Don’t Complicate E-Commerce; Embrace It

dceeDespite all the sweet talk about Net commerce, when candy store owner Kevin Benz launched his Web site a year ago he knew getting sales wouldn’t be a cakewalk. So the 40-year-old entrepreneur signed up with CyberCash–an Internet company that accepts credit card transactions. Within one day of posting Sweet Thoughts’s home page, orders for his one-pound boxes of chocolates came pouring in. As a result, projected revenues for the Bellevue, Washington, Web-based company are $65,000.

Like Benz, many business owners realize that the best way to beef up online orders is to accept credit cards. And now companies such as CyberCash allow you to accept plastic and let you deal in digital dollars as well. Unfortunately, says David Buchen, director of the Web incubator project at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, “the public isn’t yet feeling that it’s secure enough. There’s been too much negative publicity about hackers breaking into what everybody thought were secure sites.” Fortunately, the public’s wariness hasn’t caused sales at Sweet Thoughts to hiccup. And because CyberCash’s encryption system is safe, Benz is planning to accept digital dollars.

But even with tight security, people are skeptical. Although they’re just like paper legal tender, digital dollars remain a distant second as the chosen currency of Net commerce.  According to, a regional small business opportunities search site, only a fraction of the roughly 10,000 Web retailers now doing business online accept payment methods other than credit cards.

Still, if you sell items under $10 on your site, such as games, T-shirts Continue reading

Charity Begins On The Web!

cbotwThe end of another year brings the rush to reduce your tax bill. Although December 31 looms, you’re probably too busy to weed through the tax-deductible organization pleas cluttering your mailbox. But focus your energy online and you’ll see that finding a worthy charity isn’t as hard as you might think. Follow my crash course on online charitable giving and in an evening you’ll find a group for your donation.

The first site I hit is Money magazine online’s Charity Selector. These pages list such big-name nonprofits as the American Red Cross and March of Dimes as well as lesser-known groups. I could easily and confidently choose any one of these organizations and give a lump sum.

In a little over an hour, using the Charity Selector’s Web links, I manage to download mission statements, program rosters, membership details, and donation forms for a dozen of the top 100 charities. Some of the leading organizations include Continue reading

Bugs Henderson Kept Buggin’ Out

In today’s industry, he’s as unmarketable as an artist can get.

Yet Bugs Henderson’s idiosyncratic attitude has served him well, or at least well enough. , released last spring, is easily the best example to date of Henderson’s seamless fusion of the muscular blues of Freddie King and B. B. King, the crystalline country picking of Chet Atkins, the clean rockabilly of James Burton’s work behind Ricky Nelson, the precision of jazz great Joe Pass, and the rock fuzz, twang, and feedback of the Ventures, Link Wray, and Duane Eddy. (On a 1988 album he dubbed his sound simply “American music,” making the phrase the album’s title as well.) At once his most diversified and most focused album, Daredevils is also selling better than his others. Even in Europe, where his sales have always exceeded those in the United States, Henderson remains a cult artist, but at least with this release the cult is still growing. Continue reading

Is Online Education Right For You?

ioerOk, class, here’s today’s pop quiz. Imagine you are interviewing yourself for the position of head of a business. Would you hire you? This is an essay question. You may begin.

I think I’d have aced the first part of the interview. I knew my trade when I quit my day job and went into business for myself as a writer and Web site developer. I had almost a decade of experience in the business, a Rolodex full of contacts, and a lot of regular work lined up. But the tough-cop questions that interviewers use to sort out the sheep from the goats would have consigned me to the goat pile in minutes. How much did I know about bookkeeping? Marketing? Growing a business? Human resources?

As a corporate hireling, I had always thrown these tasks into the “not my department” out-box. Especially the bit about human resources — as I proved by offering myself the positions of CEO, human resources director, president, janitor, and only employee of my fledgling company. An HR professional would have Continue reading