Sweet and Low

9. Parent and Kid Tech

In the old days, families gathered around their TV sets for entertainment and news. Now it seems the computer has become the focal point for parents and kids alike-and there's a demand for interactive sites designed for both older and younger generations.

Melisa Cowden's got it all covered. The 35-year-old mother of four launched her new parent-oriented site, coolparents.com, for less than a vacation at Disneyworld, and her next project is the development of a site just for children called coolkids.com. Coolparents.com, launched in June, features helpful ideas on parenting, links to parenting sites, a message board for parents to get advice on everything from potty training to mealtime ideas, motivational stories, and ideas for games and crafts they can do with the youngins.

In the future, this busy Austin, Texas, Sunday school teacher and aerobics instructor, who also owns kid-oriented littleloveletters.com LLC (parent company to the other two), plans to add a review of children's movies by volunteer parents, inexpensive birthday party ideas, a link for single parents and tips on child-proofing the home.

While Cowden, who earns revenues through paid advertisements and sales of littleloveletters Napkin Notes, has learned a great deal about the business world, she says her example is also giving her three daughters and a son a valuable lesson in entrepreneurship. "From watching me, they can see how hard it is," she says.

The basics: a computer with at least 8GB hard-drive space, a 17-inch monitor and a minimum 350MHz processor with a graphics accelerator ($1,500 to $2,000). Add a scanner, a laser printer, graphics software, a Web management tool, file-transfer software, a digital camera and space for your own Web site. Toss in a handbook on HTML, XML and Javascripting.

Total cost: $3,500 to $4,500

What she spent: about $1,500. Cowden already owned most of the equipment necessary because she operates another Web business, and she was able to design the new site herself. The start-up funds were used for additional software, programming, consulting fees, new business stationery and other basic office expenses.

For details: Association of Internet Professionals, (877) AIP-0800, www.association.org

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This article was originally published in the August 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Sweet and Low.

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