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September 17, 2007 -- The Internet Entrepreneur -- (Fortune Magazine Page 38)

The Internet Entrepreneur
IDEAS FOR NEW BUSINESSES have a funny way of coming from the most unlikely places—family reunions, for instance. Four years ago Brenda Cannon, who was then doing engineering support for Microsoft, went to a big family gettogether with her son Davon, 30.
“We came home and started talking about how much fun it would be to have a website with pictures from the reunion, news from family members, and so on,” Cannon says. “So we built one.” The site evolved into an all-purpose meeting place where far-flung kin could post favorite recipes and vacation snapshots and blog about, say, Cousin Sheila’s wedding. Before long, a few dozen of Cannon’s friends and acquaintances wanted her to create something similar for them.

“Building a website can be costly and complicated if you do it one by one,” she notes. “So Davon and I came up with a way to standardize it so that, for not much money and with no computer expertise, you get a customized site with a lot of features.”

By November 2005, the fledgling enterprise, FamilyLobby.com, was keeping Cannon so busy that she quit Microsoft to run it. Headquartered in Cannon’s house, the business now has about [15,000 websites and 300,000 members].

“I’m doing some of the same things I used to do at Microsoft, like talking to customers to make sure the site is user-friendly, and listening to their suggestions for new features,” Cannon says. “It’s more fun, because it’s about connecting families.” How does she like working from home? “It’s great, but I’m a workaholic, so I find myself answering customers’ e-mails at midnight.” — Anne Fisher.


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