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5/11/2003

Moms can take care of computer boo-boos

By Quentin Young
Times-Call News Group

Big companies can afford to keep techies on staff. They need the people who perform esoteric tricks on computers to make them work properly.

Small businesses need such employees, too, but they don’t have the money for them.

That’s why there’s a need for a company like computer moms, which has a new franchise in Lafayette.

Franchise president Susan Bateman calls computer moms an “out-sourced IT department.”

Computer moms’ “mentors” — “mom” is an acronym for “mentor on the move” — visit clients at their homes or offices and train them in any number of PC programs and tasks.

Bateman and her longtime friend, Cindy Beeler, founded the computer moms franchise in Lafayette last November.

The business has slowly grown since then.

“It’s building up,” Bateman said. “In this economy, that’s all that we can really ask for.”

All four of computer moms’ employees work from home.

Bateman said that roughly half of her clients are small business owners while the other half are private citizens seeking help with home computers.

The company responds to clients as problems arise, but it also offers a mentoring program in which clients receive training four times a month.

Connie Lamb is a broker associate with Home Real Estate. She sought the help of a computer moms mentor after having difficulty managing her files.

“She walked me through everything I needed,” Lamb said. “Gosh, I learned so much.”

Bateman said computer moms specializes in all the major Microsoft programs and applications — such as Word, Office, Excel, Publisher, Outlook, Quicken and Quick Books — as well as the operating systems XP, ME and Windows 98, and the major Internet navigators.

The business also assists clients in conducting a systems analysis and shopping for equipment.

Computer moms was founded by an Austin, Texas, stay-at-home mom named Georgia Jones in 1994.

The company calls itself “the first nationally franchised computer service to offer one-on-one instruction in the home or office.”

Bateman, whose other work experience has been in the corporate world, said she has met more local residents and small business owners since starting her franchise than ever before.

“After six years of living in Lafayette, I feel like finally I’m a member of the community,” she said.

She calls this one of the best parts of her new job.

With a master’s degree in information systems, Bateman has been around computers for a long time.

“I owned one of the first Apple computers,” she said.

She believes computer moms offers a spectrum of services unavailable anywhere else.

While her operation remains small, Bateman is currently looking for a business manager. And she’d like to add a Macintosh expert to her staff of mentors.