It' s not often I get to go on a fantasy shopping spree. And since you're an entrepreneur trying to launch a business on what's likely a water-tight budget, I'm sure you can relate. So when the editors at Business Start-Ups asked me to go out and shop to my heart's content for the latest in office technology, I jumped at the chance. Quite literally, that is, right out of my chair!
Of course, the editors did have a few rules. (Don't they always?) I needed to outfit three fictitious start-up companies with the most appropriate phone, general-office and computer- peripheral equipment I could find. (I didn't shop for desktop or laptop computers, since we assume you've already got one.) Each business had different budgets and requirements.
The first: a one-person office with average technology needs--and do it for less than $1,000, please. No problem.
Next, a one-man band with more advanced technology requirements--perhaps an energetic entrepreneur wanting to produce a Web site and marketing materials in-house on a modest $2,000 budget. OK.
Third, a fast-growing start-up with a few employees already on the payroll. This company has several demanding users who must share the office equipment, wants built-in expandability from the ground up and has $3,000 or less in the budget. A little trickier, but quite possible.
The last rule (and the one I disliked the most): I didn't get to keep any of the office equipment--this shopping spree was only in my dreams.
After I did some initial research, the great folks at Office Depot agreed to let me (and my photographer) amble up and down the aisles in one of their huge, well-stocked stores. Just like any good shopper, I solicited advice from their excellent support staff. I even ran into two entrepreneurs out shopping for a stand-alone fax machine, and learned a few things from them along the way. Then, based on all the evidence, I filled my shopping cart (rather, three shopping carts) with all the high-tech office equipment needed to fill the bill. So, without further ado, here's what I discovered on the greatest (and cheapest) shopping spree of a lifetime. . . .
Heather Page is former technology editor for Entrepreneur Media Inc.