Building a Six Figure Business With a $1000 Investment

Building a Six Figure Business With a $1000 Investment
Mark Sias/Noble Notary and Legal Document Preparers
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Founder: Mark Sias
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Tell us a bit about yourself

I was a registered nurse who always tried to start a business like everybody else. Some went okay, but none of them really took off. Then I finally stumbled into this notary business, and after a couple of months, it took off.  

Then I brought my wife on, and we both continued building it out by adding other services. Now, for us, it's the perfect work-from-home job. We don't have a lot of overhead or inventory, and we make a pretty comfortable living.

What does the business do?

I like to call us a legal service business. It principally revolves around doing notary public services. Some are people in our community, but we also do B2B and business-to-customer. We have customers that either go to mobile or online customers and then we have people in the general public who just stop by.

Regarding the B2B companies, we contract with different title companies, attorneys, and realty companies and conduct real estate closings for them. We're able to handle their paperwork while they're handling other, more important things. From there, we've added additional services. One of them that works pretty well is called an apostille service.

A lot of people have no idea what an apostille is. I didn't until I had so many people asking if we could do it. At first, we were like, "We have no idea what this is, so no." But then the light bulb went on and was like, hey, you probably should figure out what this is because a lot of people obviously want this service.

An apostille service is a document that, in some cases, needs to be notarized and, in other cases, doesn't, but then needs to go to the Secretary of State for authentication to go to another country. It's a high-demand service with very low competition, so it's easy to succeed with something like that. When it comes to the general notary space, there are probably a lot of people doing it. But as you start to add out these other things, you find yourself in these niche markets where there's not a lot of competition.

Another thing we've added is document preparation services. Basically, we offer what we call non-attorney services. So we are filling in need of people who can't afford an attorney or won't go to an attorney for documents. Or they have a situation where it would be documents only.

A good example of that is what we call a simplified divorce. Two people want a divorce, and they won't fight over it. They don't want to pay $5,000 in attorneys fees, and they probably shouldn't, so we would take those documents and put in the pertinent information and then sell those documents to them. It ends up being very lucrative and not very time-consuming because it's confusing for most people. But as notaries who see these documents and use affidavits daily, it's not that difficult to facilitate.

Did you raise funding, or did you bootstrap?

Definitely bootstrap. The great thing is this is a less than $1,000 startup. and it's crazy how you can make over $100,000 with something like that because people always think you've got to invest big money. Our business runs with a couple of printers and scanners, a laptop you get on Amazon, and a car, and most people already have this stuff. The main thing to have is the notary commission. In most places, it doesn't cost much; here in Florida, it's like $100.

So all of this was less than $1,000 with the stuff I already had on hand, and that was it. You get a Google listing up and running, and you make some contacts with people you know, go to your chamber of commerce, and it just takes off from there.

How have you marketed to find customers?

One thing that works is cross-selling. I use that term loosely because we aren't really selling to people; we just probe them for information. They might come in for a simple notary, and we have a conversation. I might ask them whether they would have these documents shipped somewhere, then I'll say, well, let me save you the trip, and I'll do those right here. Then they start thinking, "Oh my goodness, this person is resourceful. What else can they help with?" Right? Simple as that sounds, it works very, very well.

The other thing we have is our WordPress website, and for that, we probably have about 20 different landing pages that are local towns, so we're capitalizing on that long-chain keyword search. We had a noticeable increase in call volume when we finally implemented that. It wasn't cheap, but it was totally worth it.

One thing we do that surprises many people is put ads on Craigslist, which are $5. What I've noticed about Craigslist is that it has what I call a "bleed-through." So I might be advertising in my general area, but if that service is rare enough for somebody else further out, it bleeds through into their search. We had a guy from Miami, four hours away, get our services because he was looking for a rare service on Craigslist. You can't beat that for $5 a month.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?

To some extent, the biggest challenge is managing the day-to-day logistics and scheduling. My wife and I run this together, and we've got kids, so there's the dropping them off, picking them up, and working clients around that. I think the other challenge has been trying to expand into other markets.

When we created this business, we worked by listening to the community and what they wanted and then delivering that. Do people want legal documents? Let's provide it. Do people want apostilles? Let's provide it. Ironically enough, people wanted to learn how to do our business. So we're like, well, let's provide that service too.

