ENCINITAS — Tweets, Facebook posts and blogging are the modern equivalent of word-of-mouth advertising that fuels the fire of a local startup business called Net Wit.
Ruth Marvin Webster, 53, and her tennis partner Kathy Doherty, 47, spent years making puns on the tennis courts. “Love all, “Get a grip,” and “Tightly strung” were some of the most frequently used by the two. Sometimes the partners joked off the court about turning their favorite witticisms into a T-shirt business.
After Webster was laid off in 2008, the pair took the plunge and created a business in October of this year with nothing more than a Facebook page and determination to succeed. The website went live last month.
“We went the social network route out of necessity to a great extent,” Webster said. “The typical brick and mortar business was cost prohibitive. E-commerce is a huge money saver.”
While some startup companies do well to begin with an initial investment of tens of thousands of dollars, the women began Net Wit with a good idea, a little help from their friends and an initial joint investment of less than $1,000. “We’ve already broken even,” Webster exclaimed.
The two soon realized that the trick to running a successful online business is getting noticed on the web. “We threw up our Facebook page immediately,” Webster said. “It gave us a type of credibility before the website was even up.”
Although the two women are successful in their respective professions, Webster admits she was intimidated by the daunting task of creating a web presence.
“It’s like learning a new language and a new industry, from screen printing to manufacturing everything in the beginning was a little overwhelming,” Webster said. But the pair tapped into their own social networks for help grow the e-commerce company. “I’m amazed at how many people are out there to help you. From photographers to graphic designers who stepped forward to support the business,” she said. “It takes a village.”
Doherty said the benefits on running an online business are countless. “Social media can enhance business with less effort and cost,” she said. “Compared to the cost of print ads, you go on Facebook and blog and learn what words to use to attract customers in cyberspace.”
They are in the process of printing a new batch of shirts with new sayings and expanding sales to women’s tennis teams. Webster is also sending out shirts to local women’s professional tennis players such as Coco Vandeweghe and Lindsey Davenport in the hope they’ll wear them around town. “We searched the web for cute, different tennis shirts, and there’s nothing out there like ours,” added Webster.
In fact, Net Wit was recently featured in the nationally acclaimed Christian Science Monitor after one of the writers found the business on the Internet. “There’s a worry that you’ll be lost in cyberspace, that’s the downside of an online business,” Webster said.
But with orders coming in from all over the country, Webster said she is convinced that they’re doing something right. “We keep up with the technology and keep creating a unique product.”
For more information, visit www.tennisnetwit.com.