Powerful Potential

Posted on Mar 1, 2009 :: Small Business Spotlight
Sharon Verbeten
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Virtualtech’s lead Web designer Chris Robinson, left, works with owner Tammy Schultz.

It’s not exactly a phrase you might expect to hear from the owner of a company steeped in the world of the Internet: “I hate computers.” But you won’t hear any apologies from Tammy Schultz, owner of Virtualtech, an Appleton firm that creates, designs and hosts websites and specializes in Internet marketing and promotion.

A frustrating experience with one of the earliest computers colored her view. But now entering her 12th year of business, Schultz may not be so fond of computers, per se, but she does credit them with providing her with a solid – and growing – career.

Virtualtech was founded in 1997 by Schultz’s former husband in upstate New York, where the couple then resided. Schultz “inherited” the business after their divorce, working with clients primarily in New York and Connecticut.

After she met her current husband, Mike Schultz, online, they married and relocated in the Fox Cities to run Virtualtech.

“We were basically starting all over,” says Schultz, who now has more than 240 clients in 26 states. “When I started, no one knew what the Internet was; most people I talked to back then didn’t have the Internet,” says Schultz.

While Virtualtech may have been ahead of the curve in that regard, it also faced the challenge of garnering new clients, most of whom weren’t savvy about the World Wide Web.

“I can sell and I’m good at marketing,” says Schultz, who quickly saw the marketing potential for businesses through having an effective website.

Still, she admits, “It took probably seven years before I started really getting people to call me back. …when I didn’t necessarily need to go out and market.”

“Today, the first thing people want to know is ‘What’s your web address?’” says Schultz, adding that having a website tends to “legitimize” a business. “It’s just as essential as having a phone number.”

But as essential as they may be, Schultz finds that many companies are not able to tackle – or are intimidated by – the tasks of building, maintaining and hosting sites themselves.

“The Internet is constantly changing,” says Schultz, “and the more technology improves, the harder it is for people to build and maintain their websites. There are some people who have no clue at all, and then you have people who know too much. I can talk on people’s levels.”

Dan Ziegler of Zig Builders in Appleton is one corporate client who has learned the value of an effective website.

“[Schultz] has been very helpful in helping us try to reach our target market, both from a visually appealing website as well as from a performance perspective in working her magic behind the scenes to get us high on the list of the various search engines,” says Ziegler. “[Our website] is a first impression that only helps get our foot in the door when selling our custom homes to prospective customers.”

Virtualtech has six employees and is poised to add another this year. It’s all part of growing the business, which has happened primarily through word-of-mouth referrals or online links.

“As I was building the business, it was my intent to grow Virtualtech to have 10 employees,” says Schultz. “Now, it’s happening.”

But keeping the company at a manageable size is also important to Schultz – who believes people are the most important component of business, especially one dealing in cyberspace all day. “I don’t want to lose that total personal contact,” she says. “I don’t want to get so big that I’m not in touch with my clients.”