By HANNAH WULKAN
Gazette Contributing Writer
Photos: Kevin Gutting
EASTHAMPTON — In a world where information can be found at the click of a button, it’s easy to forget about the folks behind the scenes who make it that easy.
Janel Jorda, 48, of Northampton is one of those people, with her 10-years-old business, Web-tactics, offering web design services. She says her goal is to build, maintain and improve the sites of her clients.
For the past year, Web-tactics has been at 83 Main St. in Easthampton, located on Shop Row in a simple storefront with a large plate glass window with Web-tactics printed on the glass in large letters. The office space is comfortable and hip with hardwood floors, brick walls, and a couch area to meet with clients in a front room and workspace in the back. Jorda says her clients range from local businesses to international companies.
She moved her company here from its former home on Route 10 on the Northampton-Easthampton line exactly one year ago — and she says that it is the best thing she ever did. Since the move, Jorda says she has seen her business double, which she attributes to better visibility due to more foot traffic, and possibly better parking.
“Easthampton has become this incredible city, culturally and business-wise. Small and large businesses have moved in and are moving in all the time and its hustling and bustling,” she said.
She noted that the Easthampton business owners and the community at large were warm and welcoming, which only affirmed her decision to move there.
Jorda has worked with web design and computers for many years, though in larger, corporate settings. She began learning about the Internet in 1995 when she worked for Internet entrepreneur Seth Godin at his company Yoyodyne in New York, which Jorda said was one of the first companies to work with direct marketing, or communicating directly with the customer online. “He taught me everything I know and got me excited about the Internet,” said Jorda of Godin.
In 1998, Yahoo! bought Yoyodyne, and both Godin and Jorda continued to work there until the company closed its New York office. She then moved to Saint Croix in the Virgin Islands and launched visitstcroix.com, visitstthomas.com, and visitstjohn.com. She moved to western Massachusetts to work for Spaulding Sports Worldwide in Chicopee as global Internet technology manager, where she managed all Spaulding Sports websites internationally.
When Spaulding went bankrupt in 2003, Jorda decided it was finally time to strike out on her own. She launched Web-tactics in 2004, which she calls “a full service web development company.
“We do everything from web design to social media website hosting, social media management, search engine optimization services, graphic design, brand management,” she said. “We run the gamut.”
Web-tactics is unique in several ways, said Jorda, such as being one of the only Women Business Enterprise (WBE) certified web design companies in the Pioneer Valley. This is a program offered by the state to offer incentives for women to own their own businesses.
Getting certified “was tedious but was totally worth it,” said Jorda, as she has already had new customers come to her specifically because of her WBE certification.
Jorda said she strives to give back to the community, and offers a 50 percent discount to all non-profit companies. “Non-profit organizations are the backbone of this whole country, they do all this hard work but they always have the smallest budgets,” she said. “We wanted to give back to non-profits who do such great work throughout the United States.”
Jorda also donates some of her work time to non-profits that are near and dear to her heart. For example, she is in the process of donating an entirely new website and domain to Riverside industries in Easthampton, an organization that employs and assists adults with developmental disabilities. This is an important issue for her, she noted, because her sister is disabled. She is also donating services for a new website to the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Northampton, where she is a member.
When working with clients, Jorda aims to accurately represent their business online. To that end, she meets with clients several times and often visits their businesses herself.
“I try to learn everything I can about their business, their needs, the crux of their business, and who their demographic is,” she said.
She said that web design has allowed her to find a creative outlet, and her favorite part of the job is speaking to customers who are incredibly excited to see a real difference in their business thanks to the website she built for them.
She explained that one of the most challenging aspects of her job is keeping up with the ever-changing trends in technology.
“I have to educate myself constantly and keep up on the latest trends across the Internet because they change all the time,” she said. “You have to be aware of it and get in there to make changes in it to benefit your clients all the time.”
Though Web-tactics is a one-woman shop most of the time, Jorda works with a team of about 50 independent contractors including programmers, web designers, web developers and graphic designers. This arrangement, she says, allows her to offer customized experiences to her clients while operating a thriving company.
“I see a lot of web development companies that open up their doors with a lot of glitz and glamor and big huge offices,” Jorda said. “Then they go out of business eventually because they spent a ton of money at the beginning.
Another company strategy, she noted, is to work with clients through the whole process. “We never leave a client, we don’t build a website and walk away, we are always there to support them,” she said.
Jorda works with local businesses and organizations including Urban Exchange in Northampton, the Northampton Police Department, and Taylor Real Estate in Easthampton, as well as with companies around the country and world.
Charles Miller, a local artist from Northampton, hired Janel about five years ago, and continues to use her services to update his website. He said he is not very good with technology, so for him outside help is essential.
“Follow up is the thing, knowing the person will be behind you if something goes wrong, which it always does, and Janel is.” He said that he is very happy with the website Jorda built for him because it touches on a whole cross-section of what he does, and at the same time is uncomplicated and very easy to see.
Linda Talbot, executive director of the Easthampton Council on Aging and Enrichment Center, said she called on to Jorda because she was worried about organizing the many programs and services they offer in a single web page.
“She made our website simple and organized and easy,” said Jorda.
Jorda said that as a woman in the technology business with a thriving company that has passed the decade mark she feels a sense of accomplishment.
“I feel really blessed about my longevity,” she said. “The longevity of my company, I think it really speaks for itself.”