Florida Web Development

web-logo-florida-web-development-600

We need to talk about http://FloridaWebDevelopment.net on the blog because some people we talk to are still surprised that we opened up a second location. Florida Web Development is an expansion of the original company that I started over three years ago, Carolina Web Development.

Florida Web Development is located in Jacksonville, FL.

I am splitting time between the two states and Carolina Web Development is still an important and crucial part of our business. It was just time to expand into a larger market and with a city that functions very differently than the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton area. We have always served clients in both Carolinas but were based out of the Hilton Head area.

Carolina Web Development is licensed through the town of Hilton Head and we are a member of the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

Florida Web Development is a member of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. Both businesses are accredited through the Better Business Bureau with an A+ rating.

How is Carolina Web Development Different?

I’m Laura Kerbyson and I’ve spent my whole life being different from everyone else.

In terms of web development companies – Godaddy or Network Solutions or your local shop is not going to throw in the graphics, all digital photography including specking Aerial shoots, design branding, SEO, server setup, email setup, animated web sites or even a software kiosk – a fully comprehensive product into one product offering. They have a limited range of talent and that talent does not resonate from one single creative visionary source to make that product. When you have teams of creative people it’s very difficult and expensive to produce a unified successful product. If you’ve got one visionary with the end-all-be-all skillset at the helm that also understands business and economic development and how to take your business to the next level – why that’s the trump card and that’s our properties – FloridaWebDevelopment.net and CarolinaWebDevelopment.com. Now, do we use the servers of those companies, absolutely.

The largest single investment in my work was Hard Rock Park, a rock and roll theme park that as a few founders – we raised $252 in the bond market and the total end product was closer to $600 million of investment. That was the foundation stepping stone to getting businesses to realize that I am the person and suite of companies to represent firms like medical, cosmetic dentistry, housing developments, flower shops, wedding businesses, fashion icons, aviation, real estate and so forth. We have such a comprehensive line of companies in our portfolio, that people can really see the depth of our company.

As a designer I’ve done a theme park, yacht designs, millions of dollars in homes and untold web properties even a custom Porsche. Design is my passion and the bigger the better. I’m just not settling for being an average woman….or average companies.

———————————–

Competing companies – you think you’ve got what it takes to compete – then you throw your jack on the table and let’s see who wins. That’s 25 years of confidence in my product and my skill set and knowing that I have the best solution for businesses.

My background is in computer science, graphics and business.

 

Discussion About Founding An Organization to Address Issues

I giving some serious thought to this and would like to know what people think about it.

 

I had lunch with a women’s professional group and the lady across the table was telling me her story. She basically said, “I used to be a web developer. But people treat web developers so badly and we always had to deal with a certain amount of people who didn’t pay, that I left the industry.”

 

Unfortunately, I have heard this time and time again from not just women but men in the industry and I know people with very prestigious clients in which this has happened. Sometimes the stories are pretty shocking. Being a web developer is a highly skilled position and I hate to see people quit because of the way they were treated.

 

And it just so happens that the conversation with me hit a nerve because we have a client who now has a year’s worth of work and is trying to get out of paying for the work. We did a great job and the quality of the work is not the issue. They just don’t want to pay. They want the equivalent of two years of service for the price of one. Because it’s a retailer with multiple stores, we basically extended our work on credit because I thought we would get paid (we did the first year) but when the year two bills came due – guess what no check. We’ve moved to a prepay model because we’ve gotten burned on this before.

 

But what I am finding in conversations with professionals (and I’ve been doing this 15 years) is that there are some deep pervasive problems in the industry between some client/developer relationships. And we all know that many clients have so little background in understanding the web that they can have some unrealistic expectations at times. I’ll use this one as a small example – Like the client I had once who expected me to setup his email accounts on his iPhone. I explained that as a web developer, that kind of service is not generally covered with the price of site but since he was my client I obliged. But it cost me a trip, time and unreimbursed services.

 

So here’s what I am thinking: I’ve kind of glanced at some professional web developers groups but I don’t quite see the instrument that I am envisioning already in place. What I am thinking is that we need some kind of group like “National Federation of Web Developers” and the sole purpose of that group is to formulate a general set of best practices and expectations for web professionals to present to their clients that say, “I belong to the National Federation of Web Developers and we like for our clients to read and acknowledge this before we begin the work…”

 

And of course one of the things it needs to say is that we expect to get paid. I think the document can say some other things like, “What to expect from us…” because any business relationship needs to be a two-way relationship. We all use contracts and there are times in life when we use them and don’t use them. But we’ve all seen payment problems even with signed contracts. It’s doesn’t happen with the majority of business but when it does – it stings a business really hard and we all know it. So we kind of feel the need for something more universal that acknowledges and addresses some of the problems of the industry.

