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July 13, 2009 | last updated December 1, 2011 12:34 am

Cyber siren | A conversation with Nicole Ouellette, owner of Breaking Even Communications in Bar Harbor

Photo/Courtesy Breaking Even Communications
Photo/Courtesy Breaking Even Communications
Nicole Ouellette, owner of Breaking Even Communications in Bar Harbor

Founded: January 2008
Employees: None
Startup costs: $4,000
Projected revenue, year one: $15,000
Projected revenue, year two: $42,000
Contact: 812-0285
PO Box 638
Bar Harbor 04609
www.breakingeveninc.com

What is Breaking Even Communications?

Breaking Even Communications helps small businesses and nonprofits get online and market themselves online. What I really like about the Internet is that it's really leveled the playing field between small companies and large companies, enabling small companies to compete online in the larger business world. There are two parts of the business: I help them create content for their website and I help market their website online, whether it's helping them start a company blog or getting on Facebook or researching advertising — it's pretty customized based on the business' needs.

Why did you decide to start this business?

I was working for a newspaper and I was recruiting bloggers for our site and we had a woman come in and ask for help with her site and up until then it hadn't occurred to me that I could get paid to do this. So I helped her and gave a few presentations locally and I got referrals and people started asking me other questions about social networking and Twitter, so then I started getting into that stuff too. So while it grew organically, there was a plan to grow in that direction.

How did you finance this business?

Financing has primarily been through a savings account I created for this business. In addition, I have a part-time job this summer that pays my rent and bills until I ramp this business up. I'm hoping by November I won't have to get another part-time job and I'm solidifying my business plan to maybe get a small business loan if I need it later this fall.

How do you market your business?

Through the Internet and social networking, but in general I find word of mouth has been effective for me. It's funny because I've met every one of my clients in person, which is kind of odd with an Internet business, but I think people in Maine like to deal with a real person. I'm a member of the Chamber of Commerce so I meet people at a lot of events and get referrals that way. I took out a couple of advertisements in local newspapers and have been reaching out to the press as I work on projects that have local slants, and I've been doing a little paid-per-click advertising.

What have you learned?

I find with this particular business, because it's a new field, I need to do a fair amount of education about what it is that companies like mine can do, and I'm working on doing this more effectively. I'm working on a video for my website that people can watch in two to three minutes to understand better what I do and why they should market themselves online and what kind of services companies like mine can offer.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced owning this business?

I've found transitioning from a consistent paycheck to learning to be flexible and deal with the ebb and flow of freelance consulting income has been a big personal challenge.

How do you stay competitive?

There are larger media companies that do something similar to what I'm doing, but what I've found is that bigger media companies service a certain kind of business and you have to invest more. I can work with really small companies that may not have thousands of dollars to devote to marketing but who want and need to get online. What I can bring to people in this area and beyond is the fact that I can deal with them personally. On a lot of sites it's not clear who's behind it and what they do. I have a price list on my site because I'm trying to be really transparent and give people as much information as I can to help people decide if they want to work with me.

What are your goals for the future?

My goal is to stay in business, but I'd like to grow to the point where I can hire one full-time employee at the end of next year and help by contributing to the local Maine economy. I've been trying to buy everything locally in my business because I want to support small business because I am a small business. I'd also like to monetize the blog portion of my site a little more.

Interview by Mercedes Grandin

New Ventures profiles young businesses, 6-18 months old. Send your suggestions and contact information to editorial@mainebiz.biz.

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