Dear Readers, our Smart Woman Online interview has entered the building! Jane had to get resourceful yesterday when other obligations prevented our scheduled interview from joining us.
But we live in a resourceful world, don't we? In fact, the determination and dedication we all bring to the blogosphere can be seen in the outpouring of support -- both in spirit and in financial help -- to the victims of the tsunami that has torn so many lives apart-- lives from near and far. Lip-sticking is following the events on all the blogs so diligently reporting on them, and in the news...but we much prefer the bloggers words and testimony. Several days have past since this natural disaster invaded the peace of the holiday season...we hope all of you, dear readers, have done your best to contribute. There are dozens of blogs and websites to connect you with relief organizations. Be selective, be choosey, but be generous.
Now, on to Bonnie Stanley, web designer extraordinaire. A great lady who, like many of us, is entering 2005 on her tippy-toes. Bonnie is a lady who understands the "starting over" process better than most. She's jumped a few hurdles in the last few years, always landing on her feet. We think her ideas are full of possibility. See what you think...
Lip-sticking: We are grateful to have such a talented lady step in at the last moment, Bonnie. We know you're talented because we've seen a bit of your work. For instance, you introduced us to a project of yours called Remodeling the Triad. Catchy title...neat website...tell us what it means. BTW, we especially like the "not a how-to site," but, a "where to site" description. Explain how you came up with that, too.
Bonnie: In 2001 my husband and I were doing some remodeling on our 1972 ranch style house. After 30 years of being stuck in the 70's it was about time to bring it into the 21st. Century. The green and gold flowered wallpaper and the dark brown cabinets in the kitchen may have been hip and cool in the 70's, but now...not so much. I knew that it was going to be a big project, but I didn't know that one of the hardest parts was going to be finding the materials and the professionals needed to get the job done.
I remember one day looking for this particular tile to go on the back splash. I looked in the phonebook hoping that I could get a good idea of what the tile stores in our area carried. Did I? No. I thumbed through the newspaper. Nothing. Ah, the Internet. Surely that would come to my rescue. I browsed extensively for hours and nothing. I didn't get much more information than I got from my phonebook. It then became a quest. A quest for tile. During this quest and the many others I had while remodeling I kept asking the question, why wasn't there a local website of home improvement businesses that gave detailed information along with photos of their product or work?
I had been a website designer for a few years and I decided to take the problem and create the solution. That is how RemodelingTheTriad was born. There are many "How To" sites on the Internet dealing with home improvement projects, but there were no "Where To" sites. The tag line - Not a "How To" site, but a "Where To" site really goes to the goal of the website. Our goal is not to provide instructions on how to do home improvement projects, it instead informs consumers on where to go to find the materials needed and/or find businesses and qualified professionals that can assist them with their projects.
Lip-sticking: You have an interesting story just about YOU...from the perspective of 'starting over'. Tell our readers a little about that...as we know many of them are reflecting on 2004 and how it worked or didn't work for them, and how 2005 is going to be better. As someone who started over after a number of years in the "real world" you have insight I know our readers will want to hear. Don't be shy...tell us the good and the bad.
Bonnie: In 1994 I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is something that has changed my life. FMS for short, is a "syndrome" which symptoms include excessive tiredness and muscle pain among many others. I got to the point that I could no longer work a 9 to 5 job. I was married with 2 children and I knew I had to help support the family, but I also knew I could not work outside the home. I never knew from one day to the next what level the fatigue and pain would be at. This became a very stressful time for me. We went through some very difficult times with money. There were a lot of things that came about because of the FMS, too many to go into here, but one good thing was finding a job that I could do at home to help support my family. I didn't really find it per se, I created it. I had to. There was no other way.
I learned website design and started my own design company. I felt like at that point I had started over. It's funny how you go through life and think that you are traveling fine down one road and then all of a sudden a detour sign appears and you have to take a different one. That is not always a bad thing. We just have to keep going and see where the road leads us. I realized that I didn't like working "out there" in the "real world" for someone else anyway. I liked being my own boss and I don't see myself ever going back.
Lip-sticking: As we move from one year to the next, what would you like to see happen to Remodeling the Triad. To that end, we wonder if you'd consider starting a blog to support it?
Bonnie: I would love to see RemodelingTheTriad expand to include 250 area businesses. I really want it to be a great resource for local homeowners. And then I want to take this concept to 2 other major cities in NC, Charlotte and Raleigh. They would each have their own websites with exclusive information for that area. The names will be RemodelingCharlotte.com and RemodelingTheTriangle.com.
I am also starting another directory of local business. This website is a family resource directory. It has the same goal as RemodelingTheTriad.com in that it will deliver detailed information on all the businesses that are listed. This will be a one-stop-resource for local families filled with information on local businesses to help make their life easier and more fun. This website (the future TriadFamilyLife.com) will help families with children from newborn to entering college. Categories will include: obgyn, pediatrics, child care, clothing, birthday parties, dance, travel, dentists/orthodontists, family counseling, children's furniture, insurance, maid service, local family events, photography, restaurants, schools, tutoring, women's services, summer camps, etc. All local businesses, detailed information, maps, coupons and links to businesses websites. No more wasting time endlessly searching the net. All in one place - all the information they need. A busy Moms’ dream.
