By Joseph Pisani
AP Business Writer
New York — It’s cheap. It’s easy to do. And it can take less than 20 minutes to set up. Yet more than half of all small businesses still don’t have a website.
“It’s just ridiculous,” said Jim Blasingame, a small business author and radio show host. “Every small business needs a website. Period. Non-negotiable.”
Fifty-five percent of small businesses don’t have a website, according to a 2013 survey of more than 3,800 small businesses conducted by Internet search company Google and research company Ipsos. That’s a slight improvement from the year before, when 58 percent said they didn’t have a website.
Small business owners that don’t have one said they don’t have the time, think it will cost too much or don’t want the rush of orders that comes with being online.
Steve Love has never had a website for the handmade sausage and meat business he’s owned since 1988. He said a website for LoveLand Farms would boost sales, but he said he doesn’t have any more farmland to raise hogs and Black Angus cattle.
“I don’t want it to grow,” said Love, who sells his goods at a farmers’ market in Bloomington, Ind., and a store in another town that’s open once a week. “I’m already maxed out. I’m scared it would blow up on me.”
But customers expect one. When they ask him at the farmers’ market if he has a website, he hands them a card with his phone number and a map to his shop called the Sausage Shack in Nashville, Ind. He has no plans to start a website anytime soon. But it could happen in the future if his kids want to take over and grow the business, Love said.
Some owners simply said they have no time.
Bill Peatman, who writes blog posts, emails and other content for corporate websites, doesn’t have one for his own business.
“I’ve just been too busy,” says Peatman, who started his Napa, Calif., business over a year ago. “I haven’t come up with a plan with what I want to do.”
He knows he needs one. “People don’t think you exist,” he said. “I want to grow. I want to build my own reputation and brand.”
He recently bought a domain name. And he plans to hire someone to build the site, but he said he thinks it will take him a few more months to get to it.
But entrepreneurs that have jumped to the digital side said their websites have boosted sales, cut down on time-consuming phone calls and brought more people into their stores.
Sales at Bad Pickle Tees have doubled since Cyndi Grasman began selling her quirky food-related T-shirts online a year ago. She started the business in 2012, selling shirts with sayings like “Oh Kale Yeah!” and “I Heart Bacon” at food festivals. She launched the site using website publishing company Weebly for $250 a year.
Marilyn Caskey said her website has cut down on time-consuming phone calls with customers. The owner of The Garment Exchange launched a website for her San Antonio consignment shop two years ago using a Google program. The store, which she opened in 2008, used to get calls all the time asking which clothing designers the shop resells.
“I’ll be trying to ring up a sale and someone would call,” said Caskey, who would read through a list to the caller of all the designers the store does and doesn’t buy. “Now we refer them to the website.”
Amy Gilson said she hopes to be able to do that soon.
She hired a company to build a website for her Oklahoma City snack food business, Healthy Cravings. She is paying $4,500 for it, but she said she hasn’t been able to find the time to take photos and give them other information needed to finish. All customers see on EatHealthyCravings.com is a message that the site is coming soon.
When Gilson sells Healthy Cravings zucchini brownie bites or chia cookies at farmers’ markets, shoppers ask about a website. One customer, who was looking for the snacks’ fat content, took to Healthy Cravings’ Facebook page to ask if it had a website with more information.
“I can’t wait for my website,” said Gilson, who also plans to sell treats from the site. “I can just send them there.”