Risky business pays off


In the nearly 30 years that we’ve been married, we haven’t taken many risks, except for buying three houses and having two children. For the most part, we’re cautious — probably overcautious — he more than I. Blame that on the fact that I’m the only girl in a family of four older brothers — they taught me to do things that our parents never knew about until after the fact.

Then, a little more than a year ago, we faced a risky situation that put us both into a little tizzy. For the first time in our married life, we were facing life on a single income — except for some freelance income that helped to pad our panicky selves. We were no different from all those others who had been laid off or fired from jobs, except maybe for the fact that we’d always been cautious. Cheap. Thrifty might be a better word.

In our conversations following the incident that set us back to one income (mine), we talked about what options we had. There were, of course, the usual unemployment checks that would boost things for awhile. But those would eventually end. So we began to brainstorm about how we could combine our skills to start our own business. In the beginning, we saw it as a way for us to avoid the dangers of unemployment — the depression, the fears, the anger, the tension.

In a way, it was almost more of a therapeutic plan but as it began to take shape, we consulted with experts on small business and slowly began to realize that it just might work. With the help of Ryan Lowry, our technology guru, we set about designing a website that would allow us to do exactly what we love — community journalism. Small-town stuff. No national news. A few false starts and we were on our way to going live.

We knew we didn’t want this to cost our readers.  We wanted to keep them out of the financial equation. With two daughters of 20-something ages, and with some students and interns-to-be who are connected at the hip to the Internet, this product had to easily accessible and interesting to all ages.

That’s what led us to the name. As has been our habit for the past 30 years, we talk. A lot. In the car, over dinner, on walks, with our kids, without our kids, with our siblings. In fact, we were in the car driving somewhere, when the perfect name came up. Fred was listing the various names that friends and family had suggested. None sounded quite right. I suddenly realized there was a computer-related word that was perfect. Icon.

Thus the name was born. The Bluffton Icon. Perfect. Short and easy to spell. Its simplicity reeked of technology.

And so, we began The Bluffton Icon. Slowly, Fred and Ryan worked through the technical stuff until we were ready to go live. The date was September 22, 2009. We had seven viewers and while we don’t know who they were, we have our suspicions. I have four siblings, he has two, and there’s that guy out in Reston, VA., who is probably our most loyal supporter, next to our two daughters, Lindsay and Anne. Oh, that’s nine.

Like Jack’s Beanstalk, the Icon grew and grew to today’s version. We owe so much to our advertisers who believed in what we proposed to them. Then there are our readers, our constant supporters. It’s a thrill to overhear someone say they read it on the Icon. We’re heading averaging 500 views a day and we compute that to be about 1,200 unique individuals over the period of a month. 50 states. Viewer on every continent except Antarctica and we’d love to talk with someone there.

It’s difficult to express our thanks to our supporters, but we’re going to try. We’ve planned a one-year celebration from 6-7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22, at Common Grounds, 121 S. Main St., Bluffton. We’ll have Bluffton Icon coffee (courtesy of Common Grounds), Bluffton Icon popcorn from Shirley’s, and cake and cupcakes from Little Black Apron. Even giveaways. And lots of conversation.

Hope to see you there!

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6 responses to “Risky business pays off

  1. WOW! THE DAY! And what a pleasure it is to open the Icon site more than once a day – and catch up on all that goes on in Bluffton (current and historic).
    My congratulations – and thanks to “That Guy In Reston” for tuning me in.
    Jean

    • Pannabecker Steiner Mary

      Jean,
      Thanks SO much for the gorgeous flowers and the chocolates. You provided for both of us (I go for the dark, he likes milk), so we won’t fight over them! Anne’s roommate took a couple for her breakfast on their trip back to Cincy.

      It was a fun party! Lots of wonderful guests.

      Mary

  2. Mrs. Joggin' Unit

    You really think you are going to fit us all in Common Grounds in 1 hours time. You could become your own news story 🙂

    Congrats!!

  3. Pannabecker Steiner Mary

    I made that comment to Fred — he’s not convinced there will be a full house. Let’s hope for nice weather so we can spill out on the sidewalk!

  4. Happy Anniversary, Bluffton Icon and Fred/Mary!!!
    and……….Many many many more!
    Jean

  5. Pannabecker Steiner Mary

    And…to top it off…our 30th anniversary is on Monday. 🙂

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