Encouraging entrepreneurial success on Saipan, Tinian and Rota, CNMI*!

*Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory.

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RotaPreneur Profile: Charlie Atalig’s CNMISPACE.com!


The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!


CNMIspace.com is the world’s newest social networking website!

For those who don’t know, a social networking site provides a virtual community in which people with a shared interest may communicate. That shared interest or commonality can be anything from a love of books (shelfari.com), music (Last.fm), culture (MiGente.com), religion (Muxlim.com), business (linkedin.com), travel (travbuddy.com), movies (flixster.com), national origin (Chirundu.com—The place for homesick Africans), college affiliation, dating, and just about everything else. Some of the more popular social networking sites are Classmates, BlackPlanet, Facebook, and MySpace.

Networking sites allow people to find, connect with, nurture and grow what can become a very powerful, easily reachable list of contacts. It has the potential to publicize events, find jobs, launch careers, locate lost loved ones—just about anything that any circle of influence can do, but aided by technology, provides a global reach and the potential to reach millions in an instant and efficient way.

To illustrate just how powerful this whole social networking thing can be, CNMIspace itself was launched just four days before this interview, and with just one person sharing it with her network, attracted over 500 members! Let me repeat. Even while the developer of the site was still setting it up, over FIVE HUNDRED people rushed online to join the community! The world now has an online spot for people who call CNMI home—whether locally “grown” or transplanted!

So, who can we thank for this unique addition to the world’s websites and gift to the CNMI? A venture capital firm? Google? Bill Gates? The Department of the Interior? No. We can think Charlie Atalig, a full-time student from Rota with a little time on his hands and vision in his heart.

Charlie Ogo Atalig was born on Guam, raised in Songsong Village on Rota and is currently going to school in San Diego, California.

After graduating from Rota High School as Valedictorian for the Class of 2006, Charlie attended the University of Guam for a year, then transferred to Grossmont College in 2007, where he is majoring in Accounting. He will be transferring to the University of San Diego in Spring 2009.

I spoke with Charlie by phone and email few days ago.

So, Charlie, why San Diego?

Charlie: Well, I’m here ‘cause I wanted to go to a stateside school. It’s always been a dream of mine to graduate from a large, private university.

I’m here on the CNMI Honors Scholarship (cnmischolarship.com), and also the Robert C. Byrd Scholarship. I recently got awarded a Barnes & Noble Textbook scholarship. I’m going to a community college right now. The cost of living here and tuition are really high, but this fall, I’ll be considered a resident, so the tuition costs will be lower.

What prompted you to start CNMIspace.com?

Charlie: Recently a good friend of mine who I met in an Economics class told me to keep a notebook of all my business ideas while we were discussing an article he gave me to read. The article was from the Harvard Business Review titled “The Blue Ocean Strategy.” The Blue Ocean Strategy is the idea to create unknown markets that are not in existence today, so you would have an uncontested market space. I thought about this over and over while running through business ideas and then out of nowhere I remembered the idea I had in high school: a social networking site for the people in CNMI. There’s no such website that the people from the CNMI can log onto where everyone would be able to communicate and connect. Next, I had to come up with a name for my website and not just any name it had to be creative yet catchy. I thought about the CNMI and how I was just creating a little MySpace for the CNMI. Then the idea popped in my head CNMIspace, a place for the people who call the CNMI their home.

The Internet is the new frontier for unique business ideas, isn’t it?

Charlie: Yes, I know people in China who make money playing World of Warcraft and selling their characters, it just takes that implementation of those simple ideas.

What sort of Internet experience did you have before this venture?

Charlie: I had been wanting to start a website like this ever since my senior year in high school. However I didn’t know that much about web design, only a few HTML codes which really wouldn’t get me anywhere. I literally had the whole concept of the site I wanted and told my older sister, Pauline, about it. She owned and ran a successful personal web site, and so I thought she could work on it for me. From that point on, I started getting into web design--learning about CSS, Perl, CGI Scripts, and finally PHP Scripts.

With the desire to own a successful business at a young age, and only a couple hundred dollars to spend, I created and ran several websites—from selling digital information on eBay, to running a 99 cents electronic book store (AtaligEbooks.com) which makes a few bucks a month. I resell domain names and hosting through Atalig.com. And, I also designed PacificRedHot.com for my uncle on Rota. Now, it’s my very own social networking site CNMIspace.com.

Any role models?

Charlie: My family owns a lot of businesses on Rota. My uncle, for example, owner of Pacific Red Hot, just watching him made me want to start my own business.

What’s CNMIspace’s business model?

Charlie: CNMIspace will make money mainly through advertising. It will be a great way for businesses to get their name out to the residents of the CNMI as well as family there and abroad. In fact, there are local artists here in San Diego, as well as UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fighters who are interested in advertising. As we grow, we can also charge a fee for marketing, t-shirts and other promotional items for the site, and even for other companies.

So, how have you been able to grow your membership so quickly right out the gate?

Charlie: Even before I launched the site, I was telling my friends about the idea. I was getting all sorts of constructive criticism and positive feedback. I went to reserve the domain name before someone else ran with the idea. I told my girlfriend about it, while I was setting it up, and she immediately started promoting it to her myspace friends. We got 20 members within that night!

I wish you the best of success, Charlie. I think it’s a great idea. Any final words?

Charlie: I’d like to thank a few people. First, I’d like to thank my members for joining and promoting the site. Thanks also to my girlfriend, Jaclyn Michelle Tenorio Cabrera, for being my support and pushing me to go for it. At one point, I was pretty much going to give up on the site, but she pushed me forward. My parents and siblings, and my friend Lucretia Bartinas for her support. Also, thanks to Karen Cabrera, Michelle’s sister. She’s on Saipan right now, as a matter of fact. She was really promoting the site on her myspace page.

And, I’d like to thank you, Walt. Your 101 Business Ideas article of a few weeks ago [See Saipan Tribune May 14, & 21, 2008] really got me thinking and gave me the motivation to start building something concrete.

Note: For more tips on acting on your ideas, changing the game, and creating a passion-centered lifestyle, visit www.passionprofit.com!

Note: There’s a new blog in town! Check out www.blacksonsaipan.com
***
Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!

Walt F.J. Goodridge is author of 12 books including Turn Your Passion Into Profit. Walt offers coaching and workshops to help people pursue and profit from their passions. Originally from the island of Jamaica, Walt has grown several successful businesses in the US, and now makes his home here in Saipan. To learn more about the Saipanpreneur Project and Walt’s philosophy and formula visit www.saipanpreneur.com and www.passionprofit.com

Send article suggestions, entrepreneur nominations and feedback about this article to walt@passionprofit.com.

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WHERE IS SAIPAN?

where is saipan

Located in the western pacific, a short flight from Guam and 3 hours from Japan, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is a popular tourist destination rich in history, culture and natural resources. Saipan, just 5 miles wide by 12 miles long, is the largest and most populated of the 14 islands making up an archipelago that stretches 400 miles (north to south) along the edge of the Marianas Trench.

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