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Career/new business idea: would love input!  

 

SunnyCyn
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June 29, 2017 8:17 pm  

Hi everybody,
We (my husband & I, with our 2 kids) are back in STX this week and have begun discussing our potential move ever more seriously.

I have a question for you all...

In looking up stuff online, as tourists do, we've noticed that many of the businesses on STX have exceptionally poor web presences. For example: Most of the restaurants have a really dated looking one-page website with outdated/limited info, and no way to reserve online.

Among other things, I build websites and do online marketing for businesses. I could conceivably offer very low-cost website development to restaurants, charter boats, and all manner of other services businesses. When I say low cost, I mean like $1000-2000 for a full-featured mobile optimized site with social integration, online reservations, click to call, etc.

Just the OpenTable integration alone would return their investment in one good month during the season. Many restauranteurs report increased reservations of up to 60% by just using this simple service.

My question to you all--since so many of you know (or are!) restauranteurs in the VI--would they go for this price point? (Assume I'm a good salesperson, willing to press the flesh when on-Island, and that I can show a strong portfolio of existing work.)

It wouldn't take too many of these projects for me to earn a healthy living, doing something I love and am good at, and it has the added benefit of hopefully helping strengthen the local business economy.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Ideas?


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Exit Zero
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June 29, 2017 11:26 pm  

My experience with local business websites is that they have no one on staff that can OR will take on the responsibility of updating, maintaining, improving their website once they have had one designed and put online .
Even a simple face book page sometimes gets no posts after a short flurry of postings.


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Afriend
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June 30, 2017 12:07 am  

I agree with Exit Zero - an on line presence is not a high priority for local restaurants (and for other businesses as well). Each of the USVI's are small and all the locals know where the businesses are located, what they sell (or in the case of restaurants what they serve) and their respective price points. As far as restaurants are concerned locals know which ones require reservations and which do not and, more often than not they know the staff and have "memorized" phone numbers fr those places that do require reservations. They really do not need Open Table to get a reservation at their favorite restaurant(s).

Most tourists, on the other hand, get "restaurant recommendations" from other travelers by posting questions on travel forums and reviews like TripAdvisor, Fodor's or they ask the concierge at their resort to make a recommendation while a small percentage do a google search for topics such as "Best 10 restaurants on St. Croix" (which will yield scores of useful links. They look on "restaurant websites" (assuming they have one) mainly to see the menu and not much else.

You have to realize, High Season for tourists is relatively short (about 4 months) during which most restaurants are already pretty well full without having a big internet presence - the rest of the year I doubt having a great website or access to Open Table will have a major impact on their business.

This doesn't mean you won't find a restaurant/business or two that would be interested in updating their website but rather I doubt it would be a high priority for most businesses.


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stjohnjulie
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June 30, 2017 6:22 am  

I agree with what has been said already. A lot of the business owners of these small businesses just don't have the time/staff/knowledge to maintain an updated online presence. I've helped out a handful of friends with social media, marketing, websites and such and they always fizzle out pretty quickly because they just don't keep things fresh and up to date and/or it hurt them in the long run because they didn't actually reply to emails or messages in a timely fashion. It's not really that they don't want to have the website or social media, it's that they don't want to have to maintain it. Most of the small business owners I know are just overwhelmed with the daily operation of their business and they don't have the time or energy to add anything else to their plate.


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SunnyCyn
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June 30, 2017 9:39 am  

Thanks everyone!
I wonder if they'd like the idea more if there was a really cost effective way to maintain a social media presence as well? Like <$200 a month for x-number of posts/pics/customer review highlights etc.
One note: open table also provides the business owner the ability to remarket to & email patrons. Meaning "Hey! Duggan's just emailed me, they have a special on red snapper tonight, want to go?".

Or like a few of the comments implied, maybe they're happy with the level of business they have? This thread proved to hold some interesting insights into the mentality of folks on the island, and (maybe unintentionally) might explain a lot about why it's the way it is.


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fdr
 fdr
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June 30, 2017 10:12 am  

What everyone else has said is pretty spot on. There isn't as much added value here from social media/web presence as there would be in the states. Small market, seasonal, etc. There are already people here who offer this service, and they manage OK, but there just is not much demand here for what you are talking about. Although if you want to build a business like that where you are now and manage it all remotely, that could work for making a living here.


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East Ender
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June 30, 2017 10:33 am  

One thing that is often recommended here is to come down to live and see for yourself before you jump into ideas you think would work. The mindset in The VI is just so very different from that in Big America. You don't see it until you have actually experienced it.


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SunnyCyn
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June 30, 2017 11:03 am  

That makes sense, EastEnder. I grew up in a beach culture, but it was a highly entrepreneurial mainland one (Ron Jon, bike week, spring break, for a few examples).

One thing that is often recommended here is to come down to live and see for yourself before you jump into ideas you think would work. The mindset in The VI is just so very different from that in Big America. You don't see it until you have actually experienced it.

@fdr I've already built a pretty good business like this where I live and yep I could manage it remotely. In fact, I do, most of my clients are west coast and I live in NY. My own site is http://CYNSCH.com by the way.

