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Local professor, class helps businesses go online

Ill-prepared to move forward in the digital space, several area businesses were thrown into confusion by COVID-19 but a college professor and his class are helping ease the transition.

Robert “Spyke” Krepshaw, professor of web and interactive media at Pennsylvania College of Technology, said his goal is to get them everything they need to bring their products online, among others.

Working with the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, more than 15 businesses have reached out to him, and he hopes to have some active websites ready for business by the end of the week, he said.

“Every business is different,” he said. “We’re hoping to get these turned around as fast as we can.”

Any business, regardless of membership, is able to contact and work with Krepshaw, who has made his email available at skrepshaw@pct.edu.

“I’ve had a mix of businesses, from restaurants to waste management and retail,” he said. “Some are aware of what can be done, one of them is an antiques dealer and she was so thankful because she was able to set something up.”

He receives the initial contact with the business to determine what they need, the potential costs of operating a website, and informing them of what the students can do.

“I start from the ground up,” he said.

Owning a domain name costs about $15 to $20 a year but hosting the website can cost about $50 a year. Krepshaw said he has his personal website hosting program and has waived the cost to businesses.

“Students work with you later to customize the website with basic info, ability to contact you and the ability to post whatever you’re selling,” he said. “My students will certainly do whatever (the business owners) want.”

The students are able to link reviews, social media, directions and more including analytics software, used to observe how many people visit your website, he said.

“I also have some great content management systems,” or ways to post information and products on the website, he added.

Beyond the COVID-19 outbreak, Krepshaw said he wants the businesses to keep up with their websites and explore the various opportunities they present.

Students have been eager and willing to put their skills to work and are gaining valuable experience, said Krepshaw.

“What’s really great is that, not only are my students excited about this, but olders students have reached out and want to help,” he said. “It’s really cool how people are coming together.”

Last week, Krepshaw said he noticed many restaurants he frequents in the city had no way of allowing customers to order online, instead several used third-party systems which can be expensive.

Then the thought occurred that he could help other businesses with the transition, he said.

In a late-night email he sent to Jason Fink, Chamber president, Krepshaw said he expressed his willingness to help — to which Fink quickly replied, “Let’s get rolling on it.”

Moving online is a large need in our area to attract people who primarily order their products online, said Fink.

“Right now it seems like the only big winner in (the COVID-19 outbreak) is Amazon,” he said. “We want to be able to drive people here, locally, because in the end that’s going to get us to survive.”

The chamber isn’t only focused on what they can do for their members at this point in the state ordered closures, but is working to help all businesses in the area, he said.

“This is about all of us, (COVID-19) is affecting all of us in the community and we want to help businesses regardless of if they’re members to come together and really drive home buying locally,” he said.

For Krepshaw, offering businesses the opportunity to move online was about helping his neighbors, he said.

“It just goes to show what we do at Penn College,” he said. “This is the real stuff and the fact we can do this right now and give back, it’s a win win for everybody

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