Internet resources help small businesses thrive

Susie Wang and Ric Kostick are co-owners of 100% Pure -- a cosmetic and skin care line that gets all its ingredients naturally - even colors for blush and lip gloss. It was an accidental invention Susie stumbled upon, while gardening.

"I noticed how the blackberries were staining my fingers this beautiful purplish - pinkish hue. That's when I got the idea for using fruit and vegetable pigments, the colors from fruits and vegetables to color cosmetics," said Wang.

Wang got a patent, but where could the UC Berkeley-educated scientist find suppliers? Her fiancé Kostick discovered it was all one click away. From local organic farms that grow the fruit they need, to makers of recycled paper boxes or aluminum compact cases - the pair found it all on

"It will list all the factories. It will also give me the option as more people come on, more factories come on Alibaba. It will email me when a new factory is found that makes the product I'm looking for," said Kostick.

The rapidly-growing international marketplace connects buyers directly with factories.

"You don't have to use a middleman - where-as before I don't know how you find the factories - really," said Kostick.

The head of Silicon Valley operations for China-based Alibaba says the free service enables small businesses like 100% Pure to compete.

"Lots of suppliers are from manufacturing countries such as India and China, the price is very competitive. They're often able to access prices usually only available for bigger companies," said Annie Xu of

Keeping their costs low, Wang and Kostick have saved up enough to open a boutique this summer in San Jose's chic Santana Row.

"We make everything in our factory and then we export it all around the world," said Wang.

There are other internet resources - Elance and oDesk are virtual marketplace where employers can list jobs and people with those skills can bid for the work. Experts offer one word of caution -- whether buying or hiring online, you still have to do your homework. Evaluate proposals and profiles, interview candidates and start on a trial basis.

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