Starting a new business can be daunting, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or underachieved. I can remember starting my first web hosting company back in 1998. A simple reseller account with no customers, just hope that I can quit my 9-5 job someday. A reseller web hosting account really opens your eyes to how much starting a business has to do with marketing. With only a $29.99 overhead for the services I offered, I was left with a lot of money to build my name. Even then it was really hard to find a good domain name, I didn’t have the money to buy one so I got advancedwebhosting.com. It explained what I wanted, had keywords, and wasn’t too many words lol. My hope was to help people who needed more support and might have trouble hosting with a big hosting service like Yahoo that kicked off the complicated customers for some TOS made of reason. We wanted these guys, the CPU hogs, the personal sites that were shaky, and the people who had to call every day to be reminded how to check their email. I knew it was more work but I was ready to help no matter how small the margin was.
The second step after choosing a domain name was building the site. If I remember right I didn’t even know how to use Dreamweaver yet and relied on FrontPage to build my masterpiece. I wish I would have kept a screenshot for the sake of humor. I remember well that I didn’t care about flashy buttons or heavy graphics. I wanted something that loaded fast and got the customer where they wanted easily. In fact, the first version had no buttons, just text for links. I paid a service of $75 to build a logo, had cards made, and started submitting my sites to search engines like Alta Vista and Lycos. This was before Google!
I then started joining forums and adding my link in the signature. I knew back then spamming was bad and I was lucky enough to know how important reputation is on the Internet. It took time but I wrangled some new customers all through conversations and ICQ. Skype wasn’t around back then either. They all took time but I was honest and in truth was ready to do whatever it took to get their business. Even if took hours to for a low-priced account. I believe you should treat every customer your best and not favor the bigger ones. It sounds like a sales pitch but that belief helped form my reputation.
In less than a year I outgrew my reseller plan and was able to upgrade to a dedicated server from the same company. I even had a couple dedicated customers that wanted to join so I was able to sell to them under the same reseller hosting company. Unfortunately, the company that started off just as helpful as I was to my customers seemed to lose interest. They stopped replying daily to support tickets and at times have server outages where for hours. Even one time they said if I kept asking for help they would stop the account or charge me more. I was shocked! My company was paying them hundreds a month and as a new reseller with little system admin experience, I needed their help.
It became evident that it was time to take a leap of faith. Still working part-time selling appliances at Sears I was able to save some money and started looking for collocation and help. I was living in Santa Barbara at the time and the only place we had there was expensive but I always believed that if you want to be successful you have to think you will succeed no matter the obstacles. I remember everyone thought I was nuts putting all my time and money into this business. I was impressed that Sony was in the same building and met some of the Sony team through the building. I felt like I was hanging out with the big boys and paid a lot for this image. Eventually, I landed a big account with FIFA and an account with Sony. I also was growing slowly with small websites. It was about two years that I passed $2000 a month, just enough to quit my job at Sears and put all my effort into Advanced Web Hosting. What an amazing feeling I will never forget.
After a year my lease was up with the data center in Santa Barbara so I was looking around for a new building when I met a lasting partnership with Blacksun. We still partner with them at our DC in Downtown Los Angeles to this day. Once we moved to LA for collocation our cost was about half and the connection was fast! Driving an hour to switch out a hard drive was a nightmare but well worth the extra month I could use to grow the business.
It was right that this time I met the person who would concrete my place in Web Hosting. James Gardner, (not the actor). He owned a mainstream hosting service with a lot more customers than me but still needed an edge. We had a meeting over Sushi in Hollywood and decided to partner up under one company; DWHS Inc. (Domain Web Hosting Service). In 2001 we finished the partnership contracts and incorporated the business. It’s hard to believe that was 13 years ago!
It was never easy and it’s still not, but we love what we do and we still always will support our customers big and small the best we can.
My only advice to you if you are starting a reseller web hosting service is to take it slow and market above all. Don’t worry about being flashy, focus more on talking to people and keeping things simple for your customers. I wish you the best of luck in everything you do, I know how hard it is.