Shannon McMurtrey was an MBA student at Missouri State University when he saw a big business opportunity. It was called the World Wide Web.
In 1995, the tech-savvy entrepreneur began selling Web space to businesses in the Ozarks. He had started a software company in 1989 as a junior marketing student.
"My original plan in starting the company was to help businesses automate their processes by developing software," McMurtrey says.
He brought on a business partner, Bryan Whitaker, in 1993 to help grow the business. A couple of years later, Whitaker wrote the first versions of e-commerce software Cart32, now McMurtrey/Whitaker & Associates Inc.'s flagship product.
"The software industry was going to be forever changed by the Internet," McMurtrey says. "We needed to learn about it and get involved."
Today, all of the company's efforts are focused on providing Web services to grow business online: hosting, merchant services, monitoring, reseller plans, affiliate programs and custom development.
The Cart32 software helps e-merchants, mostly small businesses, accept payment from more than 50 payment processors, perform PayPal transactions, and manage and organize their product selections.
The company's Store Manager tool helps businesses quickly build their online stores, without knowing HTML code. Customers enter their product details into a user-friendly, Web-based control panel, and the software will build a database-driven Web site that connects to the Cart32 shopping cart.
"Most of our business today is spread out across the United States and Europe, but we do have a number of clients in the Ozarks," says McMurtrey, who also teaches computer information systems courses on software and Web development, and information security at MSU.
Cart32 is partnered with Google, Microsoft, Paypal, buySafe, UPS, USPS, FedEx and DHL. The company employs 10 and has more then 3,000 active global e-commerce customers, whose monthly sales range up to $500,000.
Of course, in this technological age, Internet security is a major concern. "It takes a lot of manpower, time and experience to stay on top of security," McMurtrey says. Cart32 has met Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards Level 1 compliance.
The firm also has launched a merchant services department that allows customers to accept credit card payments directly from their Web sites and face-to-face for those who have a bricks-and-mortar presence. Fees are never higher then 2.17 percent plus 27 cents per transaction, and can go down from there with increased volume, McMurtrey says.
"We entered the merchant services space when we saw the way some of our merchants were being treated by the larger banks," McMurtrey says. "In some cases, we had merchants paying more than 4 percent in addition to transaction fees. For those merchants, we have been able to cut costs by more than 50 percent, which is huge in this economy."