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Use the Net to jump start your small biz

By Roger Pierce

It's a mistake for new entrepreneurs to rush to open a retail store before exploring sales possibilities on the Internet. "I never thought my cookies would sell so well online," entrepreneur Deborah Heinz says.
Entrepreneur Deborah Heinz is growing her protein cookie business online instead of through a traditional retail setting.

Heinz owns a company called Only Good Stuff, selling her "guilt-free" protein cookies through her website at Made without preservatives, additives or sugar, she offers her handmade cookies as a fresh and natural snack alternative to traditional protein meal replacement bars.

"Active people who eat protein bars told us they wanted the energy benefits but hated the 'cardboard' taste," Heinz says. "Our cookies offer plenty of protein and taste great."

At first, Heinz thought she would have to open a retail store to sell her healthy treats. Knowing it would be an expensive undertaking, she instead opted for an online operation. "We offer a door-to- door delivery service through our website," Heinz says. "An online shop allows our customers to order anytime and enjoy better prices because we don't have the overhead of a physical storefront."

Smaller initial investment

The Internet makes it possible for new small business owners to get their ventures up and running without a huge initial investment. As consumer confidence in the Internet strengthens, statistics show that an increasing number of people are buying products and services online. Improvements in areas such as transaction encryption and secure websites are making it safer for people to use their credit cards.

Heinz augments her Internet strategy by offering her protein cookies through health-conscience retailers including Pusateri's, Fields of Grain and Herc's Muscle Shops. "By combining online and reseller locations, we're able to reach a larger number of customers," Heinz says.

While she's happy with online sales, Heinz says her long-term plans are to open a retail location housing a small bakery.

"It's important to build your small business in realistic and affordable steps, avoiding the temptation to spend a lot of money upfront before sales are solid," she advises.

-- Entrepreneurship expert Roger Pierce trains people on how to start a small business in the Up & Running Biz Launch Program.

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