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Simple Startup

How to keep your site's operating costs low while still boosting profits

When you visit natural and organic bath and body store Salus, it's easy to imagine a team of employees working behind the scenes to maintain the website, take orders and ship products. In reality, the online store is run entirely by husband-and-wife co-founders Jerell and Elissa Klaver, 36 and 28, respectively, who started the site last August. The Klavers rely on myriad technologies to keep their Manitou Springs, Colorado, business lean and free of the overhead costs of employees.

You will find Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office in the Klavers' technology toolbox, but they also use some of the newer online applications. They maintain a WordPress blog and just launched a second blog that focuses on a wider variety of natural body-care topics. Salus even has an account with the popular social networking and micro-blogging site Twitter. When it comes to staying in touch with customers, Salus uses Constant Contact to maintain its e-mail list and send out its monthly updates. "It takes the guesswork out of doing e-mails," says Elissa. "If [users] decide to opt out, it's all automated."

The backbone of the Klavers' website is an AspDotNetStoreFront website-building package. "Not only is it our front-of-the-house web store, it's a true e-commerce platform that also allows back-of-the-house operations," says Jerell. The platform ties in with QuickBooks, all the leading shipping services and a variety of credit card processing companies. That level of technology integration enables the Klavers to use their time efficiently. They are also able to save on website expenses by handling regular updates and maintenance on their own.

While the DIY approach has sometimes meant a steep learning curve for new technology, the Klavers have taken advantage of the product support resources available to them. "We're amazed at how helpful people are. You have to ask questions or else you won't get the answers," says Jerell, who projects 2008 sales of more than $160,000.

Any web entrepreneur who decides to fly solo will need the assistance of a host of technology tools. Integrating your e-commerce engine with your shipping and accounting tools is a smart way to streamline your operations and get a handle on your new business.

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This article was originally published in the August 2008 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Simple Startup.

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