That has been a challenge. For the initial, casual person interested, it was pretty easy to create something like a form of mentorship or course for them. But now that we've invested in digital marketing, it's a whole different ballgame. It's a whole new skill set that we are learning, and it's slowly but surely working.

What's been your biggest achievement so far?

Our biggest achievement was probably writing our first book, A Golden Pen. I felt like people wanted to know what we were doing, and there was enough inquiry into what we were doing, and it kind of had this mystique around it. So this idea for the book and writing came out of us. We knew people who had offered similar services, but they weren't as successful. We felt like there was a message we had for them, which was that you've kind of pigeonholed yourself into just one niche when you can have multiple niches that are easy to manage because the services are so complimentary.

Now that you're both working on this, do you have more family time?

Yes and no. There's more time, and there's more money. Back in 2021, we took two weeks off and just traveled halfway around the country. It was nice to be able to afford that opportunity, to show the kids stuff and not have to worry. But where the challenge is, is that now we've gotten into the digital space, and we're doing content creation and podcasts or whatever, is that there are interruptions.

The great thing is, is that we can self-schedule anything. In my past life as a nurse, you didn't have that choice, and I missed a lot of stuff with that, especially with my older ones. We missed a lot of important things, but since we've done this, we haven't missed anything.

My top income year as a nurse working full time was probably around $95,000. It was a good living, but it was hard work. Now, we work maybe 20 hours a week, you could say 30 if you factored in some of the content creation, But with that, we've made the income almost double with half the time expenditure and very little stress.

Any advice for new founders?

We originally stumbled into this business model, but we developed a mindset from that, and that is where the gold is. The mindset that we developed was: we like a business with low overhead and skills that are relatively easy to learn, but have a perception of being complicated and are also in demand. So, in other words, I don't have to go chasing down people for business. That's the secret to it.

Another thing I would say is that when you work for somebody else, you're forced to do stuff, so if you are somebody who is externally motivated, then that's probably a good fit for you. But when you transition to this, you have to be internally motivated, because nobody is going to make you do anything. So if you aren't a person who will make yourself do something like reach out and correspond with people, this probably won't suit you.

Finally, the only shortcut I'm aware of is to invest in yourself, that would be a point I would drive home with anybody. I wish that I knew five years ago what I know now, and I would pay a lot of money because I would have liked back those years of wasted money and wasted time. I think that there is a lot of free information out there, but it's very time-consuming to sift through that. I know that personally because as we create content on YouTube, my YouTube is mostly entertainment with a tiny little nugget of information. Whereas when you get our training, it's 110% concentrated information. So that's what I would say is to be willing to invest in yourself if you want to shortcut the process.

What are your plans for the future?

Right now, I'm looking at the industry as a whole and at where there are failures to deliver quality. So, for example, we started a directory after finding existing directories to be poor deliverers of service - they don't offer a large amount of traffic, or they're charging too much. There was one that I signed up for that never listed my services, and I had to chase them down for my money back. And we were like, you know what? Let's just make our own, so now we have a site called noblelegalpros.com.

We created it with that skyscraper mindset where you do something a little better than others are doing. We came in and made a directory that's a little better and a little better priced, and I'm hoping that it will benefit the end user and myself, because I'm not only the creator of that directory, I'm a customer. My listing is in that directory. But what's neat is that there's strength in numbers, so the more people that come on board with that, the more it will flourish, and the more likely it will be that they'll be able to get good rankings out of it. So it's a win-win, and I like win-wins.

What software or tools do you use?

I love Kajabi. I use that for email drips for opt-ins, subscriptions, and payment processing. I'm actually transitioning the pay mechanism for two of our WordPress sites right now to Kajabi.

You're gonna get people that might have bought something from you, but then they've navigated away, and you have no way to capture them. With Kajabi I can get them in my hooks and get a customer eventually, so it's my favorite. It literally allows you to do anything. You can build landing pages, do your email marketing, host podcasts - there's just so much I can do with that tool that it has never not paid for itself.

Where can people contact you?

Our main website can be found at LegalDocPrepnotary

Podcast: Notary Ninja Show YouTube Notary Ninja Show

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