the case for entrepreneurs?
Nellie Akalp: A new year does bring new beginnings for many people. It symbolizes a fresh and clean slate that prospective entrepreneurs can take advantage of and start that journey they have always wanted to. I think it is an especially empowering time for entrepreneurs because there is not much other time in the year where you feel particularly ‘motivated’ to go after your dreams. I see this personally, with January – March being our busiest season incorporating new businesses!
SmallBizLady: Why is 2014 different than 2013 or 2012? Is there anything particularly special or different that this year will bring for business owners?
Nellie Akalp: This year, the economy is back on track and slated for the best growth since 2005. History shows that a rising economy empowers employees to quit their 9-5 and start their own businesses – and I don’t doubt that 2014 will be any different. For the past few years in the down economy, fear of the job market created a general “I feel trapped” feeling across many employees and they stayed put where they are, however unhappy. In 2014, it’s time to break free and embark on that business-ownership journey.
SmallBizLady: Are there certain personality traits that an entrepreneur should posses?
Nellie Akalp: Yes! If you are thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, but you are the type of person who needs direction or set deadlines from a boss, it may not be the right path for you. An entrepreneur needs to be naturally independent, resourceful and shouldn’t need someone to tell them what to do in order to be efficient and productive. They should be able to plan and manage their day-to-day work schedule on their own and know what needs to be done, and when.
SmallBizLady: What about financials and being an entrepreneur?
Nellie Akalp: I always say it’s the same idea as having a baby. As a mom of four, I know that there is never a PERFECT time to have a baby. If you plan and plan, you will miss your window of opportunity. The same goes for starting a business. You should be financially capable of not having a steady income your first few months as a business owner, but you don’t have to be set with a savings for your lifetime. Just find a time when you have a comfortable cushion for ‘just in case’.
SmallBizLady: Are all inventors successful entrepreneurs?
Nellie Akalp: A great product isn’t necessarily enough to make a great business. If you’re a fan of the TV show SharkTank (one of my favorites) you will see this loud and clear. Many inventors have amazing ideas and they focus in on the product, prototype, patent, etc. and ignore other aspects of developing a lucrative business. That doesn’t mean that an inventor cannot become an entrepreneur, but most of the time two people will partner up to make that magic happen.
SmallBizLady: Does a new business have to be totally out-of-the-box to stand out from competitors?
Nellie Akalp: I started my latest business in 2009, at the height of the recession and amongst an array of BIG name competitors. My company was offering the same service that they did, and I was of course nervous in the beginning that I was not going to be ‘different enough’ to attract clients. I soon found out that if you differentiate yourself enough to stand-out, you can withstand competition and survive as a business owner. Try and define your company and its place in the market. Take a look at your target industry and see where there’s a void to be filled and focus there.
SmallBizLady: What should entrepreneurs expect to do if they launch a business?
Nellie Akalp: Expect to do anything and everything. You have to be prepared to wear many hats – from tech support, to sales, to accounting. I myself have done almost everything in the aspect of running my business at one point in time. When we just started out and did not have many employees, that was when I really did everything. Slowly as you grow, you can hire an accountant and maybe outsource hiring. It is a gradual process, so if you are thinking of starting a business, make sure you are comfortable performing a variety of functions, including the less-than-glamorous ones.
SmallBizLady: When you are ready to take the plunge, what do you have to do?
Nellie Akalp: Once you’ve determined that being an entrepreneur is for you, the first thing I suggest is to make sure you are legally permitted to use the business name you have dreamt of. It can be brutal when entrepreneurs have their heart set on a certain name, already have the branding vision in their minds but find out that the name is already taken. There are many resources that provide free business name searches with the Secretary of State. Once that step is completed, you may want to take the search to the next level and conduct a no-conflict, free trademark search to see if your name is available for use in all 50 states.
SmallBizLady: What is a fictitious Business Name/DBA and does every entrepreneur need one?
Nellie Akalp: A DBA (Doing Business As) must be filed whenever your company does business under a different name. If you’ve got a sole proprietorship or general partnership, a DBA is needed if your company name is different from your own name. A DBA is typically filed at the state and/or county level.
SmallBizLady: Why is incorporating a business so important?
Nellie Akalp: Forming an LLC or corporation is an essential step to protect your personal assets from any liabilities of the company. There are a variety of business structures to choose from and each has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on your specific circumstances. Popular options include the LLC (great for small businesses that want legal protection, but minimal formality), S Corporation (great for small businesses that can qualify), or C Corporation (for companies who plan to seek funding from a VC or go public).
SmallBizLady: Any other odds and Ends to add to your to-do list?
Nellie Akalp: Once you launch your business, be prepared for a LONG to-do list. 😉 Some items that you may not think of include: opening a business bank account to separate your personal activities from business expenses. This will help when it comes to tax season! Next make sure you obtain any necessary business permits and licenses. Depending on your business type and physical location, you may or may not need this.
SmallBizLady: What is your #1 piece of advice for people thinking of becoming an entrepreneur?
Nellie Akalp: Your vision, passion, and drive are the essential ingredients to your success. Yes, others can manage your business for you, but it’s your drive, your passion that really sets the stage for your company’s success. I’m my business’ own cheerleader, and when I’m excited, it’s infectious.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.