Small businesses get help reaching big market

Posted: Sunday, September 05, 2004

From Native drums to bottled water, a new Web site is looking to help market products made on the Kenai Peninsula.

The site was created by the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District to assist artists, entrepreneurs and businesses on the peninsula that would like to use the Internet to market their wares, but may not have the resources or desire to maintain their own Web site.

There is no charge to market products on the site. Any business whose product can be shipped whether handmade or mass-produced may sign up for the site. But the marketing tool may be of special interest to the makers of arts and crafts, who often can't afford their own site.

"There are a lot of artists and crafters who don't want to do their own Web site. It's a lot of work and it can be expensive," said Pam Olson, coordinator of the Export Alaska site.

The marketing site includes most everything a potential customer might want to know. The site features photographs and descriptions of the products, and if the advertised item is an art or craft, a separate page includes information about the artist.

Visitors to the site who are curious about the maker of a piece of art can click on the name of the artist and go to a biography page, which features a statement by the artist and a picture of the artist at work. The additional information is intended to help sell the artist's work.

"People who buy the art want to know about the people who made it," Olson said.

Connie Hocker heard about the site by word of mouth and was one of the first to sign up. Hocker lives in Soldotna and makes wall hangings she calls "Tundra Muffins" out of driftwood and other natural objects she finds on the peninsula.

Hocker makes the hangings as a sideline. She said she signed up on the free site because she doesn't produce enough to make it worth the trouble of setting up a site of her own.

"I'm not big enough to maintain my own Web site. I don't have enough volume," she said.

Ron Petterson has a similar story.

In his spare time, the Native Alaskan makes Native-style drums out of downed cottonwood trees he finds near his home in Kenai. Petterson works out of his garage and has never marketed his drums before due to the expense.

"I can't afford to advertise. I'm just a small businessman," he said. "This (Web site) is my only source of advertising, other than word of mouth." was launched about a month ago. So far, a handful of artists and businesses have signed up, but Olson said she expects to add more members in the near future. She has pitched the Web site to artists at meetings in Seward and Homer and plans to next concentrate on the Kenai-Soldotna area.

As its name suggests, the idea behind the site is to use the power of the World Wide Web to reach markets Outside. The plan is to focus marketing efforts on more metropolitan regions of the country.

"We're going to target some high-end markets," Olson said.

For more information on, call Pam Olson at 283-3335.

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