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The capital connection

©Judy Vorfeld

The Capital Connection Web site http://www.capitalconnection.com, began as an online brochure and has grown into a successful business in only one year. How did an ordinary, no bells - no whistles site succeed so fast? Money? Skill? Luck?

None of the above.

A Web site starting as a casual way to "just get online" now generates enough sales from their publications and the computerized matching service to be profitable. Here is how it happened.

For ten years, Dee Power and Brian Hill ran Profit Dynamics, Inc., a Scottsdale, Arizona consulting business seeking capital funding for clients, creating tailor-made business plans for entrepreneurs, and coaching them toward strong business growth. They brought in another partner, Rab Paquette in 1997 to form The National Acquisition Network LLC.

One memorable day they agreed to create a Web presence. Something simple, you know, like a brochure. . . . that way they'd have a URL, would pay their monthly fees to the host, and get on with their lives in the Phoenix area. They put nothing into advertising. In 1998, it wasn't critical to have a major advertising budget . . . for a Web site.

Power said that if she were starting over on the Internet today, knowing what she now knows, she probably wouldn't have attempted the site. But she didn't know.

AUGUST 1999 GOAL: Design and upload a twenty page virtual brochure. Thinking it would be a brief, painless process, the cheerful team hired host and designer, Scott Temaat of http://www.sohoWeb.net SOHOWeb Technologies. They began announcing the site's debut to clients and colleagues in the Phoenix area.

Early on they decided that one of them would devote at least four hours daily to the Web site: organizing, changing, experimenting, marketing, and networking. They figured this would only be necessary during the startup and that later the designated partner could get back to local business, full time. Since Power was already active on the Internet and involved with newsgroups, she was the logical choice.

  • Design and Maintenance Power collaborates with Temaat, who still handles much of the site design and maintenance, but sometimes she impetuously whips out her HTML manual, and makes changes to her heart's content. A most gracious person, she usually accepts all criticism of her design errors.
  • Networking In addition to design, Power now began serious Internet networking, participating in forums, discussion boards, and newsgroups. Much of her interactivity with other business people on the Web results in change and growth of the CC site. Ideas spark ideas, and she's a brilliant innovator.

JANUARY 1999 GOAL: Make the Capital Connection a one stop shop for entrepreneurs. CC began creating new, effective business resource links, and created new publications. They went against normal business practice and not only linked to competitors, but explained how these businesses work, as well as what and whom they charge.

Are they foolish to advertise for the competition? "Perhaps," says Power, "but today we're known to have one of the most comprehensive Web sites for entrepreneurs seeking financing and other related information. While we welcome new business, we prefer that if prospects go elsewhere, they go only to the best."

The CC newsletter, which had a healthy beginning in 1998, began growing. Traffic to the site grew. Power continued to network, offering others on the Internet a wealth of small business information.

APRIL 1999 GOAL: Personalize the site, making it much more interactive. They determined to make the site a place where entrepreneurs feel comfortable contacting a Venture Capitalist (or potential financier) and where they can learn from respected experts.

"The Internet has lots of capabilities not available in the physical world, and we wanted to exploit them all," Power explained. "By now we had a successful newsletter with almost all articles and features original and by selected authors. In fact, we're so successful that we have a rich roster of contributing columnists and guest authors."

The semiweekly newsletter, dotted with humor and a certain easy flair, delights and informs its readers about fiscal issues, effectively running a small business, and a offers a small business site review monthly. Because of the overwhelming response to the Q&A section headed by Ms. Money, CC's staff published an entire booklet full of financial wisdom carefully cloaked in frivolity.

What next? CC began a monthly live chat, usually with a special guest; offers a moderated discussion list focused on entrepreneurs and finance; holds a series of popular free online seminars; and every week hosts a special event that usually includes a guest, and either a survey, quiz, or seminar. They recently started a comprehensive bulletin board to support needy, confused entrepreneurs.

Earlier in 1999 CC launched its annual Virtual Venture Capital Conference, the first-ever online Venture Capital conference. They advertised the conference widely, mainly through networking channels. It offered entrepreneurs and investors a way to find each other and educated entrepreneurs in the areas of finding capital. Because they nearly tripled the number of daily visitors within weeks, CC integrated many of the areas of the conference into its site.

The latest CC innovation is the onsite Cooperative Bookstore. In return for a small bit of time helping to maintain the CC Bookstore, authors of books, booklets, and software may advertise their publications free of charge. In fact, CC not only links to the author's site or email address, but provides space for photos and promos of the business-related publications.

The CC team also spends time and effort in public service. Shocked and frustrated at the recent tornado devastation of Oklahoma and Kansas, they posted notices throughout the Internet, offering a free list of Venture Capital companies for those willing to contribute to the Red Cross in those states."We know of at least $3,000 given over a ten day period," Power said. "The average was about $25. And there may have been others who donated but didn't require the list."

They continue to develop goals beyond their simple initial expectations as they gain knowledge and experience.

Dee Power didn't know what she couldn't do . . . didn't recognize what was not possible. And because of the team effort in her business, she had the luxury of time that sole proprietors don't enjoy. But even if she were a sole proprietor, one wonders if she wouldn't still have followed the same path, even if more slowly.

How about your Web business? Have you been able to put the imprint of your personality on your site? Have you succeeded in letting visitors understand your pleasure in serving them? Check out the Capital Connection at http://www.capitalconnection.com and study their offerings. And if you're new Web site owner needing a business plan, go to CC's http://www.capitalconnection.com/freestuff.html Free Stuff page and order a free business plan outline.

About the author
Judy Vorfeld's operating system is Windows and her primary software includes WordPerfect; Microsoft Word; Microsoft Publisher; Adobe Acrobat; PaintShopPro; and Macromedia HomeSite. Please visit her website: http://www.ossweb.com

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