From the August 1998 issue of Entrepreneur

National -- Typically, when a small business sets up an online retail location, it's a multi-step process that involves contacting a bank, an Internet service provider and various other professionals needed to get the site up and running.

Now small-business owners can go to one source to create and launch a site as well as establish a bank connection. Boston-based Fleet Bank offers an online program for North American companies that sell hard goods (retail products such as CDs, books and cigars) and are at least 1 year old.

You don't need to currently have merchant status, nor do you need to go into the bank to establish the site; everything is handled online. The program also includes a template that helps you create your Web site. (The service is available whether or not you are a Fleet Bank customer.)

The cost for the basic e-commerce package is $995 to get the site up and establish credit card acceptance; the advanced version, which allows you to post more detailed information about your product, costs $1,495. There is also a monthly maintenance and reporting fee of $99 to $249, depending on your product volume.

To obtain more information on the program, contact Fleet Bank at (800) CALL-FLEET or visit http://www.fleet.com

Making A Difference

National -- If you've ever wondered what you can do to help young people, two organizations offer some possibilities:

  • Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG) is an Alexandria, Virginia-based group with 28 state affiliates nationwide. Its goal is to ensure that at-risk youths graduate from high school and find employment and/or go to college. The program stresses career development, time management, goal-setting and achievement during high school.

Entrepreneurs can get involved by volunteering to speak on topics such as what it takes to obtain employment at their companies. Entrepreneurs also serve as judges during annual career development conferences held by each of the JAG chapters. Finally, entrepreneurs can pledge to hire and retain JAG graduates.

There is no cost to get involved in JAG. To find the program nearest you, call (703) 684-9479 or visit http://www.jag.org

  • Manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers of clothing, personal-care products, books, school supplies and other similar items can donate them to a Kids 'N Need Resource Center.

Established in Chicago by the School and Home Office Products Association (SHOPA) Foundation for Educational Excellence, the centers help students who can't afford these types of basic items. The centers have spread to Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, DC; SHOPA's goal is to continue to open locations across the country.

In addition to the centers, SHOPA has a Help-A-Teacher program. This program offers grants to help teachers complete creative and unique teaching projects for which they might not otherwise be able to obtain funding.

To help underwrite the grants, entrepreneurs are encouraged to donate money and supplies to the foundation. For details, call SHOPA at (937) 297-2250.

Management Skills 101

North Carolina -- Although entrepreneurs are whizzes at producing their widgets or offering their services, they often don't have the luxury of developing top-notch management skills before opening their doors.

A new program in Charlotte, North Carolina, helps Mecklenburg County firms do just that. The 10-month training program, called the Small Business Owner Program (SBOP), is operated by the Central Piedmont Community College Corporate Training Center and is geared toward existing businesses.

SBOP operates from September to June and has three components. The educational arm consists of 18 evening seminars that address such issues as planning, advertising, accounting management and human resources. A second part gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to participate in work-study groups to solve specific problems. These are preceded by one-hour networking sessions. Finally, each business owner receives 20 hours of one-on-one counseling from business experts.

To qualify, firms must have been in business for at least one year and kept financial records; they must also have issues that can be solved utilizing an educational approach. The participation fee is $400. To apply, call (704) 330-4054; the deadline is August 30.