The Herald, Sharon, PA Published Sunday, Feb. 11, 2001
outlook 2001

HERMITAGE

What canít we do? asks e-businessman

By Kristen Garrett
Herald Staff Writer

Unique.

Itís a word that describes 26-year-old Michael Simpkins and his business.

Simpkins, a native of New Castle, designed his first computer business program at the age of 8 after his parents saved enough money to buy him a Commodore computer. He hasnít stopped since.

At age 15 he won a state award from Future Business Leaders of America for a computer program he designed. He went to technical school and two years at Slippery Rock University before becoming network administrator with a global company in New Castle. From there he moved to California where he worked as vice president of a company. He moved back to New Castle as a network engineer with the same company before starting his own company.

In April 1999 Simpkins returned to Pennsylvania began his e-commerce business iEncompass. "The question is, what canít we do?"

It seems the answer to that question is nothing. His company is now a nationwide business, and Simpkins is becoming a recognizable name around the Shenango Valley. He is a member of the Technology Board of the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce and is in the process of designing a Web site for the City of Hermitage. He said he has done about 150 proposals in the past two months. Business is coming from around the country including Washington D.C., and Columbus, Ohio, Simpkins said.

Simpkins said iEncompass uses computers and technology -- in combination with information specific to the customerís company -- to build a different kind of a Web site for businesses.

Simpkins said they design Web sites based on a businessí profile. He said he saw people using Web sites that werenít really helping their businesses. Simpkins said he meets with his clients, gathers as much information about the company as possible, and then studies it before creating a Web site.

"I enjoy working with people," Simpkins said.

Creating Web sites that can evolve with the company is another aspect of iEncompass that Simpkins said is unique. He said often a company will design a site, and then the customer has to hire someone to update it as needed. Within each site designed by iEncompass Simpkins said there is a built in tutorial section to help even someone with no knowledge of site maintenance do updates.

"One of the biggest misconceptions is that a Web site is a Web site is a Web site," Simpkins said. He said he believes companies should not have a Web site just to have one. He added after studying some companies heís advised them not to build a Web site at the time because it would not benefit them.

With a staff of three employees located in Ellwood City, Zelienople and San Jose, Calif., Simpkins said he hires out many contractors. He said he takes the time to make sure he finds "key people" in the areas of art, graphics, programmers and writers.

An enjoyable work experience is something Simpkins strives to provide for everyone working with him.

"I want people to be excited about what they do," Simpkins said. "Itís extremely important to me."

Simpkins said he often puts in 20-hour work days. He said his employees are free to work at anytime of the day or night as long as deadlines are met. Most people work around the clock because they work out of their homes. That means Simpkins is working too.

"I donít feel itís fair that my people put in hours that I donít," he said.

Though all of his business has been generated through word-of-mouth, Simpkins said he is planning to start advertising in the near future. He said he may expand to other offices in the country.

"Weíve had an absolutely beautiful reception (from the community)," he said, adding that he would like to give something back.

"Iím very excited about the future here," Simpkins said. "I really enjoy the Shenango Valley and plan on staying and keeping the business based here."

The first Web site iEncompass designed in the area was for the John Flynn Funeral Home in Hermitage. From that Simpkins said heís started a second business called Funeral Home Web Design that caters to the growing needs of the business.

"Thereís just so many things that have happened -- all in the past year," Simpkins said.

To find out more about iEncompass go to www.iencompass.com or call 983-0121.



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