 

The thought is that if clients had to think about some issues before we begin, then those issues might not occur.

 

At any rate, my thought is to found a group to address the concerns and develop a document. Develop a document that can be used as a tool by web professionals and then let the group develop potentially educational sessions for other business professionals to learn how to select qualified web professionals and what the expectations and deliverables should be and why we founded the organization to help both the web professional and the business owner in order to achieve better working relationships.

 

So I am putting this out on the web to see what other web professionals think about the idea.

 

If you have input, you can email me at:

 

Laura@CarolinaWebDevelopment.com

Let’s Talk Business

Many of these discussions originated with a Chamber & SBA workshop and then out of speed networking event – people seemed really interested to know just how it works. More that one person said they were impressed by how far one woman with a vision could take something.

Three years ago, I started a company called Carolina Web Development. Through our web sites, software kiosks, print and advertising collateral – We make Memorable Experiences With Style. My background as a professor for nine years was a dual professor in both graphics and computer science. After I became a CIO of a series of companies, I left to start my own. The business was started with substantial cash investment that I put into it. Florida Web Development is an expansion of that company.

Let’s talk about those companies first.

Key Partners

The first key partners in our equation are GoDaddy and Network Solutions (now Web.com). I have done business with Network Solutions for 15 years in a number of capacities and for a number of clients. Through a competitive markeplace, GoDaddy was eventually able to build really competitive products that also suited our needs. So when we need servers, domain names, VPS, dedicated servers, SSL certificates, email servers those have been our strongest two partners on that side of the business. Believe it or not, GoDaddy wasn’t really a player in our equation up until about 2 years ago. But we’ve been impressed by what we can get on the performance side and things that I consider added value to the developer side of the equation. They started providing expansive tools and resources that we needed as a company to grow.

Another strategic partner for us has been a company that we work with in California to create the social media aggregation software that runs on our kiosks. We were able to take their product and partner it with our engineering and design to get substantial results. And there have been other partnerships in the supply chain for the development of kiosks.

The next key area of strategic partners for us has been the Chamber memberships. We do business with other businesses and in many cases we help make the business. It’s not unusual for a business to show up at my door with just a name and a concept and then creatively, I create the web site and the products and services that allow the company to really grow. It’s a very rewarding thing to help spur economic development for your clients.

Our last major strategic partner has been in the startup and continuing evolution of the Laura Kerbyson designer line of cell phone cases and mouse pads. We went through two iterations of factories before we ended up with our current factory that was finally able to produce the level of design and quality that we require in a product in terms of the physical requirements. The design work is my work.  Some of the products are made in the U.S. entirely and some are made with our international strategic partners. In forming those relationships, I had to navigate cultures, pricing, shipping, distribution, packaging in other country, etc. in order to get what I needed. Eventually we moved packaging and distribution back to the U.S. We started very small with selling the nine patterns at the top of the Lighthouse on Hilton Head. In store sales, actually exceeded my expectations of what we would sell initially. Then we expanded into Amazon. Now we need to take it to the next level and find vendors to purchase product for sale in their stores or large purchasers who are interested in new exclusive lines at large volume. This is a small idea that I am slowly feeding to grow into something bigger. Because when I look at the sales of one store and I multiply that by 10 stores or 100 stores. This could be much bigger. My challenge is to find the way where I’m not the bank for the stores and assuming all the risk. Initially, I did that and I think it’s risky. When the store owners have some kind of ownership into the product, I think it’s better for everyone. We are unique in that our customers can connect with us to get the patterns of the cases for the inside of the phone so that the design wraps through the entire device.

When I have overflow, I have contractors and other people with businesses like mine that I can call into projects and they are geographically located in very different regions. For everything I show in the gallery, I try to make sure it is my work because the majority of the time that’s what people want and I need for them to see what they are purchasing.

Key Activities

Our key activities continue to be Chamber events, workshops and networking events. On the development of the web sites – our key activities involve taking the products the server companies make and making a polished finished product. Our products are not “web site builder” products which from a technical standpoint are really inferior products and never serve clients very well. Our code platform is clean and responsive. We have a number of rapid development tools which allow us to build sites for our clients that are very polished and at a reasonable price point that delivers a lot of bang for the buck. We can maintain those sites for the fraction of the cost of an in-house employee at our clients location. Expertise gives us speed and cost effectiveness. Our animated sites, allow us to creatively convey a lot of message.

