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Dozens of business owners get on board with online

StasiHoldren small business trainer with Google helps John Brackins owner The Masters pest control carpet cleaning Schererville set up web

Stasia Holdren, a small business trainer with Google, helps John Brackins, owner of The Masters pest control and carpet cleaning in Schererville, set up a web page during an Indiana Get Your Business Online event held in Merrillville Friday. | Karen Caffarini/For the Post-Tribune

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Updated: January 8, 2014 6:10AM

MERRILLVILLE — Kimberly Rumph wants to learn ways to grow her recently opened concierge business, Red Emerald, and attract new customers.

The Merrillville business owner said she received several good tips and tools while attending the free Indiana Get Your Business Online event Friday at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza, and intends to use some of them.

“I’ll probably use Google Alerts and Google Plus. I’ll do what I can to attract clients to my unique business,” said Rumph, whose business provides personal services for businesses and individuals including running errands, planning events, sitting with elderly relatives and custom-tailored services.

The three-hour event geared for small businesses was sponsored by Google, in partnership with U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind.

During the event, nearly 100 local small business owners learned the basics of how other people find your business online; how online tools can help you run your business more effectively; and how customers use Google’s online tools and mobile devices to find products and services.

With computers and manuals on hand, participants also got help in building functional websites.

Jim Burke, owner of Illiana Basement Waterproofing with locations in South Haven and Porter, said he already has a website for his four-year-old company, and wanted to learn how to either use Google tools on his current website or transfer his site to Google.

“I’ll transfer it to Google if the process is painless. I spent a lot of time and money on my current website,” Burke said.

Burke is ahead of many other small businesses in the state when it comes to the Internet.

Lorrie Feldt, regional director of Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center, said about half the small businesses in Indiana don’t have a website and others have old ones they aren’t able to update.

“Not having a website doesn’t help your business and it isn’t doing your business any good if you have an old, crummy one,” Feldt said.

“It’s really necessary; it’s where it’s at today. This promotes small businesses,” Coats said of having an online presence. “This is the future of business.”

Melissa Nitti, a Google spokeswoman, said Merrillville is smaller than most of the communities where Google holds these events, but the number of people in attendance was in the same range.

“This is a good turnout,” she said.

The Merrillville event had just a morning session; Nitti said Google has done both morning and evening presentations at other locations, which one attendee Friday said likely would have meant an even larger turnout.

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