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PENNTAP partnerships aid Northern Tier businesses|
Making a Web Presence
By James Loewenstein
|Article reprinted courtesy of The Daily Review, Towanda, Pa. (Nov. 15, 2002)|
Don Russell, who produces syrup and other maple products at his farm in Rome, had heard that using the Internet would be a good way to sell his wares.
But, like many small business owners, he didnt know how.
Thanks to a new course that was offered last fall by Penn State Wilkes-Barres Northern Tier Center, Russell and 19 others from Bradford, Sullivan and surrounding counties learned how to market their products to the world over the Internet.
The course, which was intended for small business owners and people who hope to set up a small business, was offered in Towanda during October and November.
I dont think (offering this type of course) had been done before in this area of the state, said John Swayze, director of the Northern Tier Center, which is a Continuing Education program based in Towanda.
The course was titled Using Microsoft FrontPage to Create and Maintain a Basic Web Site. Microsoft FrontPage is a software package that is used to create Web sites. It was offered in three three-hour sessions.
The idea of the course is that students would create their own Web site, learn how to maintain it and get it (launched) on the Internet, Swayze said.
There was an unusually high demand to enroll in the course, Donna Yale, an e-commerce consultant with Penn States Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PENNTAP), said.
Students in the course learned how to set up a Web site to advertise their business. They learned how to put a variety of information on the Web site, such as descriptions of their products and services, photographs of products and hours of operation. They also could list information, such as telephone number or e-mail address, that customers could use to contact the business to order products.
However, the course was not long enough to teach the students how to set up a Web site where customers use credit cards to purchase products directly over the Internet, Swayze said.
The students came from a range of small businesses, including maple sugar businesses, gift shops, a hobby shop and a canoe and kayak rental service, Yale said.
The course was partially funded by the Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Commission, so tuition for the course was only $25, Yale said.
The course was worthwhile, Russell said. I got my home page pretty well done.
Russell said he plans to hire a professional to create a new Web site for him that would allow customers using a mouse to add products to a virtual shopping cart and pay for them over the Internet using a credit card.
The course was offered on a pilot basis. Swayze said the Northern Tier Center would like to offer the course again in other locations, such as Athens, Sayre, Canton or Troy. The Northern Tier Center serves Bradford, Sullivan and Wyoming counties.
I think the course was successful, Yale said. However, the next time the course is offered, it would be wise to give students more user-friendly handouts, so that they can try exercises at home to practice what they have learned, she said.
As an e-commerce consultant with PENNTAP, Yale provides up to 20 hours free technical assistance to small businesses.