Key Resources

Right now I am in the process of beginning to tap into the vast Jacksonville market which is competitively trying to foster an entrepreurial community. The sheer amount of resources, groups, expertise, willingness to help and make connections and outright competiveness of it’s city’s leaders were big factors in choosing Jacksonville for the expansion. We have several obstacles that I need to overcome in order to adapt our model to this market. But I am optimistic that it can be done.

For example, I am grateful that in last night’s workshop in a room full of people – they pulled two of us out of the room that they thought were ahead of the game in terms of developing their companies and their business model. I was one of the two. They then went on to coach and mentor us privately. It speakes very well of the resources that the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce was providing to facilitate that happening. It is exactly what we need in order to learn this local market and grow the business.

Value Proposition

– Style, Design, Cost Effective, Rapid professional development, deep expertise in making a superior product – the depth and level of the expertise allow all of this to combine to allow us to “Create a Memorable Experience With Style.” We make it easy for our clients. They tell us this over and over again.

Customer Relationships

Over the years, our customers have come from states such as Ohio, West Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. I would love to tell you that our best customers only come from the Chamber but that hasn’t been the case. Some of our best clients were people that found us on the web and really liked the look and feel of the products in our gallery. But for us, our chamber memberships have also been historically important because we are a business to business model.

Channels

Our customers are reached through the chamber memberships, through the web on our sites, by email marketing, by referrals, by networking events and by belonging to other professional organizations. The personal contact with me directly is what often facilitates the sale but not always. Some people have made a decision to purchase without ever meeting me. It does happen but it’s rare. It means that as a developer and designer, I have to make time to be accessible to build those relationships. It’s a total shift of gears from the role I play as someone who makes products.

Customer Segments

We have different products that are designed for every level of business. We have site development tools for small business, medium and large scale capacities. Those tools allow us to hit multiple price points. In our designer tech accessory line we offer products for tourists, locals and then some that are for the people who just really love design.

Cost Structure

The number one habit through the evolution of the companies that we have learned not to do is “be the bank.” When we first started, I extended credit and let other companies essentially finance the work through us. Over time, on new clients – we did away with that practice. We still have some existing clients who were on the “build first, pay later model.” Honestly, it’s been a very expensive and costly proposition for me. For example, I have three companies with outstanding balances that should have already been paid. It puts us in a very difficult spot when we don’t get paid and don’t have the cash for operations. We are slowing phasing this out but I’ll be happy when it’s all a prepaid model – the same that GoDaddy and Network Solutions use. Some of this was just my willingness to try to go the extra mile for our customers but like anything in life, people began to take advantage of it by taking their good sweet time to pay. It’s a burden we don’t need to have. So for me, this was the first major change I started instituting in the company. I hate paying out fees for credit card processing, but it’s necessary in order to be liquid.

Where are our costs? Servers, domain names, sometimes tools, professional partnerships, chamber dues, professional dues, travel, typical office expenditures, hardware for kiosks and cabinet materials.

For the designer lines – costs of making prototypes for the design lines, shipping for the product, packaging, web sites. Fees to resellers like Amazon and the commissions to the stores.

Revenue Streams

1) web sites

2) kiosks

3) Advertising and print collateral for our clients – business cards, rack cards, flyers, ads etc.

4) Color palettes for real estate. Serving as designer for residential

real estate.

5) Photography

6) Design work for yachts and real estate

7) New revenue stream that needs to be nurtured and grown – line of tech accessories and expansion into products that feature my designs.

Our revenue streams have been anything related to design and engineering.

8) Interim Services – We can provide our expertise to companies on an interim services basis.

Why so diversified and how on earth did you end up here?

My background was as a dual professor in design and computer science. I also had a strong corporate business background. I think that some of the first real “proving” if you will of knowledge and experience came when I was hired to help build Hard Rock Park. I was responsible for getting the web site up and hiring and leading teams to help make that vision. I created the animated advertising that ran on the electronic billboards. I did the email marketing. I wrote the newsletter and the “On this day in history.” I did the color palettes and sometimes I rode with Jon in the golf cart to give input on the architecture. I designed merchandise and shopping bags. It was a role that I was very comfortable and really enjoyed doing all things design.

