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Archive for Friday Roundup

Answers to your frequently asked Trademark questions

Do you ever wonder what will prevent another company from using your business name? How about if you’re legally permitted to use the name you picked for your business? Or do you know when you can use the TM symbol with your brand or product name?

Assembled here are all the answers to the most frequently asked questions when it comes to trademarking. If you’re a small business owner, read on to learn more about the trademark, and most importantly, if you need one for your business. Continue reading “Answers to your frequently asked Trademark questions” »

Your Back-to-School Business Plan

It’s that time of year again where we start trading in beach towels for school supplies. For many busy moms like myself, now is the perfect time to focus on your own goals and for those moms who are running their own business, it’s also a good time to revisit some of the legal and administrative details that may have slipped through the cracks over the past few months.

If you’re running a small business, here’s a ‘back-to-school’ checklist to help you stay on top of the legal aspects of your business:

Check that you’re legally permitted to use your business name

If you’re just starting a business, everything begins with the name. But before you start printing out business cards, you need to make sure that your great new name isn’t infringing on an already existing business. You should search corporate names in your state’s secretary of state’s database, as well as conduct a Trademark search at the federal level. CorpNet.com offers both a Free Business Name Search and Free Trademark Search Tool.

Register Your Fictitious Business Name (aka DBA, “Doing Business As”): If you’re a sole proprietor or general partner, you’ll need to file a DBA registration when your company name is different than your own name. For an LLC or corporation, DBAs must be filed whenever you conduct business using a name that’s different than your official Corporation or LLC name.

Incorporate Your Business or Form an LLC

This is a critical step to protecting your personal assets (such as your personal property or your child’s college fund) from any liabilities of the company. That means that if your business should be sued, your personal property may be shielded from any judgment. Depending on your specific circumstances, you might choose among an LLC (great for small businesses that want legal protection, but minimal formality), an S Corporation (great for small businesses that can qualify), or a C Corporation (for bigger companies or companies who plan to seek funding from a VC). Unless your business is particularly complex, you should be able to incorporate or form an LLC online, without having to retain a business attorney.

Continue reading “Your Back-to-School Business Plan” »

Top 5 Small Business Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Scott Drake of the Legal Broadcast Network interviewed Nellie Akalp (CEO of CorpNet.com). This is part two of a series. Nellie explains what she’s seen business owners do in the 100,000+ business filings she’s helped with.

1. Not checking if you’re legally permitted to use your business name

If you don’t check to see if someone has already used the name you want for your company, you risk legally infringing on trademarked names. Just perform a free name search to avoid a legal headache.

2. Choosing the wrong business entity

Business owners may not be sure which business entity best fits their needs, and may choose the wrong one. Most small business owners benefit from the S Corp or LLC.

3. Forming a corporation or LLC in another state

Many businesses think that incorporating in Nevada or Delaware will provide more benefit than in their home state, but the general rule of thumb, says Nellie, is to file your business in the state you work in. Otherwise you’re subject to two states’ filing requirements.

4. Neglect to keep corporation or LLC compliant

After filing, says Nellie, the job isn’t done. Corporations require paperwork and certain regulations each year, and failure to comply may result in your structure being dissolved. File an annual statement of information on time to avoid penalties.

5. Forgetting to register a DBA

For sole proprietors, filing a Doing Business As document is necessary for legal and federal regulations. Many small business owners don’t realize they need to do this.

Avoid these costly mistakes and get the right business structure for your small business. Our small business advisors are happy to help you incorporate your business. Give us a call to get started.

3 Small Business Services Not to Skimp On

As a small business owner, you likely strive to cut corners. After all, you feel every penny leaving your company, so spending money unnecessarily isn’t in your vocabulary. But do you realize there are some  things you absolutely shouldn’t skimp on? Doing so can keep your company from growing, and can make you look unprofessional.

1. Graphic Design

Trust me on this one: early on, I tried designing my own company logo. It didn’t go well. Because your logo and your marketing collateral are the first things people see of your brand, you want to ensure that what they see is professionally designed and visually appealing. And unless you’re a designer yourself, you’ll have to hire a graphic designer to get the look.

