Free web design offered to aid small businesses struggling during pandemic

A Houston-area software development company is offering to create more than 100 free websites for

A Houston-area software development company is offering to create more than 100 free websites for businesses who need an online presence to stay alive during the coronavirus crisis.

Snaju, which normally operates a now-empty office across from NASA’s Johnson Space Center, is offering a total of $25,000 in grants for simple, one-page websites to give small companies a fighting chance, said co-founder Zackary Pedersen.

“We’re a small business ourselves, it came naturally to us,” Pedersen said. “And I was in the Boy Scouts, so I like helping people. This is a way a company like ours can help.”

TECH TROUBLES : Houston’s young startup scene struggles in the pandemic

Airbus DS Houston and Oceaneering are among its bigger clients, Pedersen said. He is a second-generation software engineer – he and his father started Snaju when he was in high school.

The aim of the grant program is to provide websites for companies that don’t have one yet. Normally, website development from Snaju starts at about $350, and more complex projects can run as much as $10,000.

The grant includes the cost of developing the sites, as well as hosting it for a year and setting up a domain name. Hosting typically costs $99 a year and setting up a domain name is $10. After a year, the business owner can either begin paying for Snaju’s hosting service, or move the site to another provider.

Texas’ economy has been hit hard by the lockdown imposed by local and state governments in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus. More than 1 million Texans filed unemployment claims in the past month. Nationally, more than 20 million have lost jobs.

And last week, the federal program designed to provide relief to small businesses announced that its funds had been exhausted.

So far, only about 20 businesses have submitted applications, Pederson said. One of those came from Gaby Rodriguez, who with her husband Adrin have just started a car detailing and oil change business called Nino Services. They come to their customers’ homes and do the work there.

Release Notes: Get Dwight Silverman’s weekly tech newsletter in your inbox

“We started last year, just doing our family’s cars, and then we started doing our friends’,” Gaby Rodriguez said. “My husband loves everything about cars, he loves washing them and fixing them. I said, ‘Maybe we can make this a business.’”

Adrin Rodriguez, who worked at a carwash until it was closed under stay-at-home orders, saw a notice on Facebook about Snaju’s grants and Gaby applied. She said the site will have a logo designed by Snaju, photos and a price list. Nino Services charges $80 for detailing and $90 for an oil change, which includes the cost of disposing of the old oil.

“If this works and it increases our business, we will be able to pay for the website after the first year,” she said. “It will be worth it.”

[email protected]

twitter.com/dsilverman

houstonchronicle.com/techburger