Secrets of Success: James Kornacki

There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.

Meet: James Kornacki, Ph.D., the founder and CEO of Üllo. Using his doctorate in chemistry (from Northwestern University) and lots of research, James became an expert in wine chemistry. Spurred by his sensitivity to sulfites, James invented the Selective Sulfite Capture™ process to help those who would benefit from having these chemicals out of their wine. Essentially Üllo is a wine purification product that removes the sulfites found in wine, restoring it to its natural, preservative-free state. James successfully ran a Kickstarter campaign for Üllo to raise funds. You can find him on Twitter @ullowine.

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

James Kornacki: A scientist—and that path was laid when I was really young. I remember feeling like a bit of a loner back then, because I had no interest in playing with the usual toys of the ‘90s, such as action figures and Nerf guns—the types of things my twin brother happened to love. He thought I was pretty boring by choosing to play with chemistry sets and microscopes. I remember my favorite was those “grow your own crystals” kits. That’s certainly not the most social of toys! Ironically, after becoming a scientist, I realized it lacked the type of social interaction I really needed. With Üllo, I get to rely on my scientific background to do something uniquely social—running a business.

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

Kornacki: As I get older I increasingly value the luxury that is freedom. It’s one of the most basic tenets of American exceptionalism, but it also seems to be one of the most difficult to achieve. Still, we’re blessed to have that option in this country. Starting your own business is one way to achieve that freedom, and it felt like the only option for me.

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Kornacki: Oh, yes. Suffice it to say that my time spent earning my Ph.D. left me feeling a bit...obsequious.

Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Kornacki: “Watch out for the Glommers. The people who want to glom-on to what you’re doing.” That gem is from my advisor Mike Marasco, Director of the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University. He is the wisest person I know.

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

Kornacki: Inclusion. The startup world in particular is very self-selecting and exclusive. It rewards extraversion and dismisses timidity. It’s also very male-dominated. That really frustrates me, particularly as an extraverted male. We need to do a better job recognizing the unique contributions of different types of people.

Lesonsky: Do you have a prediction about small business?

Kornacki: Everything’s coming up roses as long as the economy continues to improve!

Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?

Kornacki: Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy.

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Kornacki: “Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.”– Stephen Hawking

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Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.