Prior to the park in real estate I had purchased a 175-year-old Victorian and completely renovated it and brought my vision of a design to life. The house sold instantly when I put it on the market. I substantially improved that property and it started the redevelopment of an entire block of this little historic river town where I lived.

On a personal side, I got into a three year relationship with someone who is a real estate broker and developer and I learned a lot about real estate from him and he learned volumes of design from me. Together we did millions and millions of dollars in Hilton Head and Bluffton real estate (his money invested but both of our works).  Then we did a yacht together. Now we are working on the second yacht because after we split up for a while, then we had a conversation that really hit the nail on the head, “Creatively – we work extremely well together.” That doesn’t mean that we always agree but it means that after three years we have real genuine respect for each other’s talents. And the stuff makes money. Buyers like it. Now it terms of the real estate investment – it’s his cash and his risk. G. has been in real estate over 30 years. And truly only the people who really know what they are doing will last that long in the real estate business.

Now, from my companies’ perspective, the real estate is not where I will see the growth. The real estate is grueling risking business. For me the growth has been in my original core of skills in technology and design. If I were a partner on a large scale development project, then it might be a growth area. So I have to continue to look for ways to feed that including new markets – like Jacksonville in the technology and design expansions. It’s a necessity that the original company has to expand. It’s also very, very expensive challenge to take on at this point in year three of the companies. I know what my obstacles to success are going to be. I know there are some definite challenges. But sometimes in business, your only real option is to tackle the hard stuff. In a career that has spanned over 25 years, I had to work hard to acquire the knowledge, expertise and develop the design talent that could get me to this point. I think the work is a reflection of that commitment and that discipline.

What is one of the things that I am most proud of?

That I can build an entire kiosk myself – from the hardware design to the software to the interface to the server system if it requires one. It’s a lot of knowledge to be able to go from point A to point B and have it be very polished. I don’t know a lot of people who can do the entire thing.

Who owns the companies?

For better or for worse – I do. Laura Kerbyson. I own 100% and there are no investors at this time. I wake up many a day wondering about how much further I could take something with more money. It’s terrifying to think about the amount of personal investment that went into all of this. But to have creative control of the business has been the thing that has attracted the customers.

What’s the Number One Thing I Need?

New customers in the Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina markets.

So in a nutshell, those are the companies. That’s where the business stands and that’s our business model.

I used to have people say to me, “Why do you always talk about ‘We..’ Because in business it’s always a “we” – whether it’s your customer, one of your partners or anyone in the equation, for any company – there will always be a “We.”

Sneak Peek

It’s in the very early stages. Warning – Lots of content missing and I will be increasing the load on the server this week so it might operate slow while development is going on. There’s no SEO. Lots of stuff missing.

But for those who really wanted to see the animated interface – Here is the beginnings of what will become the new site for Florida Web Development

http://floridawebdevelopment.net/design/

Really, Really Gratifying Experience to Help Businesses

I got the opportunity to set down with a client today and go over their new web site with them. They’ve been in business over 20 years but this is the first major web site they’ve ever had. And so the owner turns to me and says, “This is the first time in 20 years that I can actually “SEE” my business.” It is very rewarding for me to able to do that for a business. This is what makes Carolina Web Development and Florida Web Development so special.

Today’s Recap

We are delighted that the Laura Kerbyson brand now has marketing representation in California to market the cell phone cases and mousepads to businesses.

I had a good meeting with the printer this morning and I’ve decided to change the catalog dimensions and do some revisions.

We were also thrilled to launch a new web site today for MedCom http://medcomdrugtesting.com/. We’ll be creating a new Facebook page for them soon.

I created an Interactive PDF and JPEGs for new email campaign for our buddy Ron at Coastal Auto Recon http://coastalautorecon.com/CARS/CARS-brochure.pdf. He’s the only client we have that actually likes showing damage! “Bigger dents, Laura. Show the bigger dents!!!!” We love CARS.

 

Laura Kerbyson Product Catalog

We have a new catalog to share with everyone for the Laura Kerbyson line of designer accessories.

http://carolina-web-development.com/design/LauraKerbyson-Catalog.pdf

We have also just signed a new agreement with another company for national public relations, product sales and representation and additional marketing. It is time to expand our reach, our clients and our products.

Here’s to Creating Memorable Experiences With Style…

What’s new this month?

I’ve got a medical testing supply web site in the works. It should be done in June and we’ll be excited to launch.