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Name and age: Jill Gizzio, 44
Company name and description: Dogtoys.com Inc. is an online pet-products wholesale and retail store.
Starting point: 1997 with $20,000 from personal savings
2000 sales: $600,000 plus
Dotcom for notcommers: Jill Gizzio got her first dog when she was 40. When she realized she was spending at least $20 per week at the pet store on toys, she saw a great business opportunity. But she knew little about dogs, less about their toys, and even less about online-store technology. So she hired a Web developer and launched dogtoys.com with 30 items. Today, the site and its sister sites, cattoys.com, petsavercoupons.com and retailpets.com, offer thousands of products. And Gizzio learned as she went-about dogs, about toys, about pet products and about technology. "One of my biggest challenges is implementing technologies as the business grows, especially since I don't have an in-house technical person, and I have zero tolerance for learning technical things," she says.
Technical skills not required: Gizzio didn't let her lack of computer skills hold her back from the world of e-commerce. When she was introduced to Yahoo!'s store software, she found it sophisticated yet user-friendly enough that she was able to build cattoys.com herself without hiring outside help.
For other software applications, such as accounting and inventory management, Gizzio buys well-known programs, then hires professional trainers to teach her and her staff how to use them. "The brand-name software packages all have support and training available," she says. She also takes advantage of software classes offered by the local vocational school. "Even if you're not a technical person, you can still build a dotcom company because all the software has become so user-friendly," she says. "People wouldn't guess that, but it's true."
Looking ahead: Gizzio expects sales to double every year, but her own focus is shifting. "I've been in the market to sell my company," she says. "I've already had an offer that I rejected, but I hope to sell within the next 12 to 18 months." And when she does, will the next venture be a dotcom company, despite her lack of technical skills? "Probably, because it's so easy for me now."
Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 13 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.