Constant Change & More of the Same: wisnet Celebrates 25 Years
The Geeks & Creatives of wisnet celebrate 25 years in 2021. Founded during the dot com era in 1996, wisnet began building websites when the internet was quite literally in its infancy.
Time travel back to 1996 with us, will you?
- You may be a fan of some popular TV shows of the times – Seinfield, E.R., Home Improvement, and Friends. Or constantly repeating the memorable lines of “Show me the Money!” or “You had me at ‘hello.’” from the top movie, Jerry Maguire.
- Other habits may include watching Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dominate the NBA, doing the Macarena, playing on your brand new Nintendo 64, or collecting Beanie Babies.
- AOL is the biggest website around. Netscape Navigator was the browser of choice at that time, and web pages with larger images could take 30-60+ seconds to load over dial up.
- Reality-check! There’s no YouTube, Google, Facebook, ESPN, Amazon, or Wikipedia. After checking your Mail and chatting with other AOL buddies, perhaps you wander over to websites for the New York Times, CNN’s O.J. Simpson Trial Page, or Space Jam. Options are definitely limited so the average time online is about 30 mins/day. (FYI, it’s now approx. 155 mins./day on mobile devices and 37 mins/day on desktop)
- There are only about 100,000 websites at this time (for context there are now about 1 billion+) and many companies in the area are looking to create their very first website to showcase their business online.
Combining a passion for all things technical with a commitment to extraordinary customer relationships, Rick Kolstad answers this need with the founding of Wisconsin Networks (wisnet.com for short!). Team wisnet started producing and hosting high quality web sites for numerous regional and nationwide companies, including FDL.com, Grande, FDL Association of Commerce, Holiday Automotive. They also supported businesses with a wide mix of technical solutions, including FTP and email.
Over the last 25 years, a lot has changed.
The world has seen an incredible evolution of technology and tools for personal and business use. And wisnet has been there every step of the way. To celebrate this major milestone in small business, anyone can visit wisnet96.com for a trip down memory lane and to create a ‘96 Website of their very own.
In the early days, a major breakthrough for wisnet was developing an answer for clients to update their own website without needing to know how to code. Rick Kolstad and wisnet’s first employee, his brother Brian, wrote their own programming language and soon created a tool called Easy Site Editor (ESE) well before tools like WordPress and SquareSpace became widely used or available.
“ESE was a game changer,” says Brian. “Clients didn’t want to have to pay to get something simple like a phone number updated and we wanted to be able to stay efficient with a small team and not have to field so many support tickets. It really set the stage for wisnet’s approach to create simple solutions for complex problems.”
In 2013, wisnet began offering creative marketing services alongside website development while also moving into a new, vibrant office space, fueling team wellbeing and collaboration. This growth allowed wisnet to take projects to the next level as the team became more of a full-service agency.
Shortly after, wisnet dove deeper into custom application development services for their own team with the creation of a cloud-based, business tool called Markey Digital Signage. Markey is an online, subscription-based application that provides easy-to-use, -setup, and -update digital displays for businesses of any size looking to turn any TV into a marketing tool. Markey is used in small businesses like bars & restaurants for promotional messaging, as well as medium to large organizations like Michels Corporation, Drexel Building Supply, Grande Cheese Company, and C.D Smith Construction for culture building and internal communications.
In 2017, wisnet.com rebranded as the Geeks & Creatives of wisnet to capture the paradoxical mix of great ideas/design and technical development with a focus on business results and some fun and laughter along the way. In recent years, wisnet has been humbled in being named a multiple time Bubbler Award winner as one of the best places to work for young professionals in Wisconsin and being featured in Insight Magazine highlighting workplace culture.
Over the last 25 years, a lot has also stayed the same.
After 25 years in business, wisnet is super proud to shout from the rooftops that the core essence of who wisnet is – extreme customer care, a focus on community, and a commitment to business growth for their partners – remains unwavering and stronger than ever.
Especially during the uncertainty of COVID, wisnet made sure to go the extra mile in their support of small business and community organizations.
“When we needed to pivot and offer new services to our programs during COVID, wisnet’s quick turnaround, forward-thinking ideas, and responsive team made it easy for us to launch a quality product, as well as to tweak and refine its function over the following year as conditions changed,” shares Errin Welty, Downtown Development Program Manager of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). “The team was a great partner to us in the launch of a new website and functionality for our program during a tough time.”
The Gift of Nostalgia
Looking back at the accomplishments, celebrations, experiments, and growth, this geeky & creative team is filled with immense gratitude for the partners, customers, team, and community members who have helped make it all possible over the last 25 years.
They are also filled with the warmth of nostalgia. So much so that they developed a unique online experience as a way for everyone to experience a bit of this emotion.
Head on over to www.wisnet96.com to experience it for yourself: Create a custom taste of ‘96 for yourself/your business, and learn more about how the Geeks & Creatives of wisnet can partner with your business in 2021 and beyond. In the coming weeks and months, keep an eye out for even more nostalgic memories and celebrations from the Geeks & Creatives of wisnet, marking 25 years in business.