I just like the idea of helping STX business owners become more successful. But they gotta want it, which as everyone has pointed out is not a given.


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vicanuck
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June 30, 2017 11:18 am  

At one point, my company used to design websites and create/manage social media pages. What I found was that very few customers valued the time and energy it took to create and maintain their pages. They seemed to think that updates and web hosting should be free in perpetuity.

And spending $1000 - $2000 for a website? That was like pulling teeth.

We don't offer website development anymore and I usually recommend people just go build a Wix page themselves.

Keep in mind that the VI is at least 20 years behind the mainland on most things, especially technology.

Just my two cents...


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LiquidFluoride
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June 30, 2017 1:30 pm  

Even a simple face book page sometimes gets no posts after a short flurry of postings.

The majority of the local population still spreads info word-of-mouth the web is lagging behind in cultural acceptance for commerce here it seems.

I don't know how much demand there would be for something like this, though while I say that I know at least 3 people on island that do offer website development services.


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terry
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June 30, 2017 1:36 pm  

We have been going to STX for 12 years. We have never looked for a web site for any of the restaurants there.
We rely on word of mouth, and a weekly FREE calendar that is emailed to see who is playing where and what else is going on.


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islandjoan
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June 30, 2017 1:47 pm  

I check the restaurant websites to see if the menu has changed. You don't get those in the magazine or weekly free calendar.

But lately, Facebook pages are used more and updated more frequently than websites are.

I would think businesses could pay someone to take photos and write content for their Facebook postings. However some businesses do that themselves.

IMO a professional website is a plus and a great looking website gives a much better impression than a tired outdated looking website. Zion modern kitchen, and balter come to mind. Also check out Adorn website. Very modern and clean.

Having said that, there are several talented people building websites on STX already, and I'm note sure the market is large enough to support many more. The economy took at hit when Hovensa closed and it has not recovered enough yet.


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JerseyJam
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June 30, 2017 2:27 pm  

My husband currently lives on island and I'm in the process of transitioning down. The restaurants and businesses that have more of an online presence (CiBone, Baked Cafe, Jaccar, etc) makes me as a tourist and soon to be local want to try them. Especially daily specials like when Savor posts they have their pistachio rum cake for sale today or there's a special catch at CiBone, younger generations and foodies definitely get excited about that sort of thing. I've hit up certain things on the island before just based off of online "specials" posts and even forwarded things to my husband to check out.

I would love to see more of it but it's just a matter of getting local businesses to see the benefit of it.


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Afriend
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June 30, 2017 5:07 pm  

I would love to see more of it but it's just a matter of getting local businesses to see the benefit of it.

Therein lies the rub - most long time local business owners are "old school islanders" who don't like to change the way they do business. That's one of the quirks of island life not just on STX or elsewhere in the USVI's but all throughout the Caribbean.

I suppose as that as more GenZers begin to take over the ownership/operating restaurants and businesses they'll be more attuned to wanting an online presence but for now word of mouth is still the standard.

Remember, the population on St. Croix is around 50,000 which is half the population of South Bend, Indiana.


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LiquidFluoride
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June 30, 2017 7:02 pm  

I suppose as that as more GenZers begin to take over the ownership/operating restaurants and businesses they'll be more attuned to wanting an online presence but for now word of mouth is still the standard.

GenX is now in their 40's

GenX is the next wave of business owners and politicians.

The Nirvana generation is coming to power... but we already see that via wide spread legalization of Cannabis & over empathetic movements like "LGBTWRXYZ" or "BLM" (which are generally corrupted and no longer represent what they initially did).

So it's not a perfect generation, but it's what we have.


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SunnyCyn
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June 30, 2017 7:50 pm  

I'm starting to think I'll just need to earn & save a bunch more money mainland before we come down here so I don't have to stress out about rolling a boulder up a cultural hill.

Or I could do it anyway & prove everyone wrong 😀


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Alana33
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June 30, 2017 8:09 pm  

You can check it out.
Get out there and see what happens.
You'll meet people, maybe come up with something else they may need or another idea that may prove fruitful.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Always good to have a backup plan, however.


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AandA2VI
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July 1, 2017 8:00 am  

FWIW this is my business. I make a modest living from both off island on island. Enough to pay bills buy some craft beer and do a big trip once a year - no kids, wouldn't make it here on my income if I had kids but luckily for me I don't want any. I've been doing this since 2003 when I graduated from AI. I can say that IMO you will not be able to make a living on local business alone for web design.

Mentioned above - maintenance and upkeep, it just doesn't happen much here and it's more... old school... we all carry phone books LOL. Websites scare many business owners who also don't have funds for monthly maintenance and no time or knowledge to do it on their own. Many businesses WANT a website but don't want/can't afford to pay for it... not just here either as I'm sure you're aware.

