|San Fernando Valley Business Journal|
A FORMER REALTOR IN VALENCIA IS BUILDING A BUSINESS BY HELPING OTHER SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS DRUM UP THEIR OWN
BY MICHAEL HART
Don't call Craig Volding a webmaster.
"I don't like that term," he said.
The president of Valencia's WonderWebUSA.com has been a small businessman for a quarter of a century. He watched as the Internet swooped in and leveled the playing field for all kinds of companies. He's seen small businesses leveled by it too.
"Many, many are very frustrated with their Web sites," Volding said. "It's just left a bad taste in their mouths."
"Get online" has been the mantra in American business for some time. Hundreds of thousands of florists and delivery services and coffee shops have paid billions of dollars to companies who promised to get them on the Internet. The problem is that, once there, using it to grow their businesses was not all that easy.
For many small companies, once a Web site is constructed, it's often impossible, without going back to the webmaster and forking over hundreds or thousands of dollars more, to make changes that only he or she has the expertise to make. Mistakes or out-of-date information go months or years with-out being corrected and opportunities to adjust to market conditions are lost.
So Volding came up with his Remote Control product, browser-based editing that allows business owners to make changes to their Web sites without resorting to the sometimes very expensive services of a Webmaster.
"A Web site is really a very simple thing," Volding said. It's the words, it's the art work and, finally, it's what makes it actually visible, the technology. We take the technology and make it easy for the owner."
A realtor for many years, Volding started using the Web to drum up listings and buyers for his real estate business. Six or seven years ago, neither his nor anybody else's use of the Internet was that sophisticated, but it gave him the slightest edge over competitors.
"People were looking for some way to use their new toy," Volding said. "So if they looked at 30 ads, you had something different from the other guy."
In the early days of the Internet, there were very few companies providing Web construction services and Volding learned how to do it as he went along. He started providing the same kinds of services for other realtors as well.
"Then once the big players caught on to the fact that real estate was a good market, they had the marketing power and money to take over," Volding said. "So we needed to diversify."
He started WonderWebUSA.com two and a half years ago, providing Web site templates that business owners could access themselves to change whenever they wanted.
"This way, if you can get on the Internet and remember your password, you're a webmaster," Volding said.
Cindy Sterling owns The Gifted Basket in Manhattan Beach, selling baskets full of gourmet foods and wine for corporate gifts and personal celebrations
"I had a traditional Web site and webmaster," Sterling said, "but it was a very slow process and frustrating for me."
Now she can make seasonal changes to focus on products during Christmas, Valentine's Day, etc. and even offer weekly or monthly specials if she likes.
She and other WonderWebUSA clients pay a one-time construction fee ranging from $299 to $1,095, depending on the complexity of their sites, and monthly fees ranging from $49 to $79. In return, they get the template for their sites, training in how to manage them and all the assistance they need from Volding and his staff of two.
Up until recently, Delta Scientific Corp. of Valencia used Volding's company for traditional Web she management. The $18 million company builds and markets vehicle access control equipment, including security barricades for government buildings and other sensitive installations operated by the private sector.
Recently, with WonderWeb's help, the company took over management of its Web site itself.
And Volding is trying to tap into the market provided by much larger companies, those that can easily afford more sophisticated Web management, but may not want to make the investment for certain reasons.
Zacky Farms Inc., the second largest poultry producer in California and a $350 million business, didn't need Volding's help with Web design. But its human resources department did. A fairly labor-intensive operation, Zacky Farms wanted one part of its Web presence - intended primarily to provide information to consumers - that could be more interactive than the others, providing up-to-date information to job seekers and a way for them to submit employment applications.
WonderWeb was able to develop a site that, Volding said, "they can pay someone $11 an hour to run instead of $60 an hour."
About half of the 150 clients WonderWebUSA has are still realtors and about half are in the Santa Clarita Valley. Still a very small operation, Volding expects revenues this year of about $150,000.
His greatest challenge is drumming up more clients for a business that is designed to help odiers do exactly the same thing.
"We don't have the financing to mass-market," Volding said. "We have to do it guerrilla-style."