WebSites 2000 strives to simplify

WebSites 2000 strives to simplify

Davis, Rick

Kate Spates figures she’s got the perfect package for the type of business she’s in. A liberal Studies major with some computer geek mentality and a strong customer service background.

In Spates’ view, it’s just the ticket for somebody looking to thrive as the owner of a Web site company. And that’s exactly what Spates has done with WebSites 2000. Founded in 1996 by the 37-year-old Bermuda Dunes resident, the company last week was honored as the 2005 Small Business of the Year in California’s 64th Assembly District.

WebSites 2000 was selected over six other finalists in the district that includes the cities of Riverside, Moreno Valley, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Canyon Lake, Temecula, Indian Wells, Lake Elsinore and Murrieta. The selection process alternates between businesses in the eastern and western portions of the district.

“I’m pretty much self-taught when it comes to computers,” said Spates. “I’ve gone to some seminars and I tool a few computer courses in college, but the courses weren’t anything I could put to practical use. One, for instance, had to do with setting up and running a cash register. I’ve never really applied any of that.”

WebSites 2000 has flourished with Spates, as managing partner, growing the business considerably in nine years. It’s at the point now where Spates and her fourperson staff manage 170 Web sites.

“I value what I experienced and learned as a liberal studies major,” said Spates. “But in the case of computers, it’s something that came natural to me, largely because I’ve never been afraid of them. I’ve learned software programs by just sitting down and working endlessly at it.”

The customer service part has factored strongly in building a client base.

Spates honed her skills in that area by working for Marriott Hotels for nine years after graduation from California State University San Bernardino.

Director of Sales and Operations Stacy Thetford and Director of Web Services Jan Diaz, also have resumes that include work experience in the hospitality industry. Thetford, 35, spent 11 years with The RitzCarlton and Diaz, 28, was with Marriott for nine years.

“We like to think it sets us apart from companies run by techies who only know computers,” said Spates. “You get clients who know they need a Web site, but don’t know where to begin in setting one up. In those situations, it helps to have strong customer service skills. And simplify your communication with them. Don’t be too techie. They don’t want to know how the Web site will work.

They just want to know that it will work.”

Spates was in Sacramento last week to receive the state award from John Benoit, 64th District Assemblyman.

“WebSites 2000 exemplifies the small business that provides professionalism and public service and creates jobs within the community,” said Benoit. “Kate’s business touches other businesses by bringing them new business through well-designed Web sites.”

Spates, who has designed election Web sites for both Benoit and Congresswoman Mary Bono, said being chosen for the award “validates our commitment to the community and to our customers.”

“It reinforces to me that the decision to go out on my own with this company was a good one,” she said. “But my staff deserves an enormous amount of credit. They are what really makes this work.”

WebSite 2000’s list of high-profile clients includes LG’s Prime Steakhouse.

West Coast Turf, Palm Desert Police, Jensen’s Finest Foods and the chambers of commerce of Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage. The Palm Dersert chamber’s Web site recently was selected as the best chamber site in an area that includes 14 western states.

“We develop everything from small informational sites to elaborate business-to-business applications,” said Spates, whose Coachella Valley ties include graduation from Palm Springs High School and College of the Desert. “The key to successful Web Sites is, No. 1, keeping graphics clean. No. 2, fast-loading with simple navigation. And, No. 3, always being user-friendly.”

In presenting the award, Benoit also noted that WebSites 2000 is involved in the community, working pro bono with such organizations as United Way of the Desert, Habitat For Humanity of the Coachella Valley and Building Horizons.

“When I went to work for the company in ’99, only 25 percent of our clients were local,” said Thetford. “So we started getting more involved in the community, going to chamber mixers and so on. Now about 70 percent are local clients. It’s made a huge difference.”

Asked if she misses the hospitality environment, Spates replied, “I miss the social aspect, but we do a lot of networking and are involved in the community now. I certainly cannot imagine going back. Yet it was absolutely the best training for what I’m doing now.”

Copyright Desert Publication, Inc. and Sharon Apfelbaum Jun 21, 2005

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