Minnesota Business Magazine


Retirement Plan:
Start a Professional Organization

As a Web designer and former musician, Craig Keefner never expected that he might one day retire early to run a professional organization. Yet if his St. Paul-based organization, Kiosks Org, keeps growing at its current pace that's exactly what he plans to do.

Quite a feat, considering the organization's humble origins back in the Internet Dark Ages, circa 1993. While working as a Web designer for a local firm, Keefner moderated a newsgroup focused on electronic kiosksóthe self-service consoles found in stores, airports and other locations.

Keefner took the company information and product news from the group and began adding it to his personal Web site. The site averaged around 300 hits per month. As traffic on the site increased, Keefner acquired the domain name kiosks.org and began registering members, including IBM, for free. It wasn't long, however, before the scale of kiosks.org started to outstrip his resources. Keefner faced a dilemma.

"I need more storage space if we're going to do this," he remembers thinking, "But if I am going to do this, it will take time, and my wife's going to kill me." So Keefner decided to start charging $250 for a membershipóenough so that companies would have to get a purchase order and demonstrate they were serious about belonging to the organization. And enough to make it worth his while to maintain the site. Keefner's employer, Kinetics, also helped by allowing kiosks.org to be hosted on its Web server.

At last count the organization has 260 members. Keefner says the kiosk market itself is expected to triple. Growth will be driven by technologies that deliver benefits in three main areas: speeding up transactions, such as self-check-in kiosks in airports; improving customer retention, like gift registries; and creating selling opportunities during what was once thought to be dead time, e.g. consoles placed on tread mills at health clubs.

Currently, the Web site gets nearly 200,000 hits a month and Keefner expects the traffic to double next year. If the trend continues, Keefner says he will "retire at 50, get a house on a golf course and run the kiosk site."

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