In July 1994, NAILS’ Internet correspondent Debbie Doerrlamm launched the nail industry in to the computer age by creating a message board for nail techs on America Online. Several months later she started NailTech, an Internet mailing list for nail professionals. Then, in July 1995, she launched a NailTech web page, the predecessor to the vastly popular BeautyTech.com site.
As the anniversary of Debbie’s initial foray into cyberspace as a nail tech approaches, we asked her some questions about her website’s origins and growth over the years - Editor.
What prompted you to start BeautyTech.com and did you ever think it would get this big?
Debbie: as a lone tech working from my home with just 36 hours of education )there was no licensing at the time), I had questions. I didn’t think to ask the supply house. They always pointed me to nail corner when i asked anything. I didn’t want to ask at the school I had gone to four years prior - the educator had taken seriously ill and her pompous daughter took over. I had been online for a long time, on AOL, and though maybe, just maybe, there was another technician online who could help me get answers.
I never envisioned any future to come of starting that message board at AOL. I never had a business strategy or long-term plans for any of this. I wanted answers, that’s all. Because of the ever-changing nature of computers and the Internet, i don’t really have what one would classify as a “business plan” even now. I wing it here every day, always open to new ideas and avenues.
How computer savvy were you at the time and how did you learn more?
Debbie: I’m sure it would not surprise anyone to find out I was already a techno-nerd when I started to reach out online to other nail technicians. I had been online since 1981 and playing/working on computers since 1971, my junior year in high school. The only official computer schooling I have is two years of tech classes in high school and one class in college. Everything else I learned as needed. I read everything else I learned as needed. I read everything iI can get my hands on. I test and poke and plug away at the concept, knowing if i keep looking at that coding long enough, it will make sense at some point. I ask questions of anyone I think knows more than willing to share. I think this is the basic reason i enjoy teaching techs how to use the computer and get the most out of being online. I need to repay all the knowledge and help that was given to me. It makes my day to hear well-respected technicians and educators tell others, “Everything I know about the computer I learned from Debbie.” to which I usually reply, “They don’t call me the Nail Goddess of the Net for nothing!”
How much has the site grown in size? What are its newer features?
Debbie: The original site - which came to be about two months after the AOL message board I created board I created - started out as one page, no images, with information about joining the mailing list. Today it is more than 750 pages, plus 15 very active message boards which all together account for another 1,500 pages of post and replies.
The best new feature is an FAQ system (Frequently Ask Questions) that is being used in the new HELP!!! Area and in the Celebrity Q & A area. This new system allows me to dynamically add information in the blink of an eye. The search tool that is unique to these particular pages is highly effecient. The articles area is not exactly new, but it had a grand makeover and is chock full of reading and resources to further educate the entire industry,
Can you compare site traffic now vs. then?
Debbie: there is no comparison. I didn’t have stats from the beginning but over the past four years, traffic has doubled from 40,000-50,000 visitors a month to 90,000-100,000.
What are you most proud of when it comes to BeautyTech?
Debbie:I’m very proud of the totally new layout and navigation. Even beyond the visual appearance, text, and images, I am bursting with pride over the sharing and networking that is going on. Between the NailTech message board and NailTech mailing list, more than, 1,500 nail techs reach out to ask and answer each others questions daily. They become friends. They open their hearts and souls when another tech is in need without asking for paybacks or pats on the back. They plan local networking events and get-together at shows, but most importantly they share everything they know about their jobs to help one another become better and more profitable technicians.
What are the best and worst things about being a webmaster?
Debbie: the worst is the sheer volume of e-mail. I receive and read every single post to the 15 message boards and five mailing lists, in addition to the requests for details on joining in on change night, how to transfer a license from state to state, etc. Between all that and the mountains of junk e-mails, it is difficult to be away from the computer or my e-mail for long periods of time I now have the ability to check my e-mail from almost anywhere - between my cell phone and my laptop. I am now quiet portable. The absolute best as far as I am concerned is when get to meet these technicians face-to-face at shows and networking events. To experience in person the bond that developed between all these knowledge-thirsty techs is amazing.