I would like to start this article by quoting from my introduction to the course “Setting Up Your Own Web Development and Hosting Business”:

“Three years ago, an information technology company that I started with some partners broke up and brought me serious disappointment. I thought I would totally leave the information technology business for good and would not even dare set up a new one. But one day I discovered a remarkable opportunity that has since then set me back on the track to a revitalized appreciation of IT-based businesses. With very minimal skills in website development and without even an exceptional graphics ability I soon found out that I could very well churn out very nice websites that didn’t take too long to finish. I also discovered how to set up my own web-hosting business and was able to start and grow one with very minimal costs. Now that business is doing quite well, with a growing customer base that is giving me a recurring revenue stream that is almost close to passive income."

Indeed, it was a serendipitous confluence of events and circumstances that led me to it. I was invited by the University of San Jose Recoletos in Cebu to conduct an online course for their newly-opened Masters in Information Technology course. As they were just starting to offer this masteral-degree program, they wanted to tap Manila-based professors to initially conduct some of their course offerings. The dean of the College handling the program was a graduate student of mine at the Ateneo de Manila University and he asked me if I could be of assistance.

The proposed set up was ideal and a win-win proposition. They would have me in their faculty without my having to be physically present there except for occasional visits to meet my classes. For the most part of a term, I would be conducting my classes from the comfort of my own home while my students would be gathered in one of USJR’s classrooms. They would be attending the class as they would a regular class except that their professor would be in Manila and would communicate with them through the Internet. In most cases, I would need to fly to Cebu only once, that is, at the end of the course. In some cases, I would physically meet my students twice. The first time to open the class, and the second time to close it.

I was asked to handle one subject per term and my class would typically be on a Saturday afternoon for three hours starting at 2pm. So every Saturday, I would take my lunch and have enough time to take a short nap on the couch beside my computer. I would set my alarm clock to 5 minutes before 2pm and when it goes off I would just run to the comfort room to brush up and make sure I looked okay, put on a polo shirt and then sit in front of the computer and turn on my webcam. I didn’t even bother to change from my short pants and slippers. After all, they would only see me from the waist up, in fact, only my head and a little below it.

For the next three hours I would conduct my class. We were using a very nice program that allowed me to see and interact with my students. There were icons which told me if someone wanted to speak because of a “raised hand” icon and I could switch controls to give the microphone to them and allow them to be heard. In some of my classes, we were even able to have some students participate from their own offices, without having to go to USJR and be physically present in the classroom where the other students were.

After the first week of my very first class, I realized that my broadband connection was already being paid for by the fee that I was getting for that weekly three-hour class. It dawned on me then that the rest of the week was already excess capacity for me because the Internet connection was already paid for. I could use it for other purposes and if I can turn it into a revenue-generating endeavor then it would already be pure gravy.

That got me into researching possible business ventures that required an Internet connection and one that could be possibly done from home. And that’s when I discovered the business opportunity of setting up a web hosting business. Fortunately, I was also at that time thinking of ways to help get small businesses on the Internet. One of the projects we had in the company I came from that I was talking about in the introduction of this article is a project called SMEGlobe whose objective was to help small and medium enterprises improve their businesses through technology. It was part business and part advocacy. And part of the advocacy was to get local businesses interested enough to consider having an Internet presence. Unfortunately, we were not getting the desired response from our target market.

Closer investigation on my part revealed to me where the apprehensions were coming from. As I talked to a lot of small business owners, I soon found out that their main reluctance to venture into the Internet was stemming from a basic frustration in the whole process of going online, especially the technical details of such an initiative. Since most do not have an IT team to support them, they find it too cumbersome to do it themselves. Typically, in setting up a website, one has to consider the following stages:

1. securing a domain name,
2. crafting an attractive web design,
3. identifying the purpose of their website as it aligns with their business goals,
4. deciding on their website content that will support their business objectives,
5. developing the website according to their defined needs,
6. finding a web hosting provider to host their finished website.

Armed with this knowledge, I proceeded to craft a business model for what was then emerging to be a new business venture for me. I figured that to get a fresh new crack at the small businesses market, I had to be a One-Stop Website Shop for them. And thus was Elcott CyberOutsource born. I researched on where were the best places to register domain names for my clients, how to quickly and efficiently design and create web pages for them, and find inexpensive web spaces where I could host their websites. I had to assemble all these services in such a way that I would still end up getting a profitable margin for each transaction. Little did I know that I would eventually establish a business that brought in not just a decent margin, but a highly lucrative venture that eventually turned itself into near passive income.

In my next articles, I will share with you the secrets of the business that I discovered.