Minnow Web Design

May 13th, 2009 by | Print

minnowlogoPaul Pennel is the solo entrepreneur who created Minnow Web Design.

 

Paul and I first met through EntrepreneurConnect.com and collaborated on a project. Plus, Paul authored and inspired two previous posts here at The Solopreneur’s Guide. Here are the links to the stories:

 

3 Tips for Turning Your Tradeshow Contacts into Customers – April 7, 2009

9 Tips to Change a Website from “Created” to “Completed” – January 17, 2009

 

 

TSG:     What was the inspiration to create Minnow Web Design and when did you actually open your doors?

 

PP:     I have always had a passion for computer programming which is what drove me to my original career in IT.  I spent the last five years maintaining a website for Infertility and Adoption Support, Inc., a non-profit group.  I really enjoyed it and learned more and more as I continued to improve their website.  About a year and a half ago I noticed that my church’s website needed updating so I completely redesigned it and enjoyed doing it.  I got a lot of positive feedback about the look of the new church website.  It was then that I realized I had provided thousands of dollars worth of service in creating and maintaining both websites.  While I was happy to do it for free for great causes, I also saw the opportunity to create websites as a business.  I knew I could provide a valuable service by creating websites that were professional looking and well designed for a reasonable price.  Few small businesses have websites and if they do, they tend to be very dated.  I officially opened up Minnow Web Design for business in January 2009 hoping to help small business owners.

 

 

TSG:     Can you give percentages to the following four items as contributing factors in your decision for creating your business: previous work experience, personal strengths, a love for the type of business and the perceived amount of money that you could earn? :

 

PP:     Previous work experience 10%

           Personal strengths 10%

           A love for the type of business 75%
           (I already had a job that I enjoyed and was paid well for.
           In web design, I found another new passion for my work.)

          The perceived amount of money that you could earn 5%

 

 

TSG:     How much time did you spend on research and planning prior to opening for business?

 

PP:     I did not go through any formal research but did visit many websites of small business. I also tried to find websites for many small businesses that needed them, but discovered that they did not exist.  That was enough to convince me that the market for small business website design was needed.

 

 

TSG:     Now that you are up and running, do you feel that you spent not enough time, just the right amount of time, or too much time on research and planning

 

PP:     Just right.

 

 

TSG:     Why?

 

PP:     I did not spend a lot of time up front researching and planning for my business.  I think it was enough though because my business plan involved very little upfront cost, so there was not a large risk.  My plan was always to create a couple of smaller websites, probably for less then what they were worth, just to build my portfolio.  Then I would take the experience I got on those projects and apply it to future projects.  As my experience and expertise grows my prices will go up along with it.

 

 

TSG:     What was the thought process behind naming your business?

 

PP:     I wanted to help small businesses so I looked for a name that would help convey that.  I like animals a lot so my wife and I brainstormed on names of smaller animals. When we came up with a minnow, the idea for a tagline came right away and I knew that we had something.  I think Minnow Web Design with a tagline “for small fish in a big sea” does a good job of conveying the type of business that I run.

 

 

TSG:     What type of customer are you a perfect fit for?

 

PP:     My perfect customer is the small business owner. I can give them a website they will be proud of and will help their business without breaking their bank.

 

 

TSG:     Why did you choose this demographic?

 

PP:     As a solopreneur I knew that I would not be a good fit for major corporations who were used to working with large firms.  With a majority of people using the web instead of the phone book to search for local business, there is a major need for small businesses to have websites that help promote them.

 

 

TSG:     If you had to take the Tweeter challenge of describing your unique value proposition (UVP) for your target market in 140 characters or less, what would you write?

 

PP:     Minnow Web Design offers solutions for small businesses with big ideas.

 

 

TSG:     What is the average length of time from the first contact with a customer to a completed web site?

 

PP:     This varies greatly with how quickly the customer wants to move and how complicated they want their website to be. If a customer is in a hurry and just wants a website that lists contact information and basic company information, I can usually have something up and running in a week or two.  If they want a full ecommerce website, new logo, new design, and lots of copy written, then it can easily take a month or more.

 

 

TSG:     For those customers that are in a hurry, what do you recommend that they come prepared with when contacting you for creating their site?

 

PP:     They should have a good idea what information they want to have on their website. If they plan on writing most of the copy, they should have it written already or write it up very early in the process. I have a project questionnaire on my websites that lists the type of questions I need answered, like what websites do you really like and dislike.  The other very important thing is to either be willing to allow me to make some of the final decisions on the overall look and where content should go, or if they don’t want to give up that control, they must be reachable for quick turnaround on questions about how they like what I’ve done so far.

