Helping Nonprofits Do Great Things
By Doug Lindner – North Liberty Leader Newspaper
NORTH LIBERTY– Team 218 Web Design is not your typical website designer. “We’re not out to be the biggest or have the most clients,” explained co-owner Chuck Hersey, of North Liberty. “We’re a little more selective in the projects we get involved in. We like getting involved in projects that are interesting to us.” And once a year, that includes offering free services to a non-profit organization.
“It’s not something we really publicize, it’s more just a way to give back every once and a while and kind of help people out who could stand to benefit from some website or technology assistance,” Hersey noted. Team 218 Web Design started officially in 2014 when Hersey and his wife Kimberly lived in Port Byron, Ill. The “218” was a reference to their home address, but when the couple moved to North Liberty two years ago, the moniker fit right in with Highway 218. “We lucked out,” he said.
Hersey, 66, grew up along the Mississippi River. Born in Savanna, Ill., he moved down river to Clinton and then spent much of his adult life in Port Byron, just north of the Quad Cities. His interest in computers and technology dates to the late 1980s. Hersey was captivated by the Charlie Chaplin ads for IBM and Bill Cosby schilling Texas Instrument products. “I looked around to try and find training during that time and there really wasn’t anything specifically in the personal computer realm, so I pretty much took it on myself and just kind of trial by error and learned it all myself and look where I am now,” he chuckled.
Although the interest was personal, it translated to his business career. The company he worked for at that time had no computers at all; the entire business worked on a paper system for filing. In cooperation with the owner, Hersey created a set of software programs for accounts receivable, accounts payable, general ledger, fleet maintenance and billing to covert the company from all-paper to the computer generation. “That’s kind of how I got my feet wet,” he recalled.
By the early 2000s, he took notice of the emerging Internet and recognized its possibilities to grow and develop. “It was kind of a continuation of the interest I had already built up,” he said. His first site for QC Volleyball, a sports club with leagues and tournaments all over the Quad-Cities area, went live in 2004.
He continued dabbling off and on while working for an equipment rental business. His office was in Moline, but he also spent a lot of time at a regional office in Nashville and traveled around the country quite a bit. “Once I retired, I kind of took it on full time,” he explained. Team 218 Web Design primarily creates websites for small businesses, non-profit organizations and clubs in the Eastern Iowa area.
He and his wife co-operate the business “She’s kind of the sounding board for everything,” he said.
The couple moved to North Liberty in 2017 to be closer to their daughter and a 3 1/2-year-old grandson. “We love it,” he said. “Just love it here.”
The nature of the business allows Hersey to work from just about anywhere. “It’s pretty convenient to be able to just pick up and go and still be able to work on things wherever you are,” he noted. “As long as you have an Internet connection and some power, you’re good to go.”
Team 218 is Mac-based, and 99 percent of its websites are created on WordPress platforms. The company does some hand-coded scripts but only when it inherits a site designed in another framework. The advantage of WordPress, he said, is that it’s so common. About 45 percent of all websites are running on a WordPress platform, he observed. “It’s so prevalent if there is an issue with it or a bug or a security problem, it gets fixed right away,” he added. “There’s so many people using it that there’s a huge community of developers that are kind enough to share information and help solve problems. We haven’t found anything that we aren’t able to do with it.”
A typical website takes four-to-eight weeks to develop, depending on the size and the complexity of the organization, he said. “I like to do one project at a time from start to finish, so we can focus on that and not have three or four different projects going on at the same time where you’re jumping around from one to the next,” Hersey said. “I think that allows for a better end result and a quicker turnaround.”
Toward the end of the year, the Herseys look for a group or organization in need of an upgrade. They don’t always create a new website, sometimes they’ll just provide consultation or tutoring like the work they’ve done recently in support of the Battleship Iowa Museum in Los Angeles.
The USS Iowa (BB-61) launched in August of 1942 and immediately went to war in the Atlantic. It was decommissioned in October of 1990, and the State of Iowa donated $3 million to assist with the creation of the museum. It’s one of the few remaining battleships and since it’s named after the state, the Herseys thought it was a good cause.
In other cases, they will work with a group to design a website from scratch. Team 218 assists in acquiring the domain, launches the site and provides maintenance and hosting for 12 months at no cost. The couple tries to put out a couple of feelers for nominations but sometimes the connections just happen organically.
Such was the case with Where2 Adventure Consultants, run by a couple from the Muscatine area, whose website seeks to help people with family and children plan unique (and kosher) travel experiences. Team 218 had already done business with the couple, who were working to build their own site and just needed some questions answered and a nudge or two in the right direction.
The Herseys are happy to share information and post web development tips for do-it-yourselfers on their own business site. Whether it’s a donated service or not, Hersey enjoys learning about each new group or business. You can drive past a business a hundred times and not know what they do, he explained, but it’s always intriguing to talk with owners, learn how a business fits into the industry and how they differentiate themselves.
Team 218’s clients run the gamut from childcare centers to clubs, government websites, bridal boutiques, boat marinas, beauty salons and machine shops. “It’s an interesting mix,” he said. “It’s never the same thing.” The same applies to learning about the groups selected for free services. “It’s a feel-good thing,” Hersey explained. “Our intent in doing this is just to give a little something back to the people in our communities and Eastern Iowa, the areas we provide service.
“So many of the non-profits in the area have such great things that they do for the community, it’s fun to help them do what they do.”