It was a dark and stormy night… a typical Kansas thunderstorm, that sounded like Al’s bowling team, at the Thunderbird on Oliver Street, had given up on trying to beat the Flying Tigers, from McConnell AFB, and had tromped into the alley’s kitchen and were bowling with industrial pots and pans.
I was pulling a late one. A 3 cups-of-coffee strategy session with Karen. A streak of lightening and, “Eureka!”
Now, now, I am getting ahead of myself.
You cannot really understand how 2C got started, until you understand how my passion for business was fueled as a child. While it is true that I played passionately with dolls, when I was young, I quickly segued into playing school, army soldier, and Catholic nun. I am sure that I committed sacrilege with my Catholic neighbor’s daughter, Karen Mortenson, as we draped my mother’s aprons over our heads, and drank grape juice, while nibbling saltines. But, I digress…
My father was the Regional Vice President of Jolly Rancher Candies. He left for the day, in a crisp white dress shirt, and tie, suit, neatly pressed, smelling of cologne, and would come home at night smelling like that day’s flavor at the Arvada, CO manufacturing plant.
I was bounced on the knee of Bob Harmsen, the actual Jolly Rancher, and would look at the Harmson’s vast collection of Charles Russell paintings, that graced the offices and their beautiful home. Dorothy was the one who invented the famous hard candy.
Mingling with business people seemed like the most natural thing a girl could do. I asked a lot of questions about manufacturing, and was in love with the ladies in the office. They let me play on their adding machines.
I pondered the concept of automating things, as I watched instantly wrapped candies get vacuumed up a Plexiglas tube to the second floor. “It must be candy heaven up there,” I told my daddy.
Fast forward to the age of nine, and my family started giving me old office equipment as play toys. I set up a whole “grocery store” in my parent’s basement, and invited the neighbor kids to come shop. I sold homemade cookies, freezer pops, and of course, Jolly Ranchers. Fire Stix were the most popular flavor. I could barely keep them in stock. I put their money in the old cash register, and did “the books” at night. I was saving to buy art supplies.
One year for my birthday, my brother, Scott, gave me a manual charge card imprinter. I have NO idea how he got one, but I LOVED it. He used my dad’s tools to make metal charge plates to go with it, with raised letters and numbers. My brother was voted BEST older brother, that day. Even if he did squeeze my chipmunk cheeks unmercifully sometimes.
Commerce seemed to be bred in my bones, right along with melted crayon wax and dribbled water colors.
1975: The Middle Years
While I had learned to type at home on a delicious manual Underwood, a fantastic piece of machinery, IBM Selectric typewriters were just becoming popular in middle school Office Techniques Classes (otherwise know as typing class). There was something fascinating about the way that the ball spun and imprinted at lightening speed. So much easier to make a mistake at speeds like this.
I also earned extra credit by helping out in the school office, and became the master of the mimeograph machine. I felt pretty proud when the teacher passed out the worksheets that my hand had made. Anyone, my age, will remember that memorable smell!
Again, I pondered the concept of automation.
1982: Pioneer Girl Meets Xerox
In elementary school, my mother gave me the whole hardback Little House on the Prairie set. I lived, then, looking at the purple silhouette of the Front Range, in Denver, with no idea that someday, I would live in Kansas, on the prairie. But I did wish, with all my might, that I could somehow emulate the pioneer spirit that was so vividly painted in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. I wanted to go where no one had gone and do something amazing and historical.
In 1982, I purchased a Xerox 627 Memorywriter Personal Electronic Typewriter. With it, my love of all things computerized began. Continued fascination with automation. I began researching computers.
One of my first adult jobs was working with mainframe computers in 1984. The IBM Tape Drive 3480 could record up to 400 MB, compared to the 200 MB on the round tapes. “Gee whiz. What was the world coming to? Now that was AUTOMATION!”
But the best was yet to come.
1993: The Dawn of the Internet and HTML
By 1993, I had moved to Kansas, with my husband, an Air Force mechanic on the F14, and was surfing the bare-bones Internet, using Marc Andreessen’s 1993 Mosaic (later Netscape) browser. It was then, that a light bulb went on. The artist in me just knew that there had to be a way to turn the ugly “Web 1.0” era website pages, with Times Roman font and blue hyper links, into works of art. Are you too young to remember frames and tables, online guestbooks and horrifying neon GIF buttons? Mia culpa. I eventually resigned my use of them. You are welcome.
I began teaching myself to code html, by using the “view page source” function in the browser. When I ran out of information, I networked with the researchers at Digital Equipment Corporation’s Network Systems Laboratory and Western Research Laboratory. They were creating the Alta Vista browser and knew more than I did.
This thing, the Internet. It was going to automate and democratize the sharing of information.
1995: Propositioned by the Wife
One day in 1995, at an outing at my youngest son’s preschool, one of the other mom’s said, “I hear you make web pages. My husband wants one for his company.”
“Er, well, I just do it for fun. A hobby really. Artistic outlet and all.”
“My husband will pay you,” she said.
“Absolutely,” I quipped. “When would he like to meet to go over the specs?”
It was then that I realized that this was my moment to pioneer something absolutely brand new.
That week, I started my first website design company, called .NETWORTH, and earned $50.
1996: The eCommerce Evolution & the 2 Computer Chicks
That sounds like a cool girl’s band name, doesn’t it? It was actually a 4’9″ ex-CIA operative and military consultant in Las Vegas, and a single mom of three boys, pulling all-nighters, figuring out our place in the World Wide Web.
After I began my company, .NETWORTH, I got hired by Karen Rafferty to do SEO on all of her client’s websites. She designed them, and I SEO’d them. One day, she said, “I sure wish there was a way to allow Shari’s Berries’ customers to order things online.” A week later, I had coded my first shopping cart. It was ugly, but it worked. We got deluged with clients wanting one.
This time a bigger pioneering opportunity became obvious.
Now, back to that dark and stormy night…
Karen and I were pulling a long strategy session, and she casually mentioned that since we were working together day and night, that perhaps we should make it official. A big lightening crack lit up my office, and I blurted out our new company name: 2 Computer Chicks.
This new venture became a sought-after international web design, eCommerce, and SEO business for the next 10 years. We weren’t just successful for our cutting-edge development work, but also for the intuitive way that we cared for, and empowered our clients.
We won awards, met lots of people in many industries, and enjoyed being those rare few 1% of women in tech.
Karen retired in 2006, and the company grew. It was time for our brand to change, and in keeping with our original 2C(omputer Chicks), we rebranded as 2C Development Group.
While we have grown, I still answer the phone, and treat each customer as though they were the only one that we have.