TAMPA — Eillim Cintron and her husband sank their savings into a semitrailer rig three years ago after he lost his trucker job.
Self-employment meant a learning curve. Her spouse, Tulio Figueroa, knew the roads but had no cargo. Permits? All new territory.
Cintron, 36, remembers tears of worry. But the work came, and now they do business in 27 states.
Thursday, with him on the road, she tackled the latest challenge: how to build a website for the trucking company they call Paraiso Fenix, Spanish for Phoenix Paradise.
"We want to expand," she said.
This time, no tears. She even had Florida Gov. Rick Scott wishing her luck.
At Scott's invitation, representatives from Google and Intuit have been staging workshops throughout Florida to help businesses get on the Web.
Cintron, who lives in Mulberry, was among 150 people who attended Thursday sessions at the Tampa Museum of Art.
Tony Phillips, 39, was there, too. He wanted to get T&T Pressure Cleaning online, after 17 years in the business.
Sofia Ferrin, 75, of Wesley Chapel, showed up to promote the Perky Panty, a body shaper with adjustable elastic straps. "No one wants a saggy butt," she said.
She squeezed Gov. Scott's hand when he stopped in for a few minutes to wish the budding webmasters success. He drew a laugh when he encouraged them to create 700,000 new jobs.
"As Floridians, we don't brag enough about the great things in our state," he said afterward. "We haven't been aggressive about promoting ourselves, and the easiest place to do it is online, where the world sees you and can see all your products."
The Florida Get Your Business Online initiative allows anyone to create a company website and have it hosted by Intuit free for one year. After that, Intuit's renewal rate is $4.99 to $6.99 per month, depending on whether you've already staked out a domain name.
"Google does not have a financial stake in revenue from renewals," said Scott Levitan, director of marketing for Google. "Our interest is to get businesses online and to get them succeeding online."
It isn't necessary to attend a workshop to participate. Online instructions are available at www.gybo.com/florida.
More than two-thirds of Florida businesses don't have websites, Levitan said. People have misconceptions about the cost and difficulty, he said, noting that a website may be set up in less time than it takes to do laundry.
Those at Thursday's sessions seemed, in ways, a snapshot of the community — men, women, black, white, Hispanic and Asian. Interpreters signed for a man who is hearing impaired and translated for a woman whose native language is Spanish. A few used a wheelchair or cane.
Fred Moore, a former board member for the nonprofit Tampa Organization of Black Affairs, said he was surprised how many people signed up.
"We put the word out and before we knew it, the slots were taken up," he said.
Like many, the truck driver's wife hopes to use their new website to draw business. "We want to create an image of a responsible enterprise," she said.
She wants to offer dispatch services for other independent truckers. Some have limited English skills and lose work over it, she said. Some are in the spot her husband was once in: They have trucks and trailers but need help finding loads.
The site will be bilingual, she says. Originally from Puerto Rico, she's fluent in English and Spanish. She worked at a bank for five years and studied psychology in college.
She was happy with what she learned Thursday.
"I definitely will be using it this afternoon to finish the website and get it up and running," she said.
Patty Ryan can be reached at (813) 226-3382 or [email protected]