Working the Web

Learn how the Internet can benefit your business

that well.’ But we learned there’s a right way and a wrong way to build a Website.”

According to Stephen Jackson, president of New York-based HypeItUp.Com Inc., Sokera did what many businesses do and overlooked an important first step in building a successful Website-developing an Internet strategy. Jackson designs Websites and lectures businesses on the science of Internet marketing. He says you have to ask: “What is this site going to do for my business? Will it create an avenue for sales, marketing and visibility, or enhance something I’m already doing?” He urges businesses to solidify their strategy before any work is done on a site, because the site’s design should support the strategy.

Next, he recommends exploring the available options. Surf the Net to see what kind of looks and functions are available. Then, develop a budget. According to Web Price Index ( wpi/index.html), there will be four major expenses: (1) site development (cost varies); (2) domain name registration (about $70 for two years); (3) hosting fees (about $20 per month); (4) maintenance and updating ($2,500 for small sites; $5,000 for medium; $14,750 for large sites). Site development costs vary based on whether you opt to build the site yourself with an off-the-shelf application or have a Web designer build it for you. Web designers’ fees can range from as low as $1,000 to $7,000, and will be affected by the level of styling and functionality you want your site to have.

Sokera avoided development and maintenance costs by having her site hosted in an online mall, but she learned that it robbed her of certain freedoms and benefits she might have with a site of her own. For instance, it precluded her from conducting e-commerce. She realized that having a product site without e-commerce was tantamount to having a store with no cash register. So she took an unconventional step and launched a second site,, that provides her a secure server to safely handle sales transactions.

The company maintains the two sites for about $200 a month, and despite the initial missteps, the enhancements Sokera made have resulted in a dramatic increase in sales and public awareness. Upon its launch in 1997, Fatima’s Beautiful Braids relied exclusively on point-of-sale transactions, which totaled approximately $5,000 for the first year. The site was launched in 1997 and revamped in mid-1998, at which point sales began to climb steadily. The site now accounts for half of the company’s total sales activity, which tripled in 1998, ending at approximately $15,000. Continually increasing online sales and an anticipated jump in retail sales put this year’s projected earnings in the neighborhood of $50,000 to $75,000.

Sokera also has a distribution agreement with Sally’s Beauty Supply, the country’s only national beauty supply store. Sokera credits her Website with helping her seal that deal. “People saw [our site] and started asking their local stores if they carried our product.”

A Website is a powerful agent because it gives a local enterprise worldwide presence. Suddenly a local company has

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