Online business provides jobs for rural women
By ROWENA PLETT
There's much talk these days of the need for well-paying jobs in rural areas and of using modern technology to provide them.
A good example of how it can work is the experience of several women in northern Marion County who are employed by MachineTools.com, an online company launched by entrepreneur Stuart Carlin in 1999.
The company provides an online marketplace for new and used manufacturing machines and tooling, and also posts auctions, want ads, and many other services.
The site has 100,000 registered users, 500,000 monthly visitors, and features more than 33,000 machines and tooling components.
Three women were working for an ag publication in Lost Springs when they found out about the company.
Lisa Hanschu of Ramona and Tony Svitak and Marilyn Campbell, both of Herington, went to Chicago for an interview and were hired. They opened an office in Herington and hired three more people.
A slowdown in business in the fall of 2000 led to their being laid off.
Hanschu worked for another dot-com for six months when she decided she wanted a career change.
She first contacted Carlin. "I want you to come back," he said.
"It's been onward and upward ever since that day," Hanschu said.
Working out of a beautifully-decorated office in the basement of her home, she is national account manager for MachineTools.com. She was responsible for developing the auction portion of the website.
Two other women work with Hanschu. Raelene Hajek, Lost Springs, does special projects such as updating e-mail lists. Pam Holub, Lincolnville, works for a new company recently founded by Carlin, AnglerWeb.com, which connects anglers with the best fishing resources.
Tony Svitak was rehired a year ago and works out of her home in Herington. Lori Moldenhauer, Tampa, provides accounting services for MachineTools.com.
The women are five of 16 employees. Most of the others also work out of their homes in other parts of the country.
Employees stay connected through conference calls throughout the year and an annual face-to-face meeting.
The company provides "excellent" benefits, according to Hanschu. The women are paid by the hour, with yearly increases, and also receive quarterly bonuses based on a profit-sharing plan.
"It takes a certain amount of dedication to work out of your own home, to keep your concentration, and to make the company successful," Hanschu said. "We have a solid team. There are no weak links."
Two employees work in the head office in West Bloomfield, Mich. The company has gone international, with marketing offices in China, India, Germany, and Mexico.
Hanschu has been with the company the longest. During the past two years, she has been traveling for the company. She has been to large trade shows in Chicago, Michigan, Las Vegas, and Connecticut and plans to travel to Los Angeles this spring. She presents the website to buyers and sellers and promotes it with other vendors.
Hanschu has a lot of praise for her boss. During several years in which she was battling leukemia, he allowed her to keep her job, even though there were numerous days when she couldn't work. She has been restored to full health.
"I love my work," she said. "It's part of me. It's not a job. To see what I've accomplished has made me stronger and more confident. It's made me who I am."
Moldenhauer has worked for the company for four years. She enjoys the convenience and economy the job provides. It requires no gasoline and no special clothes, and she can do everything from home.
She provides customer service along with doing accounts receivable.
"I am a people person," she said. "I enjoy customer service and visiting with people from all over the world."