Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, My name is Michol Bobb, and I am the founder of Notary Training Network. I facilitate foundational training classes for notaries in Maryland with my Intro to Notary Practice course. I also have a Mobile Notary Fundamentals business course for individuals to learn the business side of being a notary.
I started my business officially in 2017 at Notary University and decided to rebrand in 2018 to Notary Training Network. Coincidentally, notary education was mandated into law by the state in October 2021.
Think of yourself as a salesperson - you have to make sales to make money!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
The idea of the brand came from not being good enough on paper to get promotions and wanting to become the best version of myself. Initially, I started like everyone else, I wanted to become a notary to make some quick money and after I got my commission, I thought to myself - now what? I couldn't find anyone to show me how to do the work and tell me what to do in my local Baltimore area.
I started to have local meetups to connect with other notaries, and over time, it became workshops, then a conference, and now the first state-approved training class mandated by law to provide education for notaries in Maryland. To put it into perspective, there are over 60,000 active notaries in Maryland.
I always credit the people who have trained me and the foundation I received back when I started my healthcare career; a strong foundation is necessary for you to grow in anything that you put your mind to doing. My background also includes training others in my professional career which lasted over a decade and now working in banking for over 4 years. I took that transferable skill and realized that I liked to help others and it was a perfect match to make notary education my niche.
A fun fact, I also worked as a substitute teacher for a period of time. However, I never went to any school for formal education. My degree is in Healthcare Administration and Policy.
My aha moment was when the state announced that they were going to be implementing the new education law mandate and I knew I had to be the first. I wanted to set the bar high with integrity and professionalism. This is also the only business I’ve ever had. I did dabble a bit in network marketing and I also learned some of my business mindset from that.
Everything I teach and do is self-taught. I organize my own events, I develop my own curriculums, I build my own websites. One day I will learn to delegate some of those tasks to others, but I like to be very hands-on in my business. I knew it was a good idea to create the Notary Training Network brand because I created it to fill a void for notary professionals. I still work a full-time job and I’m a single mother as well while I run this business.
Take us through the process of designing and launching the business.
I always have a general idea of what I want to be covered in my training, but I also do polls and surveys to get market research from other notaries to see what they might be interested in learning about.
I do market research to see what is already out there and how I can put my own twist on it. I also look at what other states and countries are educating their notaries on. There was and still is A LOT of time investment doing research.
Every year I call myself relaunching. It could be redoing my website, adding new features/training workshops, or removing or restructuring something that didn't work as well as I wanted it to. Networking to get new speakers or make new connections to collaborate with. I called everything up until the law change to mandate notary education practice, so when it was time for me to start getting a constant and more influx of students, I was already prepared and just needed to go harder in my business and actually treat it like a business - it was definitely a wake-up call to take myself more seriously.
I’m excited to host my second professional notary conference in 2023. Since my course became approved as the first in-state notary education training program in July 2022, I have had full classes with 30-40 students every month.
I’ve developed my own websites, written my own blogs and press releases, and social media posts and now I am blessed to have assistants to delegate some of these administrative tasks.
I didn't think I needed business credit, but I'm now seeing and understanding the importance of having it for growth and expansion for marketing and advertising, especially so that people can know you exist. I have funded my business with my own money but getting into using business credit more going into 2023. I was able to get a small PPP loan during the pandemic, but I'm excited to learn about grants for the new year also.
The biggest lesson I have learned from starting this business is you have to believe in yourself and your business because people that don't believe in your vision are not going to help you grow and succeed and you don't want to waste money on those people or companies. Also, always stay true to your why and never compromise your integrity to settle for someone giving less than what you want. Sometimes you will have to fight for what you believe in - respectfully. Stay humble and always be learning. Most importantly, people buy and support brands that they like and trust and you are your brands.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I used to hide behind my brand and I had to start showing some personality. I had to be very intentional about having fun in my life for health and wellness reasons, so when people come to my class and leave feedback saying that I'm funny, it's very humbling, because I used to be so angry, and I wouldn't crack a smile for anything. But everything is a mindset and I enjoy my life and my business now and that is reflected in my work and interactions with others.
My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to have fun with what you do, and be intentional about it.
Being successful financially is a numbers game. You have to know what your numbers are and the goals you need to reach. Success looks different for everyone but you will feel so good when your bank account starts to match your efforts!
