TheRoad02

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Business: Websites, Pinemartins and WordPress.

Written by Simon Geraghty.

My general approach to opening my new business has been to keep my outgoings as lean as possible. I always maintained a ‘spend it like it is your own money’ approach when working in other companies, this instinct has been re-doubled now that it actually is my own money.

I remember visiting friend’s living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 2001 after the dotcom bubble burst. They had sobering tales of amazing yard sales where employees laid off from fabled start ups had to sell off their designer clothes, 60’s designer furniture, jukeboxes, pool and fusball tables.  With no investor in Dot Dash beyond my own money and wanting to keep my pricing as competitive as possible those tales from Brooklyn stuck with me.

Taking stock before starting my new business I noted that I already had a reasonably new laptop (an able and capable Toshiba Satellite), transport (my trusty Vespa PX200) and a mobile phone (an over worked iPhone4). My next steps in getting going have been to launch a website, develop a logo and find a desk via barter or banter. That I have also been networking up a storm and pitching to prospective clients goes without saying.

Inspired by reading Kerouac’s seminal ‘On the Road’ I set out on a series of adventures in my early 20’s hitch-hiking across Europe. (And I’m really looking forward to seeing the celluloid version of ‘On the Road’ when it comes out, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Road_%28film%29). One of these journeys involved travelling from the Basque country to the Netherlands, then on to Belgium and finally the UK via ferry (over 1,300 kms, according to www.travelmath.com). Another was travelling from Prague to London with stop offs to see and stay in Berlin, and Haarlem outside Amsterdam on the way (over 1,200 kms). There were a few other shorter journeys in France, Czech Republic and Spain, but these epic quests taught me that if you put something out there and stick to your task you can make great things happen.

I saw and travelled to some of Europe’s greatest cities for free. Fired up by these memories, I wondered, how far can I go as a new business with just a cardboard sign and my thumb? Represented for me today by using social media and more importantly my network of friends and former colleagues.

A website and my old friend the pine-martin (Martes martes) 

Step 1 on my new journey involved getting a website, and an old friend of mine from way back in Miss O’Reilly’s class in Oliver Plunkett’s in Malahide. Billy and I were thrown together to work on a project about the European pine-martin and we went at it with much gusto. However, we soon discovered from exploring several encyclopaedia in the local library, this was back when the door to door sale of encyclopedia was a viable trade, that you would struggle to fill a single page with all that was written about the pine-martin.  Even looking at Wikipedia today the sum total of information on the pine-martin is limited (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Pine_Marten). We acquitted the task with great fortitude, including some great pictures of our woodland dwelling friend, and Billy and I have been firm friends since.

Billy is a web-designer with oceans of talent and acres of experience. He was my first port of call when looking to set up a new website. I told him I was looking for a website to launch my business that would be cheap to develop, could incorporate a blog and a feed from social media site, such as Twitter. I also wanted to be able to edit and publish content on my own rather than having to go back and forth to a designer. Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and feed him for a week, as they say.

A great fear out there for many businesses is that getting a website designed and live is a very costly business. Billy suggested WordPress was a good place to start for my needs and with my budget. He set me an initial task of investigating free themes that are out there: http://www.wpmods.com/top-40-free-wordpress-themes-2011/. These WordPress themes showcase a wide range of well designed templates that cover all manner of business and website types. There is also have a huge range of useful plug-ins and applications that you can add onto your website.

Countdown to go live

Once I had chosen my theme, Obscure 2.0, Billy helped me get up and running on my WordPress site. He showed me the ropes, set up some nifty plug-ins, designed my first logo and banner, registered the domain name and set up the hosting and when he was fed up with my incessant queries gently insisted I look at the following tutorial: http://www.wp101.com/.

The WordPress administrator dashboard allows you to edit pages, posts, users, appearance, links, images, videos… you name it. The more you play with the site the more you learn. To register a dot ‘ie’ domain I needed to prove that I was registered to trade under this name, this was just a matter of sending a copy of my receipt from the Companies Registration Office. Website hosting starts at €35 for a year.

The site was live in a week and you peruse this site you bear witness to our work. When there’s money to invest back into a more customized site I’ll be making a bee line for Billy’s talent again, in the meantime let me know what you think of my first website?

Next up: step 2 is about using crowd sourcing to generate a professionally designed logo for Dot Dash.

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