Looking Out For The Little Guys

Large corporations partner up on online tol to boost technology, bottom line for small businesses

Prospective guests of The DC GuestHouse bed and breakfast in Washington, D.C., can now make reservations online thanks to the innovative technology of Biz Tech-Connect. The B&B’s co-owner Tom Bell says that two months after incorporating the service, revenues increased by 30%, or about $12,000 per month.

Biz Tech-Connect (www.biztechconnect.com) is a Web portal that provides free online training, coaching, and social networking, as well as four modules designed to help small businesses with their marketing and advertising, communications and mobility, financial management, and customer relationship management. Besides offering suggestions on inventory control, lessons are available on writing a business plan, developing a Website and creating a newsletter. The portal averages about 120 users per month and about 300 companies have registered since its launch this May.

Biz Tech-Connect was developed to help women- and minority-owned businesses access resources and leverage technology to increase revenues. It was launched through the Technology Partnership for Small Business Task Force, which includes Microsoft Corp., AT&T, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and the Information Technology Association of America, and was convened under the guidance of the Minority Business Development Agency as a result of an Urban Institute study commissioned by Microsoft. That study concluded that many female and minority business owners were underutilizing technology and missing out on billions of potential revenues.

Bell believes Biz Tech-Connect makes it easier to gather resources than all-inclusive search engines such as Google or Yahoo. But others contend the Website is not one-size-fits-all.

“My first impression was it seems to be a good Website, but I don’t think it pertains to me,” says Vickie Clark, co-owner of Kids R Travelin, a Stone Mountain, Georgia-based transportation service for children. And, she added, the site is not user-friendly. “It would take too long to find the information and figure out what I had to do.”

“It is research,” admits Bell. “You have to sit there and read when you have a little down time.”

Ronald Langston, national director of the MBDA, hopes entrepreneurs will begin using technology as a business tool to enhance performance, productivity, and competitiveness. “E-business tools are not just business assets,” he says. “They’re also business services.”

ACROSS THE WEB