Think outside the box, and create marketing themes based on different campaigns. It can be industry-specific (ex. Libraries, UPS franchises) or something around a cause (ex. Adoptions, Estate planning). Understand what the difference is between marketing and advertising. Think of yourself as a salesperson - you have to make sales to make money!
Also, show up as your best self, even when you don't feel like it. Most importantly, when you are networking - make sure that the opportunities and people that you are networking and partnering with align with your goals.
You also have to know how to read your analytics. Google is my go-to for traffic and demographics and using a CRM for email marketing campaigns analytics is necessary for leads.
I recently started using project management software to track and organize everything that I do for all of the things that I do because I am setting my business up to be repeatable, so I need to be able to track the steps of my tasks and thought processes.
Know what social media works for you. I get the most connections from Instagram. I really don't like using Facebook. I also get leads from YouTube. I use Linkedin to portray myself as a subject matter expert in my field. So just find what works for you and be intentional about why and how you use it.
I have tried paid ads, but I don't use them primarily for my business and I still have full classes - word of mouth and referral marketing are always best! Having more faith than fear also helps to build your confidence as a business owner.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
My business is profitable but I now understand the importance of cutting costs for expenses. I’m working towards a $10,000 gross profit margin after expenses for the first full year of the business (2023) since the education law mandate.
I have between a 1-10% conversion rate for sales from my website traffic. My goal is a consistent 10%. All of my business sales are through online pre-registration.
I do have a team of 2 people that work with me currently. Eventually, I expect that to grow to about 10. I also see my business expanding with notary education in other states.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Everything I've done up to this point in my business, I've done on my own. I realize that I can’t continue to do things on my own if I want to reach my full potential for growth with my business. I’ve learned a lot through trial and error, and I am able to educate my team on some of those things and also learn from the people that have working with me. As a business owner, you have to be able to delegate and also take constructive criticism.
You will have some missed opportunities when people don't see the value in your vision, but you still have to believe in yourself and know that there is always another way to get something done - even if you have to create your own thing. I don't try to do everything at one time as far as putting out new things but I have learned how to be flexible and adjust my main product to make it great and people love the evolution of my Intro to Notary Practice class. I look at myself as having a high-quality training program since I dont sell products - so having a flawless and organized class is the most important thing to me. Anything less than an organized event would feel like a failure to me but you take that feedback and improve on it and make it a learning experience or lesson to prevent it from happening again.
Things will happen out of your control all the time but you have to be flexible. And if you’re a single parent working full time and building the business, you have to find people that are willing to be flexible with you also. That might include communicating only through email or having late evening meetings. I’ve learned that it’s ok to say no to people and things. Also, you have to set boundaries in relationships and business.
Lastly, it definitely does take a village to grow your business as well. You need to have trusted genuine people around you to give honest feedback, allow you to vent, and let you know when you need to disconnect and the biggest thing is - don't share everything with everybody. Wait until you accomplish something before you share it - people won't always be happy for you, even when you are appreciative of them.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I use Stripe and Square for my payments because it's easy to pull reports and see my financial growth. I like Google for my reviews and calendar invites for meetings and Google Meet for my video calls or virtual workshops. I like Hubspot for my leads through email marketing.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I read a lot of mindset books for self-help and personal growth. I have been getting into reading books about money so that I have a healthy relationship with money. I don't watch or listen to the news.
I try to block out all negativity so I can keep a positive and peaceful space. I’ve been getting more spiritual also. To find a successful person that has good morals and values that you can connect with and read with the intention to learn and process or reproduce. One that I can say was really good was Grant Cardone’s The 10X Rule.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I never thought of myself as an inspirational or motivational person, but that is the feedback I get from others. Be genuine, be honest and throw a little bit of your personality in the mix. The people that are for you will support you. Don't try to be like everyone else, keep room for growth, and your seemingly overnight success can take several years.
Most of all, know your WHY and make goals to work towards and stick to them. You will have detours along the way, life might get the best of you, don't be afraid to go to therapy and take breaks to disconnect and get a reset when necessary. Always fact-check your resources and no matter how great you strive to be... You will never be able to please everyone.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I am not currently hiring any new positions at this time, but I am open to having unpaid volunteers. Preferably notaries located in Maryland that can help to host and coordinate local meetups in their area or volunteer at the conference or other events.
I’m also looking for people interested in being a speaker at events that share a passion for educating notaries about documents specific to their industry. I’m looking to grow and build my network and relationships throughout the state. If you are interested, connect with me through a message on the website.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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