Year founded: 2010
Headquartered in: New Windsor, NY
Number of employees: 5
Kay Rubacek, CEO
How and why was your business founded?
Previously, we were building websites for companies who had a budget of $6,000 to $10,000 for a small business website. We have a very high standard of design and usability and wanted to be able to offer smaller businesses a high quality website, complete with a wide range of business tools and ongoing support at a price that can afford.
So, we worked with open source technology to develop a website-building framework that would halve the design and development time and cost to our clients while maintaining high quality and flexibility of design. We combined that with a system for gathering client requirements that significantly reduced our time and cost to our client during the planning stage. This has become the Sugar Websites system – a sweet solution for small business owners and for our partner businesses who resell Sugar Websites under their brand as part of their product offering.
What is your leadership style?
Our leadership is very much participatory. We have a small team so we are able to adjust to change and new strategies quickly. We have developed our vision and core values and have been using that in our decision-making processes and reviewing it periodically to make sure all parts of our team are in alignment.
What is your company's growth strategy?
We are in the process of seeking investment to increase our reseller clients (such as marketing/business consultants, graphic designers, printing companies, communications companies) who want to provide websites to their clients as part of their range of services, but don't have the skills or staff to handle the design and development in-house.
Our team provides resellers easy and affordable access to an experienced web development team who can handle any or all aspects of website design, content, development and maintenance within a system that makes it easy for them to manage their clients' websites on an ongoing basis, providing them an additional monthly revenue stream.
We are currently a client with the Orange County Business Accelerator, who are providing us with business advice and low cost office space and facilities at an excellent location in New York's Hudson Valley.
Tell us about a difficult time you went through with your business, and how you overcame it.
Our business changed from being a service business to a digital product business with a strong service component. At that time, we weren't able to see all the implications that the additional product development work would have on our overall plan and what strain it would put on our time and capital resources.
We spent nine months building and testing the technology, during which we were offered a good investment amount but turned it down so we could work according to our own schedule and direction. The long hours, development costs and mistakes made were hard, but we persisted and made it through. Now, with a stable system and growing client base, we are ready to go to the next level.
Do you have any words of advice you’d like to share with our readers?
An important lesson I have learned is how different it is working in a startup from working in the corporate world. In hindsight, there is always so much uncertainty during the early startup stages in terms of investigating and trialing business models, pricing, and marketing strategies, that it’s often difficult to see a straight path. It's important to be flexible and able to move quickly as opportunities arise or when current methods are failing.
During the startup phase, where regular corporate-style planning is helpful, it is far less important than having the grit to see it through. Of course, it's still important to maintain good business communication, documentation, planning, and organization—that will help tremendously—but ultimately commitment, persistence, and damn hard work is what's needed. Without that, the rest is of no consequence.
What’s the last book you read?
Takin' Care Of Business, by Brian Buffini and Joe Niego. I was given this book at a business networking meeting and found it to be a quick but practical read for growing sales by referral. So many people talk about getting their customers by word of mouth, but what strategies do you use to actually get people to refer you and stay in their minds so that they think of you when they find someone who needs your products or services? This book reinforced a lot of the methods I was using and put them into a broader strategy for lead generation. It also provided some new ideas that I plan to put into action.