When Donté and Alicia Murphy recently made the move to Wilmington, they brought their Baltimore-founded web design company 6NINETY9 with them.
The city made sense for them, both culturally and location-wise.
“I’m originally from New Jersey, and we’d just drive through Delaware,” Donté said of his earliest memories of the state. “There really wasn’t much here to pull people here — there was Rehoboth Beach and that was it. But in the last five or six years I kept hearing about Delaware. My wife’s family is from Maryland, my family is from Jersey, so it’s in between. We like that it has an actual, real sense of community, which I never had in New Jersey.”
Cost of living was another draw: “It’s half of what we paid for apartments for an entire three-bedroom, two-bathroom house here.”
Back in Baltimore, where they still have an office, 6NINETY9 is recognized as one of the top web designers in the city by expertise.com. Now the company, named after its small business-friendly pricing, aims to be one of the top web design firms in Delaware.
“All we do is websites, website management, Google listing and advertisement,” said Donté, who is the primary designer, while Alicia makes sure the business runs smoothly. “The greatest difference [between 6NINETY9 and other web designers] is price as it relates to quality. We’ve been able to produce a website at the price of $699 and still have great quality. We design with mobile in mind first, rather than thinking desktop and trying to shrink it, so consumers have a much better experience than they’ll have with some of your competitors. We’re going to level the playing field in terms of your website performance.”
Donté got his start in marketing consulting with large corporations, including Microsoft. In this era of social media, some small businesses have opted to make their Instagram or Facebook page their online home base — not least of all because they can’t afford expensive web design. That’s not a good idea, he said.
“First of all, it’s an indicator of someone who works by himself,” he said, an impression that can make the business look less serious than it may actually be. “Second, if Facebook or Instagram drops, you don’t have any ownership of any of the things you’ve produced there.”
And of course, there is the matter of credibility.
“If you just have Facebook or Instagram it’s like, ‘How trustworthy is this?’ If you have awards or certifications, if you have a website that’s been around for X amount of years with reviews and things like that, that’s a place where people can say they’ll do business with you. And overarching through all of those things as a consumer, if your business is not visible on Google, if your website is not accessible, I’m not going to use that business — I’m going to choose from the businesses I do see.”
The most important thing a small business should do, Donté said, is think like the successful companies they interact with: “You should be doing the same thing they’re doing,” he said. “They all have websites.”
Currently, 6NINETY9 is working with its first Delaware client, Milk & Honey, a community-focused coffee house and art gallery with locations on the West Side and on Market Street downtown.
“My goal here is to be the number one choice for the state. I want to be heavily involved in the community and see more business come out of here and grow in the various neighborhoods we interact with,” Donté said. “I see a lot of opportunity here that I did not see at home. From the business owners here I’ve spoken to, people are saying Wilmington could be big, a place that people will associate with culture, community and great businesses.”