Nothing can be sweeter for an aspiring entrepreneur than to find a niche market and flourish in it. That’s just what Dina Elardo did 15 years ago when she founded Notary Public Central, a successful training and development company that serves NYC, Long Island and Buffalo.
Dina was teaching at a business school when her boss, the owner, asked her to design and teach a notary course. She quickly realized that this area of business training was underserved and with the encouragement of a colleague who’d left the business school to set up her own medical billing training company, Dina decided to go into business for herself. She juggled finding instructors, designing coursework, renting classroom space with her more demanding role as wife and mother of twin baby girls—in other words, living the life of a typical woman entrepreneur. With the support of her husband, who owns a mobile screening company, she persevered. She added ancillary services to the business like an online notary supply store, notary prep tests and refresher courses.
Notaries are trained legal professionals appointed by state governments to perform a variety of fraud prevention acts such as confirming the identities of people signing important official documents. While it is a niche profession, every company, regardless of industry, has to have someone on board who can perform the role. Thus the need for notary public training.
It is the training and professional development side of the notary business that has proven to be so lucrative for Dina. Most of her clients are corporate HR and training professionals who send employees to a three-hour course that prepares them to sit for the license examination. She also does a brisk business training paralegals in notary law. Recently Dina applied for the Women-Business Enterprise (WBE) certification in order to expand her revenue base to include government agencies. While she says the certification process is cumbersome, it is well worth the effort because there are so many opportunities. For example, there are scores of administrative assistants in the agencies who are required to have the training. She is especially looking forward to subcontracting with construction companies who need notary services. They are required to have their payrolls notarized on a weekly basis, for example.
“My business grew as my daughters grew. They are 16 years old now and involved in everything from music and writing to cheerleading. I have to do my share of carting them from one activity to another like every other Mom. Ever since they were able to help out around the house, I’ve been able to devote more and more of my time to the administrative side of the business, developing and updating my courses, and managing my faculty,” she says. Dina delivers both public and online instruction with the majority (75%) of her clients preferring to be in class to interact with the instructor and other students.
Which bring us to what Dina enjoys most about WVF: the networking opportunities. “As a woman entrepreneur and especially as a one-woman shop, it’s important to get out and network with other entrepreneurs to bounce off ideas, hear about the challenges they are having in their businesses and how they have set about handling them. I enjoyed a WVF workshop last spring where I got to do exactly that. I met some very inspiring women who shared their experiences and I got to sit down with small business experts who could answer the questions I had about my business. I look forward to more opportunities like that.”
Dina thinks it is high time to hire an employee to relieve her of some of the day-to-day operations so she can focus on the next step in growing her business: Securing her own training space. She wants to share that space with non-competitive professionals like fingerprinting experts, passport service providers and CPAs. She is very ambitious and energetic and enjoys a great reputation in the industry. Dina is an active member of both the American Society of Notaries and the National Notary Association, the latter having recognized her expertise in 2004 by naming her a Special Honoree.