But don’t despair: graphic designers are much more affordable these days. You can hire a freelancer, or even an aspiring college student, at a reasonable price. You can also look at crowdsourcing options like 99Designs, which let you get multiple concepts from different artists for a low price. Continue reading “3 Small Business Services Not to Skimp On” »

What can your business learn from the NFL?


Football season is here again. The NFL is America’s most popular and profitable sport, arguably having replaced baseball as America’s true “national pastime.” With over $4 billion per year in TV revenue (in addition to ticket sales and merchandise), the NFL is the richest brand in American sports. But just because the NFL is on top today doesn’t mean it will stay that way forever. One of the biggest risks facing the NFL is the new research about concussions and brain injuries in football, with many former players now suing the league for negligence.

What are some ideas that small business owners can learn from the success (and risks) of the NFL?

Find your ideal medium. For many years, NFL football wasn’t nearly as popular as college football. But the NFL took off in popularity after World War II with the rise of television. NFL football is the ideal TV sport because it is broken up into many separate plays and the action translates well to the TV screen, where viewers can see the full complexity of the game up close. Even though your small business is unlikely to ever become as big of a draw as NFL football, now that we have social media, every small business has an opportunity to present itself to audiences in the best possible format. What do you do that could be best conveyed via YouTube video, podcast, or photos on Pinterest? How can you make your small business look more beautiful, more compelling, and more engaging with your customers and audiences? With social media, business owners have the ability to create their own content and tell their own story in a way that is affordable, targeted and relevant to the audience.

Continue reading “What can your business learn from the NFL?” »

3 Valuable Lessons From a Secret Shopper

Has your business ever been “secret shopped” by a customer who turned out to secretly be writing a review of your business?

Whether you’re a restaurant owner watching for a popular restaurant critic or food blogger, or a retail store manager talking to customers who might be “secret shoppers,” there’s no denying that customer reviews – especially when they come as a surprise – can be exciting and also a bit nerve-wracking.

After all, you want every customer to have the best experience possible, but you also want to make sure that if something doesn’t go 100% right for a customer, they’re not going to turn out to be an influential critic or thought leader who will drive people away from your business.

My general philosophy about secret shoppers is that I welcome them. I’m glad to have customers share their opinions of our business, because that’s the only way we can keep getting better at what we do. (And hopefully, most of the time the customer feedback is 100% positive, so we have nothing to be afraid of!)

Our company, CorpNet, recently got “secret shopped” by an online review website called NextAdvisor, and we were pleased to see that their review was very favorable! Continue reading “3 Valuable Lessons From a Secret Shopper” »

The Legal Broadcast Network’s Interview of our CEO, Nellie Akalp

Our very own CEO and founder, Nellie Akalp, was recently interviewed on The Legal Broadcast Network! Check out the video above to see how Nellie sets herself apart with her company CorpNet.com from the competition and how she views herself as an attorney’s/accountants fulfillment partner!

Cash-strapped? How to pay for services with your startup’s equity

From Silicon Valley to Peoria, Illinois, cash-strapped startups look for inventive way to finance their business – often handing out equity to employees, consultants, vendors, and other service providers.

It’s a logical solution. After all, cash may be in short supply, but there’s a virtually endless amount of work to be done, from coding and web development, to PR, sales, general operations, or sage advice from an industry veteran. Seen in this light, it seems harmless enough to dole out some paper shares or options to get critical services that will take your business to the next level. And giving equity as compensation can help build loyalty among contractors and consultants, as they now have a truly vested interest in your company’s success. Continue reading “Cash-strapped? How to pay for services with your startup’s equity” »

6 Tips to Overcoming Procrastination on Things that Matter

Putting things off for another day is something we all do quite well. Come April 15, we rush to the post office to make sure our tax returns post-marked on time. We may not see the dentist as frequently as we should, or we wait to clean the house until guests visit.

These examples seem harmless enough, but what about when we procrastinate on bigger things? Jill’s dream is to start a business; yet she’s talked about it for years without taking that first step. Bob has a great idea for a new website, but has yet to act on it. If you find yourself putting off a life dream or major project, here are a few tips to help you battle procrastination traps: Continue reading “6 Tips to Overcoming Procrastination on Things that Matter” »

How to Incorporate in California

Incorporating in California? Here’s what you need to know. CorpNet’s own Nellie Akalp gives you tips for filing S Corp paperwork quickly.