Also, the reality is that you will be looked as as transient and people are very reluctant to give you work because you may just up and leave - leaving them with a mess and no way to clean it up. I don't solicit work, ever and thankfully am slammed with projects all the time. It's 5 am and I just got done working lol. Creative vampire 😉 I've had to rescue countless... nearly all actually, of the local websites I've done from their designers moving off island leaving them no password, files etc. I've managed to create a very specific business model that works great for me here but I've also put in nearly 5 years of making connections in the VI. Im extremely busy in STX since I moved from STT, where I was less focused on my web biz and more into guiding snorkel tours... which is why I moved here - water job. But no major tourism really in STX so I've been working only on my biz with one day a week bartending so I can get out of the house. This is a very antisocial - and unhealthy business. Sedentary lifestyle sucks but I do take my laptop to the beach bar of coffee shop and work some days. Thinking about renting a space on waterfront Fsted.

Another thing to mention is desiging a site takes a nice logo and great photography which adds to the budget and a lot of business owners here are struggling. While I have clients from all over the world that are thrilled with 2k (which is cheap!) it's a harder pill to swallow for many local businesses. I turn away a lot of work because some people think a website should only cost $300. It's really sucks too because it is hard to see a business that NEEDS a site badly and not be able to do it because of their price restrictions. I still do pro bono work throughout the year for great causes but I have to make a living. Businesses also don't realize that SEO takes TIME and EFFORT. You don't just pop up #1 in google once you're live and managing that expectation (local or not) as you know is 70% of my job. Some calls and emails I get are insane. Had one last week - 8 pages and budget of $60. I HOPE it was a typo. I emailed them back and asked and never got a response lol.

I absolutly love design and LOVE what I do and I always am trying to improve and refine my skills which is why I think my clients keep coming back and giving me referrals. I'm super critical of my work and push myself wicked hard. I also am a straight shooter - no bs - I under promise and over deliver on every project and have great customer service and actually answer my phone and emails. I also don't waiver on my pricing because I know my value and am SO lucky to have seriously amazing clients, many who have become friends.


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stjohnjulie
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July 1, 2017 8:32 am  

Was hoping for your input on this one AandA2VI! I've done some websites and social media stuff for people in the past but I have always done it for straight barter and only for people I really like 😉 I had the chance to work with AandA2VI on a project I was working on about a year ago. She did a fantastic job with coming up with a logo even though the person we were working with was basically impossible. After all was said and done this impossible person ditched AandA2VI's design and had a person with no art background whatsoever make a logo that is just terrible. I cringe every time I see it. It makes me feel embarrassed to even think that I was associated the project at all, that's how bad it is. What I'm trying to get at is that even if you find people who may want a website, and aren't afraid to pay for it, designing for people who are so far behind times can be really difficult!

If I ever had to do it again though, I'd definitely work with AandA2VI again!! She was awesome to work with and very talented!


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SunnyCyn
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July 1, 2017 12:14 pm  

Thanks so much for the really thorough answer!! That was awesome.


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AandA2VI
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July 1, 2017 2:09 pm  

Was hoping for your input on this one AandA2VI! I've done some websites and social media stuff for people in the past but I have always done it for straight barter and only for people I really like 😉 I had the chance to work with AandA2VI on a project I was working on about a year ago. She did a fantastic job with coming up with a logo even though the person we were working with was basically impossible. After all was said and done this impossible person ditched AandA2VI's design and had a person with no art background whatsoever make a logo that is just terrible. I cringe every time I see it. It makes me feel embarrassed to even think that I was associated the project at all, that's how bad it is. What I'm trying to get at is that even if you find people who may want a website, and aren't afraid to pay for it, designing for people who are so far behind times can be really difficult!

If I ever had to do it again though, I'd definitely work with AandA2VI again!! She was awesome to work with and very talented!

Thanks so much girl! They had called not too long ago and wanted me to do their website but I had to say no, knowing that my style just wouldn't fit their brand... and that logo.

I also like to barter for my services and do it often! Always down to do design work in exchange for all sorts of stuff! I wish we were all on the barter system over monetary, it's fantastic.

No problem sunny - hope it helped a bit.


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AandA2VI
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July 1, 2017 2:25 pm  

I also should say I've been looking to "hire" someone to funnel work to for like a year but as you know design is subjective and that person need to have a similar style as me. Also has to be awesome with customer service. After all that's why people hire me, for my particular style. If you have a portfolio, send me a link - maybe I can help you out. I have way more inquiries than I can do alone. Email is adrianpoe@me.com

My work is at www.adrianpoe.com ugh I wish I could get the owners of silversquid.com to sell me theat dang domain!! Been trying for 5 years lol.


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Exit Zero
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July 1, 2017 3:23 pm  

Well that is some straight talk about the OP's question -- no rose colored glasses and even an offer to help.
Sometimes this forum really brightens my day!


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SunnyCyn
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July 16, 2017 10:35 am  

Thank you all for such great participation & info!! Sorry it's taken me some time to respond. Got busy with snorkeling & sun & fun, and then all too soon it was time to return to the mainland.

@AandA2VI you rock! Love your site & portfolio. I'll email you. I think we have a similar design aesthetic & id be happy to take on some overburden if it works out. Some of my work can be seen at: CYNSCH.com sourceeasy.com cocooncam.com


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