Hispanic programmers offer a software package for the mom-and-pop entrepreneur.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, Internet shopping seems the safest way to buy. But entrepreneurs looking to serve the online shopping market face heavy competition, as there are literally millions of businesses around the globe using their Web sites to hawk goods and services.
For companies with a product to sell, there are myriad ways to get their message online in a matter of minutes through free Web sites offered by everyone from AOL or Yahoo to your friendly neighborhood Internet service provider. Or if you have the money, there are plenty of Web development firms that will create a beautiful e-commerce site with all the proverbial bells and whistles.
But what about a small to medium-size business that doesn't have $50,000 or more to spend on a Web developer? And what about the owners of mom-and-pop retail stores who don't know the first thing about the Internet? Can companies with a modest Web budget and limited Internet knowledge join the e-commerce revolution?
Yes, says Rigoberto Garcia, president of SoftwareSolutions Corp. in Madison, Wisconsin. SoftwareSolutions (at www.softwaresolutionsteam.com) has developed a new suite of Web tools specifically designed to help small to medium-size companies. The typical customer has limited exposure to e-commerce opportunities and an even more limited budget.
The whole suite goes by the name Developer In-A-Box. Individual programs include ezCreator, ezWebCreator, and ezIntranetCreator. Starting this month, the software will be available in both Spanish- and English-language versions. SoftwareSolutions plans to offer it in Portuguese and other languages in the future.
"With these tools, [small companies] can easily become Web-enabled," Mr. Garcia says. "You can be up and running in less than 25 minutes."
Prices for individual software tools start at less than $90. These programs fit together to make it simple for the small-business owner to create fully functional Intranet and Extranet systems as well as e-commerce Web sites. An Intranet system is an internal Web site whose access is restricted to, say, a company's employees. An Extranet has wider access and might include a company's employees, vendors, and suppliers. An e-commerce Web site, of course, is designed for customers to do business with an online store and is accessible to anyone who types in the Web address.
The key to Developer In-A-Box is simplicity of use for the small-business owner. "Our software has changed a lot since Beta testing," Mr. Garcia says. "We have made it so much easier to use because there are people who really don't have any computer knowledge." The software is compatible with Linux and Microsoft operating systems, he adds.
SoftwareSolutions will debut its newest products this month at COMDEX Fall 2001, the semiannual Las Vegas trade show for information technology. Between them, the principals of SoftwareSolutions have plenty of experience attending COMDEX. The company is a privately owned joint venture created by seven veteran computer consultants, most of them Hispanic, who have a wide range of Internet and technology expertise.
"We got together because we saw that a lot of small companies with two or 10 or even 50 employees are being overlooked by software developers," Mr. Garcia explains. "Most major Web consultants will never even look at a mom-and-pop shop or small entrepreneurs, because they don't have thousands of dollars to spend."
In the future, SoftwareSolutions will incorporate voice-activation technology and setup wizards to make it even simpler for those with limited computer experience to use the program, Mr. Garcia says. Someone unfamiliar with a keyboard, for instance, could respond orally to onscreen prompts and leave the rest to the software, which would create an e-commerce Web site without so much as a single keystroke.
"There are a lot of software packages out there, but you need to have knowledge of Java or html programming," Mr. Garcia contends. "We want to offer an option for people who don't have that experience."
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