Nowadays, businesses without a website can be at a distinct disadvantage.
That knowledge gave a computer science major at East Central University the idea of starting her own business to manage websites for small businesses who can't afford an onsite webmaster.
A good idea, probably, but how to get started?
Then Cassandra Gore learned about ECU's Quick Advantage Entrepreneurship Program, a free Saturdays-only, no-credit course that teaches people how to expand an existing business or create a new business, along with proven ways to reduce their risk. She took the course last September.
"The idea was there for awhile, but I was too scared to try it. I didn't know where to start," Gore said. "The Quick Advantage program let me know what steps to take first."
One of those steps was writing a business plan. Her plan for her business, WebWork Wonders, won the program's business plan competition which comes with a prize of $1,500.
The winning plan has to meet three criteria, said Dr. Karla Peterson, director of ECU's Center for Entrepreneurship. The business has to be "doable". There has to be a need and a market for it and there has to be a sufficient profit margin.
"She had the most realistic and well-developed business plan," Peterson said, "and her business had the highest chance of succeeding."
Next, Gore had to design, plan and put up her own website, webworkwonders.com, and confirm her first customer before receiving the $1,500. She plans to use the money to purchase additional software and for advertising and marketing her home-based business.
The Quick Advantage Entrepreneurship Program was conducted by Dr. William Mayfield, former dean of ECU's School of Business. He and Ann Ritter, director of the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center at ECU, guided the program's participants through the process.
"They showed me there was a need for this type of business and that I could make it work if I actually tried it," Gore said.
"It was scary," she added, "but they've done it before and know what to do, step by step. They gave me the courage to take the first step."
In addition to working toward her bachelor's degree, Gore is an administrative assistant for ECU's communications and marketing department and an athletic website specialist. She designed the layout for ECUtigersports.com and maintains its web pages. She also is assisting ECU's webmaster with a redesign of ECU's academic website.
Her goal, aside from providing a hassle-free way for small businesses to have websites, is to grow from a home-based evening and weekend business to a full-time job and her "own office with a WebWork Wonders sign outside the door."
She also wants to become an SBA-recognized small business.
Gore said she also offers website re-design or management of an existing site, which includes updating information and search engine optimization.
The Quick Advantage Entrepreneurship Program was funded last year by a grant from Landmark Bank. It includes course work, business plan development and "aftercare," or mentoring and assistance as participants get their businesses underway. The purpose is to create more entrepreneurs in rural Oklahoma, Peterson said.
The next set of courses for starting a business is planned for fall 2008.
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