I had the pleasure of interviewing Janine Sickmeyer, an entrepreneur in the legal tech space. She is Founder and CEO of NextChapter, a web application for attorneys to prepare, manage and file their bankruptcy cases online.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I first entered the legal industry as a bankruptcy paralegal at a law firm in Columbus, Ohio. From there, I started a virtual paralegal firm, preparing bankruptcy documents for attorneys online. During that time, I was using antiquated software and found it to be cumbersome and inefficient. I knew there was a need for an online application and that’s when I created NextChapter.
When building NextChapter, all bets were against me. I lost two co-founders, ran out of money and pitched 82 times to VCs all over the U.S. Despite these challenges and more associated with being a female founder in a male-dominated industry, I kept going. I was resilient and tenacious and managed to get my company off the ground by self-funding, pushing the limits and staying lean. And in the process, I learned a lot about business, patience and the power of believing in yourself.
Why did you found your company?
The idea for NextChapter was inspired from my personal experience as a paralegal in a bankruptcy law firm. I started a virtual paralegal firm, preparing bankruptcy documents for attorneys online all over the country. I was using software to prepare cases and found it to be time-consuming, unreliable and inefficient. I knew there was a need for cloud-based bankruptcy software so I taught myself how to code and built a team of skilled developers and two years later NextChapter was born. NextChapter launched in January 2016 and has seen enormous growth since.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
NextChapter is disrupting the way attorneys are practicing bankruptcy law by providing a modern, online solution to an niche market. The legal industry in general is changing. Forms are becoming automated, access to justice is increasing and there is even talk of robot lawyers, all thanks to legal tech. In the bankruptcy space specifically, I created a web-based app that automates the bankruptcy process from start to finish and makes it easier for attorneys and their staff to help people in financial distress.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
Early on, I turned to so many inspiring entrepreneurs for help. Gary Vaynerchuk is certainly one of my mentors. I met him when I first started working on NextChapter and as time went on, he was a critical part of my business growth. He opened up doors for me and even just following his content helped push me along when I was in a rough patch.
How are you going to shake things up next?
I am passionate about sharing my startup story with female entrepreneurs and business leaders to help them overcome challenges when starting a new venture so I’m currently writing my first book in hopes to inspire other women to take a leap into entrepreneurship in the tech space.
In addition to the upcoming book, I’ll be hosting a podcast and sharing my stories on my newly revamped blog and website.
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking?
When I was just getting started on my business idea, I attended a talk by Tony Robbins and it truly changed my life. I saw him at a time when I needed it the most. I was in a dark place, like most founders go through at some point or another, and I attended his talk with no prior knowledge of what I was getting into. After being in the room for 15 minutes, I knew this would be something I would remember forever. He had the entire room of 10,000 people on their feet, jumping up and down, hugging each other. It was crazy. I had never experienced anything like it. I felt like he was talking to me personally. The stories he shared, the advice he gave, all of it came at the perfect time and that was when I decided to take the leap and quit my full time job.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Beyoncé. I’m going with Beyoncé on this one because I’m pregnant with twins right now and run my own business and so does my husband so I like to think we’re the same kind of power couple. I’d love to sit down for brunch with Bey and get all her juicy business secrets.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Twitter — @monamie_janine
Instagram — @monamiejanine
Twitter — @NextChapterBK
Instagram — @NextChapterBK