As one of the 150,000 small-business owners in New Jersey missing out on potential customers through a Web presence, Jonathan Gratz has wanted to build a website for his Marlton-based gas products supply store, South Jersey Hearthside, but lacked the staff, resources and time to launch and maintain one.
However, an initiative launched today by New Jersey's Business Action Center, Google Inc. and Intuit Inc. aims to give small-business owners like Gratz the tools to create a free website and increase their business online.
"There's a misperception among small-business owners that it's expensive, difficult and time consuming to launch a website, when it's actually free and easy," said John Ploumitsakos, director of small-business engagement and advocacy at Google. "Once a small-business owner puts their company online, they realize they've been missing out on additional opportunities for customers. They realize the in-person customer really starts with an online search."
According to Ploumitsakos, Internet users spend $2,000 on average in a brick-and-mortar store as a result of researching a product or service online, so if the state's small businesses take advantage of the New Jersey Get Your Business Online initiative, they will see a revenue boost from increased traffic in their stores.
Gratz said he has already seen profits jump at his wholesale gas products company, Modern Gas Products Inc., as a result of the company's online presence, and his experience has led him to invest more time and resources in building a website for his retail store.
"A lady happened to be driving by my wholesale store, and she was searching for a product near my ZIP code. Lo and behold, my product happened to pop up online in her search, so she came into my store and made a purchase," Gratz said. "That got me thinking, I need a more concerted effort to get my retail business online."
Gratz was one of nearly 100 small-business owners who attended the program's official launch today at the Newark Museum, where Google and Intuit staff were on hand to train business owners in building websites and creating customized domain names, as well as displaying online advertisements at a discount and starting their free year of Web hosting, which are offered through the initiative.
While Gratz said he will use his Web-savvy nephew's help to launch his retail company's online presence, he will hire an additional employee to run the website and boost Internet advertising for his business, which Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said is the program's ultimate goal.
"If one out of every 10,000 of you hires one more person, it will put a huge dent in our unemployment rate," Guadagno said. "As we help you build your website and grow your business, we're also going to help grow the economy of New Jersey."