Shel Horowitz was still a teenager when he started doing publicity for grass-roots community organizations with zero promotional budget. With no money available for stamps, he used to hand-deliver press releases by bicycle. Trained as a journalist, he first became aware of the power of the news media when a local paper refused to print his meeting notices for a controversial group-but gave extensive news coverage to its refusal. From this beginning, Shel gradually developed into a top expert in effective low-cost, high-impact marketing and publicity, and has become a copywriter and consultant with an international reputation.
He has also been living the virtual American dream by operating a successful virtual business owner for the last 13 years -- Accurate Writing & More -- from a bucolic farm-house setting in Hadley, Mass. He and his wife, Dina Friedman, a children's book author and academic, came to this lifestyle region in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts (also known as the "Five Colleges" region) "as a compromise between Brooklyn and the Ozarks.” They wanted “fresh air, clean water and an easy pace. Dina wanted job possibilities, friends, others of her ethnicity in the area, so we looked at the intersection of our needs and came to the Valley," said Horowitz.
While looking for work, Shel and Dina started a term paper typing service. Without realizing it, they were experiencing the ups and downs of starting a micro virtual business of the many that will be profiled in Living The Virtual American Dream. First, they bought a used IBM Selectric for $176 at a school auction and spent $12 each on marketing and supplies. Because Dina found a job first, the business became Shel's responsibility.
"It was a real slow start: $300 revenue in the first six months, $5,000 in the next year as I began to figure out what marketing worked and what didn't. Over time, I shifted from typing to resumes to marketing materials," all the while hoping to continue as a freelance writer. Although he sold 87 articles his first year of freelancing, he made "a pitiful $2.000 total, so I decided that freelancing wasn't going to pay the bills and started developing the business more."
In time Shel got his first computer – what he calls his "biggest step toward viability" -- along with ordering a dedicated business phone line and starting to list in the Yellow Pages. By 1987 the business was strong enough to be the sole support for the family. Dina now teaches at the University of Massachusetts out of choice, not because the business can't support her. In the meantime, Shel started writing marketing books "as a way to develop a national clientele for copywriting and consulting. It worked, but it didn't really happen until I became active online."
Twenty-five years later he's still working at home, but his client lists extends to Japan, Cyprus, Belgium and beyond. He has no employees, though he had a "virtual assistant" for about eight years whom he never met face-to-face. "From my small platform I've been able to instigate an international movement around business ethics; publish and market my sixth book – Principled Profit: Marketing the Puts People First, and create a distinct niche for partnerships with industry experts," he said
If you want to meet more experts like Shel you can walk you through the how-to's of the virtual work place, stay tuned . . ..