I would like to expand the family resource site into Charlotte and Raleigh as well. Looking into the future, I would like to take this concept to major cities across the country.
I believe that the Internet does a great job in promoting large national and international businesses, where it falls short is helping the small local businesses. As it stands now there are no efficient and cost effective ways for small local businesses to promote their websites. Everyone says you have to have a website, but letting people know it is there and getting traffic to the site is a problem businesses owners are constantly searching for an answer to. I believe that this is the answer. Websites pertaining to a local area, dealing in a specific subject (home improvement, family life, etc.), and comprehensive information for the visitors.
I am very interested in starting a blog. The situations I go through in getting this set up may help someone else who is also starting a business.
Lip-sticking: You're a woman in a man's world...which is to say you do web design and development...and you understand the Internet-- which is a technology function, a place we know that not a lot of women want to be. While, many women are joining you in ever growing numbers, there are still many women who disdain the workings of web design or the Internet. So, we wonder, do you work a lot with men, and how do you handle it? Even more to the point, how do they handle it?
Bonnie: I don't work with a lot of men in the design aspect of it. Since RemodelingTheTriad deals with home improvement, I have dealt with a lot of men trying to get their businesses listed on the site. I was trying to do all the work myself, designing the site, maintaining it, administration and even selling. I noticed that I was having a difficult time getting appointments, but after I hired a salesman he didn't seem to have as many problems as I did. Not sure if it was because he was a man or he was just better at selling. :-) (hmmm...Jane wonders, too.)
Lip-sticking: What do you think is the single most important thing the Internet did for you last year? Can you tell us how important technology is to your personal life, as opposed to your business life? Does it make life better...or, are you hankering for the good old days...back before cell phones and robotic vacuum cleaners?
Bonnie: I think the Internet can be wonderful at times and then again very frustrating. I believe the Internet could be a marketing dream for businesses. Where else can you get full color advertising, with virtually unlimited space, you can change the information in a matter of minutes and it can reach people all over the world. And this all comes at a relatively low cost. You certainly can't do that with print. The Internet is still in its infancy and I think some work needs to be done to get the information out there effectively.
Even though I deal with the Internet for my business I still get online after hours and use the Internet for my personal and family life. Now that I have it I can't imagine life without it.
Lip-sticking: So...are you an online shopper? Be honest. What did you last buy online and where did you buy it?
Bonnie: Yes, I do shop online. The last item I bought was a necklace for my mother-in-law for Christmas. I bought this from QVC. Some of my other favorite sites are Amazon.com and eBay. I love to window shop. Now I can do it without ever leaving my home!
Lip-sticking: Without giving it away, we can tell our readers that your email address comes from AOL. Not to offend, but...we are not fans of AOL. Just for curiosity’s sake, tell us what you like about it. Convert us. If you can!
Bonnie: Wow, this is a tough one! I have been with AOL since I first signed on the Internet 10 years ago. It has not always been a good relationship. Even though they have made some great changes during that time there are a few quirky things I still don't like. To be honest I access the Internet through my local cable company and I kept AOL, with the bring your own access plan, because I had some email addresses for years that I didn't want to let go.
Lip-sticking: Fair enough. Let's talk girlie things for a moment...it's that time of the year when the sequins and high heels come out...when was the last time you wore 2-inch spiked heels? (we're getting silly because it's the end of the year...we'll confess that we can't remember the last time we wore 2-inch spiked heels...but we know we had a lot of fun when we did!)
Bonnie: That had to be back in the mid 80's! Ah, those were the days. When I actually had a body that looked halfway decent in 2-inch spiked heels, but now...not so much. I think I'll stick with my flats!
Lip-sticking: For our last question...back to being serious...as a web designer, and an Internet professional, you must know a bit about e-commerce. Our research shows us that e-commerce is going to be quite profitable in 2005. What do you think makes for a good e-commerce experience from a woman's point of view? Will the online world finally get it...that women are powerful consumers and should be courted properly...whether a site sells perfume or trucks, or, is that just wishful thinking on our part?
Bonnie: What really makes a good e-commerce experience for me is a website that is easy to navigate with detailed information and there is always an 800 number to call if there are any questions. You know, sometimes it's just nice to be able to talk to a human when you have a question or a problem.
If I go to a website and it is hard to navigate and I get lost, I can't find the information I need I will leave. Period. I don't waste my time looking and looking for something that should be easily accessible. Take for instance the shipping and handling information. That is one of the first questions I want answered. How much is it going to cost to get it to me? Why do most e-commerce websites make it so difficult to find that answer? Why is it that so many have poor graphics? Just a couple of my pet peeves.
I certainly hope that companies realize the huge buying power of women and start not only designing websites as a whole but also the ads and information in the websites with women in mind. By doing that they would gain more men visitors/buyers as well as women.
Here's wishing everyone a very Happy and Prosperous New Year!
There you have it, dear readers. A smart, tech-savvy lady who deals with the challenges of a physical ailment, but has such talent, her desire to succeed keeps her on course. When you have one of those trying moments, moments when you think the world is against you, when life seems to be shoving you down the wrong road-- think of Bonnie and stop to consider what life is trying to tell you. A few moments of reflection, a phone call or email to a friend, may be all you need to get back on track.