- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2000

The electronic commerce boom has taken small businesses across the country by surprise. Big corporations spend thousands on creating their Web sites. But many mom-and-pop shops don't have the resources to capitalize on electronic commerce.
Or so they think. Carol Higgins, an information systems specialist for the Circuit Court of Alexandria, recently discovered that an Internet company had already made a Web site for a small company she started called Binky Computers for Kids.
Vista.com, of Seattle, has accessed basic information about the 8.6 million registered small businesses in the country, and has created Web site templates for each of them.
Mrs. Higgins found out about the service from a mass e-mail from Vista founder John Wall and decided to try it. She accessed www.vista.com, typed in her phone number, and "my Web site just popped up, it was there, all I had to do was type in a few things and put pictures of my merchandise."
She loved it, and signed up.
Mrs. Higgins, 26, had been running her company, which sells computer products geared toward children, from her Triangle, Va., home in the evenings. Now she said she is busier than ever, as five to seven purchase orders are made at www.binkypc.vista.com every week.
Using her re-seller's license, Mrs. Higgins purchases computers and products from distributors and customizes them for children. Tangerine PC's, little mice and keyboards, colorful monitors and children's software are some of the items that can be found on her site.
"They provided me with an on-line store front, pretty much," said Mrs. Higgins, who got the service for free for a year, and will then pay a monthly fee of $19.99 to keep the site. "People can access my site and purchase things."
After she began her business last year, Mrs. Higgins tracked news of how much Americans were spending shopping on-line $4 billion between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day of 1999 alone, according to Forrester Research, Inc. So she began building a site, "but I was getting frustrated because I have a full-time job and especially to go and update [the site] I was about to give up."
Now she says it won't be long before Binky becomes her full-time job.
Vista was founded in September, but didn't officially open its doors until late in May. By then clients had lined up, including three small local companies.
Still, most small businesses have not heard about Vista, and since the company is so new, its marketing campaign has yet to reach the East Coast.
Steven Lear, Webmaster for McCabe Bremer Travel in McLean, heard about the company from a friend. Mr. Lear is a professional who designs his own sites, but he signed up with Vista for the use of two other sites: www.cruise.vista.com, and www.golf.vista.com.
He said the two sites are very useful because when people conduct on-line searches for "cruise" or "golf" his sites are often the first listings. Because both original domain names were taken long ago, local travel agencies may have a better chance of reaching customers using Vista.
"The short and sweet domain names are gone out there," said Mr. Lear. "And this gave me access to the short and sweet."
Mr. Lear, who has worked as a Webmaster for several years, said there are many advantages to Vista's services. "The nice thing … is that it's very easy to design a very nice page for someone who may not have a lot of experience in designing a Web site."

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