2016-03-24 / Business

Local entrepreneur is top business owner

By Alicia Doyle
Special to The Acorn

Akalp Akalp Most entrepreneurs only dream of hitting it big. And Westlake Village resident Nellie Akalp caught lightning in a bottle not once, but twice.

In 2005 Akalp and her husband, Philip, sold—for $20 million—a website they had developed. They followed that move by launching another business, CorpNet.com, now one of the fastest-growing, privately owned companies in the nation.

CorpNet.com, an online legal document filing service, helps new ventures get off the ground by incorporating and setting up LLCs, and existing companies stay in business by helping with their employment law compliance, trademark and copyright protection.

For her accomplishments, the 44-year-old Akalp was recently selected Woman Business Owner of the Year by the National Association of Women Business Owners Ventura County chapter.

“It’s an award that we give to recognize a woman who has created and grown her own business,” said Janis Shinkawa, NAWBO VC president. “In Nellie’s case, she has grown her business to 50 states. For any woman to take on an endeavor like that takes guts.”

The mother of four, ages 5 to 14, Akalp said the honor serves as an example to other women entrepreneurs “that you can juggle raising children, owning a business and having a healthy marriage.”

“You can thrive and be successful as long as you have balance in your life and passion and determination for what you choose to do,” she said.

Daughter of immigrants

Akalp can trace her entrepreneurial spirit to her parents and grandparents, who migrated to the U.S. from Iran in 1976. Their first business was selling Persian antiques in Studio City.

“They struggled,” Akalp said. “It wasn’t easy running a business in a new country. But they loved what they did, and that stuck with me.”

Growing up, Akalp worked in multiple family endeavors, including a Mediterranean restaurant and a Swenson’s Ice Cream franchise.

After graduating from Cal State Northridge in 1994, she attended the University of La Verne College of Law and earned her law degree.

“I wanted to be a lawyer,” she said. “But once I got to law school, I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

So in 1997, Akalp—then in her mid-20s—and her husband decided to go to work for themselves. They spent $100 to set up their first company, MyCorporation.com, to help small businesses incorporate.

“Before we knew it, we had our first client. . . . We didn’t have employees. Heck, we didn’t even have an office; we operated out of our two-bedroom apartment,” she said.

After work starting rolling in, the couple opened an office in Agoura Hills and began hiring employees.

In 2005, the growth of MyCorporation.com caught the attention of financial software giant Intuit. The Akalps were offered $20 million for the company and said yes.

“We were coined as the pioneers of the legal document filing industry,” Nellie Akalp said. “We never could have dreamed of the successes we had achieved in such a short time.”

Support system

In spite of their windfall—and having started a family—the couple decided one successful business wasn’t enough.

In 2009, the pair launched CorpNet.com, which is similar to their first website in that it offers the same services but is different because it takes a more micro approach.

“We are a small team,” said Akalp, who has 10 employees in the company’s Westlake Village office. “We offer so many free resources we didn’t do at our previous company as we want to be a resource for entrepreneurs and not just a service.”

In 2015, CorpNet was recognized on the Inc. 5000 list as one of the fastest-growing privately held companies in America.

Phil Akalp, who is closely involved in the business, attributes their success to “the power of two.”

“There’s a certain magic that happens when Nellie and I are working together,” he said. “The momentum we experience is merely a byproduct of the love and passion we invest in our life’s work.”

Nellie Akalp attributes her ability to balance a large family, happy marriage and successful business to her “amazing team.”

“They allow me to be able to attend dance competitions with my daughter, sports games with my sons and performances by my youngest,” she said.

Akalp and fellow 2016 NAWBO awardees will be honored at a gala luncheon April 1 at the Serra Center in Camarillo.

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