 

 

TSG:     What surprises about your target market (if any) did you encounter in dealing with your customers?

 

PP:     The variety of solutions that the customers need. I felt that most small business would not need much more then contact information and a description of their services.  Customers have asked for anything from setting up web cameras for a day care to creating an online store for their embroidery business.

 

 

TSG:     Did you change anything in your business due to these surprises?

 

PP:     I have had to learn a lot more technically then I thought I would need to in order to help out my customers. I am happy to do so because it increases what I can offer to future customers.

 

 

TSG:     Why did you decide to go solo?

 

PP:     I had been running two websites on my own so I knew that I had the skills needed to go it on my own. By running the business on my own I keep my expenses down and can offer a very competitive price to my customers.

 

 

TSG:     Have you ever outsourced any aspects of your business?

 

PP:     I have not outsourced any work yet but I have several people that I have talked to that are experts at graphic design, copywriting, and logo creation that I can go to if I need.

 

 

TSG:     Have you ever engage in any joint ventures?

 

PP:     No.

 

 

TSG:     Do you have any plans to take on partners or employees in the future or do you prefer to remain a solopreneur?

 

PP:     As I look to what my business will grow to be, I am very torn on this issue. I want to continue to “keep my hands dirty” and be involved in the day to day work at all times.  That being said, I could see a time in the future when, to meet demand, it may be necessary to hire a few employees to continue to offer the level of service that my customers are used to.

 

 

TSG:     I notice on your site that you offer both package deals and a la carte options. Why not simply offer all of your services a la carte?

 

PP:     I tried to put together a package that I thought would meet most business owners’ needs. This includes both what they think they need and things that they don’t yet know that they need.  I wanted to offer it a price that made it make sense to go with the “right” option instead of the cheapest option.  I still offer the a la carte in case somebody already has a website and just needs a little additional work done.

 

 

TSG:     Does the current economy or free templates create a bigger obstacle to growing your business?

 

PP:     I don’t think either is a big obstacle to my business at this point. In regards to the economy, I do have one client who wants to wait a month or two before starting her website because of her finances.  The free templates are not really even in the same business that I’m in.  If somebody has the expertise and time to take a free template and make a website that works for them they probably are going to do it themselves.  I am not trying to provide service for those with the will, knowledge, and time to create their own websites.  I take away the need to have that expertise in every area of web design and maintenance.  I also allow the business owner to concentrate on what they do best, running their business.

 

 

TSG:     Do you do any marketing outside of the Internet?

 

PP:     I have business cards and pass them out to people that I meet to help get the word out about my company.  Last summer my family and I went to several craft fairs that had booths where vendors sold various often home made items.  I noticed that almost none of these people had websites.  This year now that I have a website and business cards I plan to approach these people and let them know what Minnow Web Design can do for them.

 

 

TSG:     Do you participate in any other online forums in addition to Entrepreneur Connect?

 

PP:     Yes, I am active on Dev Shed which is for people in the web design business.

 

 

TSG:     How has that benefited your business?

 

PP:     I am able to get input from others who have been doing web design for longer then I have. That is helpful from a design, technical, and business point of view. I also enjoy being able to contribute and help those with less experience then me.

 

 

TSG:     Who inspires you?

 

PP:     I am reading the book “Career 2.0” by Jared Richardson, it talks about going after your passion by working on what you enjoy and putting in the extra time and research to be great at it.  I really do love web design and am passionate about it. It is easy for me to take the extra time to research new ways of doing web design because I enjoy it so much.

 

 

Thanks again, Paul, for participating with this interview series. Paul is extending an excellent offer for my readers:

 

Special Offer for Readers of The Solopreneur’s Guide

$100 dollars off of our basic package or 20% off any other service for first time customers. Just mention “The Solopreneur’s Guide” when you contact Minnow Web Design. Offer good until end of June 2009.

 

To get a hold of Paul and take advantage of this great offer, go to:

 

Minnow Web Design
Paul Pennel
Owner and Designer
(314) 249-4690
http://www.minnowwebdesign.com/index.php

  

And remember, he specializes in helping out you, the solopreneur.

 

All The Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide

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One Response to “Minnow Web Design”

  1. Paul Says:

    Anybody with a small business and an outdated website or no website at all I’d love to help you put your best foot forward on the web. I’m hoping my 20% off offer will help you make the decision. Thanks for reading, this really is a great website.

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