She’s known as the Queen of Business Law, and now she’ll be the queen of Everyday Edisons’ judging panel! Kelly Bagla, Esq. joins forces with Chris Ferguson and Louis Foreman, lending her extensive legal and IP expertise to the innovators on season 5 of Everyday Edisons streaming now for free on Crackle.
Kelly comes from a family of hard workers who pursued their dreams with grit and determination. When her family migrated from India to Birmingham, England, her father took work as a laborer in a denim factory, which he later went on to own. His modeling of self-made success—and the respect he received from others in the factory—influenced her significantly, and she caught the entrepreneurial bug early on.
She remembers having a passion for law as early as five years old. With a stubbornness she attributes to her mother, she decided she would become an attorney, despite the fact that all of her six siblings wanted to pursue careers in medicine. She also had an inkling that she would like to own her own business one day.
Beginning her law career in 2004, she got her start in a giant biotech firm, working up to seventeen hours a day. Working on international transactions, she gained a solid footing on the corporate ladder and later moved to a smaller corporate firm where she was the only female attorney. She became an expert in IP law and considered trying to make partner. But in her heart, she knew she wanted to be her own boss, and she wanted to focus on small business.
Ten years ago, Kelly did just that, striking out to create the Bagla Law Firm. Because she’d built such a strong foundation with her clients, several of them followed her there. “I became a champion for small business owners,” she says. She’d learned that with the big firms, small business owners were often neglected. One thing was clear to her: she wanted to become their champion. Less clear was how to go about doing that.
“Law school doesn’t teach you about owning your own business,” she explains. “I had to learn all by myself. Being self-employed can be the most exciting and incredible thing anybody can experience,” she says. “You learn that you can only eat what you kill.”
Today, Kelly not only has a thriving law firm, but she’s started a second business, Go Legal Yourself, which provides online legal resources. She has also authored a book by the same title that gives readers nuts-and-bolts information on setting up a sustainable small business.
Inspiring Women and Veteran Entrepreneurs
Kelly especially enjoys working with veterans, as well as women entrepreneurs. Besides being married to a Marine, she says, “I always deeply appreciated the sacrifice that the armed services provide. There’s no greater sacrifice than going off and serving your country. One way I could give back was to help from a legal perspective.
On helping women, she thinks back to her experience as a new corporate lawyer. “My whole life, the one thing my dad taught me was that if I wanted something, I needed to want it from my heart—otherwise don’t bother.” While she had always known in her heart that she wanted to be a lawyer, but at that time only about 4 percent of women were corporate attorneys, and only about 1.5 percent minorities. She worked hard to prove herself as “one of the guys.” In her own firm, she realized at one point that 90 percent of her clients were men.
Reaching out to other women entrepreneurs was one of the motivations behind her latest book, Go Own Yourself. In this book, she coaches people to learn their own value without waiting for someone else to dictate it. “As I was writing and meeting these women,” she remembers, “I would hear ‘I was always taught I wasn’t good enough.’” She wrote the book to help women and others who might be having a crisis of confidence overcome such obstacles of self-doubt.
Her Role as a Lead Judge on Everyday Edisons
Kelly says that she “can’t say enough incredible things about the show.” She appreciates the fact that it allows everyday people the opportunity to engage with experts in engineering, packaging, and distribution—an experience that can be out of reach for the average person. “It will reach out to a lot of people who are sitting on the fence [about inventing],” she says.
As opposed to on shows like Shark Tank or Dragons’ Den (the British show on which Shark Tank was based), Everyday Edisons contestants know that they’re going to be supported and their idea will be valued. “Sometimes the simplest ideas are the ones that make millions,” she says. The show affirms her view that America is a land of opportunity. “When I migrated to the States, I created such an incredible life for myself. Nothing can stop you—it’s truly a land of dreams.”
Adding to the many reasons why Kelly was a perfect fit for the show is her own experience competing on an inventor series—ABC’s The Toy Box. When browsing the toys at gift convention, she found that few of them appealed to her. She knew she could make something better, and set about developing her “Eardorables,” plush animals that have oversized ears so “you can share your secrets with them.”
“This experience I’ll never forget,” she says. Prior to being selected for The Toy Box, she’d had a crash course in entrepreneurship with the Eardorables, complete with creating a prototype, shopping it at a toy show, filing a patent, signing with a toy broker, developing an infomercial, and . . . watching her creations sit boxed under the stairwell for three years. Thankfully, a friend heard about the TV show and suggested she submit her idea.
In the course of the show, ToysRUs/Mattel ended up choosing to license the Eardorables, and her creations finally found their path to the market. Prior to being on the show, she’d encountered lots of “naysayers—people who were saying it’s not the season for plush. If I’d listened to them, I wouldn’t have gotten to engage with Mattel and be selected for the cover story of Inventor’s Digest.” This cover story, incidentally, also connected her to Michael Cable, the executive producer of Everyday Edisons.
Her personal experience as an entrepreneur and inventor series contestant helped her empathize with the Everyday Edisons innovators. She notes that she was “very proud of all of them” and “with some of the inventions. The most common mistake she sees among new inventors is believing that there’s nothing like their product already in the market. “When you’re an inventor putting together a pitch for judges and inventors, you have to include who your competition is—you have to show that yours is better.”
When asked for the five words that best describe her, Kelly chooses “self-made, entrepreneur, driven, sophisticated, and confident.” She credits her family with arming her with confidence and an entrepreneurial spirit and jokes that her sophistication comes hand in hand with her British accent. But she is careful to note that the lion’s share of these descriptors belongs to her own hard work.
As she ascended in her career, she frequently found herself in roles where she was the only woman, and she found few mentors. For reinforcement drew on the legacy of one of her heroes, Margaret Thatcher, who became the first female prime minister despite widespread resistance from her male critics.
Like Thatcher, she says, “I had to learn it all on my own, from bumping along.” Finally, after growing dissatisfied with working for a large firm, she thought “Why not do it myself?” She now owns two businesses and working for herself suits her perfectly. She loves the fact that she doesn’t have to waste time sitting in traffic or rushing out of the door in the morning. She loves working from her home office where she can be close to her husband and four dogs and create her own schedule.
What’s next for Kelly, who seems almost allergic to sitting still? She wants to continue grow Go Legal Yourself, with the ultimate goal of dominating the online legal space. “One of these days I’ll write a book about my life,” she adds. We’re betting that when she does, it will be quite the page turner. After all, her favorite quote, from the Sikh bible, is “Why blend in when you were born to stand out?”