REDMOND, Wash., Dec. 2, 1996 — Microsoft Corp. today announced that three winners have been chosen in the Microsoft Small Business Triathlon contest, which was open to businesses of fewer than 10 employees and ran this fall on the Microsoft Small Business Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/smallbiz/ . The results will be posted at the same Web site and will contain profile information on each of the winners and links to their winning entries. The winners each received an NEC Ready Office PC, a 17-inch NEC MultiSync monitor and an NEC SuperScript 860 laser printer.
Contestants could enter one of three categories: Running Ahead of the Pack, for the best business plan; Swimming Against the Current, with an essay on overcoming a challenge; and The Big Finish, for the best marketing and promotional materials. The entries were judged by Paul Tulenko and Chuck Green, members of the 1996 Microsoft Small Business Council, based on original ideas, creative strategies and innovative solutions.
Category 1: Best Business Plan
Frustration begat opportunity for Margaret and John Lange, owners of Palace dot Net in Portage, Wis. Dissatisfied with the services offered by their local Internet service provider (ISP), the Langes decided to go into the business themselves, forming Palace dot Net in June this year. Services that the company provides include World Wide Web home page advertising, Web home page construction, corporate and local dial-up connectivity, and hard drive storage for smaller companies.
To attract potential investors to help fund their new company, the Langes needed a business plan. Using a template included in Microsoft® Office 95, Professional Edition, Margaret Lange put together a comprehensive plan that paid off: Within 14 weeks, the Langes gained 100 percent of the investments they were seeking to finance their business.
“The template we used from Microsoft Office was essential to the success of our business plan,”
Margaret Lange said.
“We had drafted a crude business plan using a variety of how-to books, but it wasn’t effective. The template enabled us to organize the plan in a much more efficient manner.”
Paul Tulenko, judge of the business plan category, said of Margaret Lange:
“She put together an excellent plan. I was especially impressed by her Marketing Plan section. It is evident Margaret gave considerable thought to what it is she wants to do and how she is going to accomplish her goals.”
Category 2: Essay on Overcoming an Obstacle
Sterling Krysler started his computer consulting business, Krysler Consulting, three and a half years ago. Today, he counsels corporations, organizations and individuals about the Internet and assistive technologies for people with disabilities. He also designs, programs and maintains Web pages and provides training on effective use of the Internet and e-mail.
Krysler entered the second category of Microsoft’s Small Business Triathlon, Swimming Against the Current, by describing how he encountered a major challenge when a swimming accident six years ago left him a quadriplegic. Before the accident, he had been a commercial pilot; he was forced by his injury, which left him with limited arm movement and using a wheelchair, to reconsider his career direction. Krysler had been familiar with technology from his work as a pilot, and he had been personally interested in the Internet, which at the time of his accident was just exploding into the mainstream.
In his essay, Krysler explains how his disability aids him in teaching people how to benefit from technology.
“In my training, I see time and again how people let their fear of technology ‘disable’ them,”
“My customers and students see that I do not let obstacles stop me, and it empowers them to do better, go farther, accept new challenges. And when they do that, my biggest obstacle has become my niche, and the key to business success.”
Tulenko, who judged the essay category, said of Krysler:
“He did not let physical disability stop him from becoming an entrepreneur. This obstacle could have been the end of a career. Instead, it became the reason to start over. Sterling has had to use and adapt modern technology to make his dream come true – not an easy task.”
Category 3: Best Marketing Materials
Arbor Publishing Corp., formed in 1990, has five employees and is owned by a neurologist, Dr. Steven Demeter. The company produces a multimedia educational and reference resource CD-ROM, called Neurobase, primarily for clinicians interested in neurology. More than 300 experts in academic neurology have contributed reviews of neurologic disorders to Neurobase, illustrated by videos, pictures, photomicrographs and neuroimaging.
Arbor faced considerable challenges in marketing its product. For starters, the market is small – only about 30,000 neurology clinicians worldwide. Second, Arbor found that computer ownership among clinicians is quite low. In addition, doctors are generally slow to respond to marketing programs and materials.
To overcome these hurdles, Arbor’s staff decided to get creative. They focused on creating a professional and consistent graphical look to appeal to the medical community and give Arbor the appearance of a larger, more established company. In addition, the company reinforced the timeliness of its information by releasing quarterly updates of the CD-ROM, and by using direct mail and a newsletter to focus on a clear benefit of its product: valuable information for
“about a dollar a day.”
Finally, faced with limited budgets and the need to encourage subscription renewals, the company instituted a
subscription policy, which means clinicians continue to receive new quarterly editions of Neurobase until they opt to cancel. This reduces the need for costly marketing to keep current customers.
Arbor Publishing has had great success with its marketing approach and materials, seeing a threefold growth in its subscription rates since implementing the new designs.
Today, Arbor faces a new challenge – how to use the Internet to deliver updates to Neurobase customers, many of whom are just now starting to get on the Web.
“The Internet is expanding our ability to bring the latest information, studies and articles to our audience in a timely manner – and add even more value to our product at a lower cost,”
said Jim Chacona, marketing director for Arbor Publishing.
Chuck Green, judge of the marketing materials category of the contest, said,
“Arbor Publishing has produced an impressive product and marketing package. Their direct mail headline, ‘Neurobase keeps you on neurology’s leading edge for about a dollar a day,’ promises an easily understood benefit to the reader – an important point that is often missing from small-business marketing materials.”
Each of the winners received an NEC Ready Office PC that features a Pentium 166 processor, a 17-inch NEC MultiSync monitor and an NEC SuperScript 860 laser printer.
Ready Office PCs are designed to give small businesses the critical functions supplied by accounting, administrative, legal and MIS departments found in large corporations. Combined with easy Internet access and powerful communication capabilities, these workhorse computers bring big-business capabilities to the small-business office.
The new systems include Microsoft software valued at over $850, including Microsoft Office, Professional Edition, for the Windows® 95 operating system; Microsoft Publisher CD Deluxe, a desktop publishing product for creating brochures, fliers and newsletters; Small Business Pack, a collection of ready-to-use business templates, forms and reports for Microsoft Office Professional; and Small Business Financial Manager, financial-analysis tools that use accounting software data to help users make better business decisions.
The Microsoft Small Business Web Site ( http://www.microsoft.com/smallbiz/ ), where the contest winners’ profiles will be posted, is a small-business information resource packed with news, views and how-to information designed to help small businesses get started, improve their operations and reach more customers by taking advantage of today’s computer technology.
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