Eric and Soyung Key go off to work each day as owners and managers of CalhounKnows.com, which endeavors to combine merchandise sales and trades, real estate listings, job searches, recipes, devotionals and more into a locally oriented package.
Theirs is not part of a franchise network.
“We’re a mom-and-pop business,” Eric Key said. “Strip the bells and whistles off, we’re just mom and pop.”
Indeed they are — married in 2000, the Keys have two young children. Previously California residents, the family moved to Jacksonville only a year and half ago.
“I love the Southern hospitality here,” said Soyung Key, 40.
Eric, 46, was a Jacksonville State University student from 1983-’88, thus they had a connection to the region.
The Keys began developing CalhounKnows.com in December and opened it in February. They say it has more than 500 registered users — from businesses who advertise to consumers seeking product information. An employee sells space to businesses on a commission basis.
The Keys said the business arose out of their perception that Calhoun Countians didn’t know everything about their community, at least in an economic sense.
“The people did not really know what was in the next town,” Eric said.
“People don’t know what’s out there.”
To that end, the Keys say they’re getting out and making personal contact with all businesses they can find. They say that approach matches the small-town way in which many projects are undertaken.
“Everything seems to be word-word-of-mouth around here,” Soyung said.
Browsing their website is useful, but the greatest advantage is gained when the consumer registers. That’s necessary when a user wants to send an e-mail to a business, to get a price on merchandise or to learn the directions of a recipe.
The Keys make money by selling space to local businesses. They don’t sell registration data to other businesses.
“We try to practice the golden rule in our business,” Soyung said. “We want this to be as easy to use as possible.”
Overall, their goal is to always keep their site fresh.
“We’ve tried to make it ‘sticky,’” Eric said, using a website design term for the quality that makes people want to keep coming back to see what’s new.
To be fair, they’ve had plenty of experience in website design and maintenance. After several years of web work in California for top name companies — Eric was at Mattel, for example, and Soyung was at American Greetings — the couple in 2004 started a design company in San Francisco called imgforge.
They continue to operate that business full time in conjunction with their work at CalhounKnows.com.
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