Case Study: New Website for Revitalized Small Business Association

Lori Halley 12 November 2008 0 comments

As a slew of marketing studies remind us, most people make the Internet their first stop when they're looking for information. After all, what can compete? The Web is part pubic library, part yellow pages, part news media, with over-the-fence gossip rolled in!  Getting online is no longer a "frill" for nonprofits, but a necessity — especially in a tough economy — and epecially for a small organization on a tight budget, with limited resources.

Virginia Microenterprise Network is one such organization — a statewide network of organizations dedicated to assisting small businesses, and something of a microenterprise itself. The network helps entrepreneurs to find technical and capital resources, and gives community organizations a chance to share their success stories and expertise in building their local economies.

VMN has been through some changes since its start-up in 1995, almost disappearing at one point in time. Now, interim director Welthy Soni-Myers is hard at work — almost single-handed — on a new Wild Apricot website, aiming to bring the Virginia Microenterprise Network back to vigorous life.

Here, Welthy Soni-Myers gives us a glimpse behind the scenes of VMN, at what the organization is doing these days, and where she hopes to take it with the new website:

How did the Virginia Microenterprise Network come about?

The Virginia Microenterprise Network was started in 1995 as a private, non-profit representing those organizations in the state of Virginia interested in microenterprise.  Its membership consists of banks, non-profit organizations, some governmental entities involved in small business development, etc.

What need was VMN created to fill?

VMN provides training and networking for its members and advocacy with the Virginia General Assembly.  It also helps to promote self-employment and entrepreneurism in the state.

The membership is currently very small — less than 20 members. The organization was very active during the period 1995-2003.  It almost went out of business for about four years.  We are now trying to revive it and to expand the membership.

What services do you provide to your members?

In the past, we have put on one conference a year, plus two or three training sessions.  This year we plan to start slowly with a small conference in early spring and a networking gathering in January in Richmond while the General Assembly is in session.

What made you decide to set up your current website?

We had previously had a website and we let our domain name go dormant and the website drifted off into the ether.  Because we are currently a low-cost operation, this was an inexpensive way to get back into the website business — although I am handicapped by being anything but techy and web savvy.

I am still struggling with it.  I want to put up a lot more pictures and haven’t figured out how to do it.  A friend helped me initially; I now need to go to the help section of the website and ask for more assistance.

What role do you see for your website in helping you to carry out VMN’s core mission?

I would like to be able to have an entrepreneur directory which would encourage entrepreneurs to begin to network.  This is also important when pointing out to the legislature (which helps fund microenterprise in Virginia) what a good bang they get for their buck.

How do you see your website evolving?

I would like to get more current events and entrepreneur stories up on the site.   I would like to make it more dynamic.

For others interested in setting up a website for an association, what would you say are the most important factors to consider?

  • Cost is a big factor.  This is obviously very inexpensive.
  • Ease of use.  Another big factor.  I have gotten excellent feedback on the look of our site — and since I have no skills whatsoever, that speaks to the user-friendly characteristics of the site.
  • Good support.  I haven’t used it much (although I have read through the help pages a lot), but going forward that is going to be important to me.
  • Flexibility of the site.

 

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 12 November 2008 at 2:34 PM

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