EMBRACE INTERNET, OWNERS TOLD
The Times Leader: March 1, 2008

WILKES-BARRE - When the questions kept coming about what baby stroller Britney Spears pushed around, Jack Kiefer rolled with it.

The head of the internet retailer BabyAge.com set up a Web site on the stars and their children and tied in his company to "soft sell" the baby products available through his business.

Kiefer recounted the birth of the celebritybabies.info blog during a breakfast seminar Friday on Internet marketing.

"Number one, it's extremely important to try something," Kiefer told the approximately 80 people seated inside the Westmoreland Club.

He started his online business 10 years ago with $200,000 cash. The company, located in the Hanover Industrial Estates, recently recorded its first $1 million sales week. There's no sense in waiting for the Internet to come to your business, he said. "It's going to run over you if you don't embrace it."

Kiefer's message tied in with the presentation made by keynote speaker Cathy Von Birgelen, a strategic marketing consultant and program manager of Penn State Erie's Knowledge Park.

Birgelen encouraged the audience members to begin, if they haven't already, using the Internet to promote their businesses and companies and to sell their products and services.

"Create a Web site, one that generates leads for you," she listed as a starting point. Build from there by hiring tech-savvy marketing people and develop an ongoing training program, she added.

For years, information technology departments were in charge of companies' online marketing, but that was not the best choice, she said. The IT departments lacked marketing skills.

"We have to look at ways of putting teams together," Birgelen said.

Kiefer suggested tapping into local colleges and universities. Access to students was a huge factor in bringing the company from New Jersey to the area, he said.

That talent pool is accessible and costs less than hiring an outside firm, added Kristopher B. Jones, president and chief executive of Pepperjam, the rapidly growing e-marketing firm located in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

Enough can't be said about how a company presents itself, Jones stressed.

Shirtificates.com is doing just that, said Todd Buckley. The startup firm won the fifth annual Great Valley Technology Alliance business plan competition last year. The firm's plan, said Buckley, who works with the fundraising company eGifted, is to become a national company that offers organizations something different in terms of how to raise funds. The company will provide a service that lets people "customize their very own T-shirt" in return for a contribution to the organization's cause, he said.

Contact: www.BabyAge.com
Jerry Lynott
Times Leader business writer, can be contacted at 570 829-7237
jlynott@timesleader.com

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