Web entrepreneurs and Niches

September 11, 2006 at 4:40 pm Leave a comment

 ReaD – http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/sep2006/sb20060911_419103.htm

See Slide Show http://images.businessweek.com/ss/06/09/sb_websmart/index_01.htm

An Internet-based phone system lets Colorado Springs-based Exclusively RNs counsel nervous moms-to-be, and hire nurses, all over the country

Laura Hagler and Anne Afshari’s business was born in the birth center where they worked. One night in 2002, the two OB-GYN nurses noticed the doctor on call was getting a lot of calls from pregnant women asking routine questions about topics such as diet and headaches. Afshari asked the doctor, Kevin Weary, why he didn’t have someone else handle those calls. His reply: “Do you want to do it?”

Afshari, 33, and Hagler, 32, decided they did, launching Exclusively RNs that same year. The Colorado Springs company has a network of 23 OB/GYN nurses answering after-hours calls for 55 doctors and midwives who subscribe to the service for about $300 a month. Last year, revenues were $140,000, double those of the previous year. They expect sales to top $200,000 this year. “When we think about where we started — just with an idea — it’s unreal,” says Hagler, who, like Afshari, goes by the title director and owner.

At first, Hagler and Afshari answered calls from their homes. But they realized that an Internet-based phone system would allow the business to take off. They now spend $620 a month on Virtual PBX, a Web-hosted private branch exchange service that routes calls to their company’s nurses. The nurses, who work from their homes as contractors, log on to the company’s Web site and are alerted by e-mail or text message when a call is waiting. The service also has round-the-clock tech support and a backup system.

Using a Web-based system allows Hagler and Afshari to hire staff from around the country. So far, they’ve got nurses in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas. Their nurses, each of whom must have at least two years’ experience in women’s health, handle calls based on a protocol approved by subscribers. The founders conduct a three-day training session for new hires — those who aren’t from the area are flown in for a long weekend. Hagler and Afshari also listen in on their first few calls to guide them. Although the service does get calls from women who require immediate medical attention, most come from “patients with questions they think are urgent but might not be,” says Afshari. Among them: a woman asking if she could have a tuna fish sandwich at 2 a.m. (She could.)

Dr. Weary, who is with Academy Women’s Healthcare Associates in Colorado Springs, says he used to field about 40 calls a day when he was on call but has that down to two or three a month. “They take care of 98% to 99% of the calls,” he says. “Doctors work 48 hours over the weekend when on call, so it’s easy to get grumpy. On Tuesdays I was making calls apologizing for how I acted when a patient called with a headache. I don’t need to do that anymore.” Hagler and Afshari find clients by e-mailing and phoning doctors, as well as with direct-mail campaigns. Next year they plan to attend OB/GYN conferences to promote the service. If the experiences of doctors such as Weary get around, Exclusively RNs may soon be fielding lots of calls — from doctors.

Entry filed under: Internet Startup.

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About Biz News

My Name is Bisi and this is my blog This blog features stories that I have read that I think are interesting . I usually bookmark the stories that I find interesting but they are getting too many . I have decided to catalog and share them on this site . I am not really promoting the site so you might have accidentally stumbled on it . Thanks for visiting .
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