Building a Business Part 1: The Beginning.

By Dana Fox

I get asked a lot of questions about my business and a lot of readers have been interested in how I started, so I thought that I would give you my entire story… from the very beginning. Since the journey has been a long one, the posts will be split up into “parts”, which are like chapters I suppose. Welcome to part one of the online novel: The Beginning.

* * * 

When I was about 11 years old, I became fascinated with computers. I would spend recess sneaking onto our classroom computer to use the oddly shaped keyboard complete with a high tech roller ball for scrolling. There was this DOS based game that I would play in which you enter the letters that appeared on the screen and it would place them in a special order to create an object or animal. When I was done, I’d proudly print out the ASCII crafted design on one of those printers that forced you to rip off the perforated edges. It was my first taste of designing something totally computer based.

Our school library had just implemented this thing called “the Internet” and it was mind blowing to me. Back then, the internet wasn’t as common as it is now. It was like a mini luxury if your parents decided to hop into the future with a sweet 56k dial-up modem. In that library, I would search for song lyrics… because let’s face it, I didn’t know what else to do with the thing besides research for projects, and this would save me from having to manually write them out whenever a song came on the radio (come on, I know I’m not the only one who did that!). I would print out pages and pages of them until I got into trouble for wasting so much paper.

Why oh why couldn’t we just get this amazing invention at MY house instead of having to waste valuable learning time at school? Not that i was complaining…Still, I begged and begged for our home computer to be hooked up with little luck.

A best friend of mine was one of the lucky ones. She told me I could use hers anytime, and man, did I ever take advantage. I feel like such a horrible friend now, but little did I know that this friend’s computer would be the start of my entire working life.

I distinctly remember sitting at her little desk that was set up in her family room while she and her dad watched tv behind me. I couldn’t pull myself away from the screen. There was so much to discover, so much that I had yet to do! Her sister (let’s call her Penny) was the one who introduced me to chat rooms and ICQ. This was even MORE amazing to me! I could actually talk to people who were in different countries!

After I became a regular Internet junkie, I began wondering how this machine actually worked. I’ve always been curious about technology and eager to find out more. Penny told me that it was possible to create my own website and that she herself had even started trying to create one using this thing called Angelfire. RIDICULOUS, how could this get any better?! She showed me her choppy looking space on the web and I immediately wanted to know everything there was to know about making a website.

I signed up for my own Angelfire account and dove right in. Back then, website design wasn’t exactly where it is today. Certain scripts hadn’t even been developed yet and everything pretty much looked basic. Angelfire let you easily create an (ugly) website and customize it with your own HTML. I remember learning how to change background colors and how to bold my text. I wanted MORE!

I finally managed to convince my parents to sign us up for the internet. I’m sure my friend was ecstatic to get rid of me and stop using her dial-up time. Oh, that’s right, back then you had a set number of HOURS in your Internet plan. Can you imagine having hourly based internet plans now a days!?

Now that I was free to create a masterpiece on my own computer, I got right to it. I learned how to make images and graphics using Corel Draw (this is pre-photoshop people!) and how to put them onto my website. The journey to even obtain a copy of Corel Draw was a story in itself. Basically, the program cost about $600 and my mother was not going to dish out that much cash for a computer disc. I found an ad in the newspaper for some electronics store that was offering it for only $150 for students. I convinced my mom that we should make up a story to get the discounted price. We did, and it worked.

Google was my best friend the entire time. Or was it Yahoo back then that was most popular? I would just search for what I wanted to do, and like magic, answers would appear.

The more research I did and the more website stuff I learned how to do, the more I loved it. I created ugly little websites with my limited knowledge but I never stopped experimenting. As I grew up and entered high school, I would take any chance I got with a class project to create a website. My photography teacher asked me to put a portfolio together, he got a web portfolio. My tech teacher wanted me to create some kind of media for my fav band… He got a fan site. My pattern was becoming common and the ideas just kept brewing in my head…

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I create my first business!

Do you remember how the internet used to be? How did you discover it?

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Dana Fox
Dana Fox
About me

I am a country loving Canadian with a mind that never sleeps. When I'm not running the Wonder Forest blog ship, you can find me creating artwork for phone cases and home decor, whilst managing the daily tasks of Dana Fox Creative. Visit me at the links below if you wanna be friends!


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  • Mindy

    I remember DOS games, floppy discs, perforated printer paper, hourly internet, the dial-in sound, Prodigy, ICQ, my first discovery of online message boards (for NKOTB, the FIRST time they were popular), Corel draw, and making my first website with Geocities – I was obsessed with animated gifs. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  • Erica House

    Thank you SO much for writing this! I'm working on developing my freelance writing and personal training into a genuine part-time job and a lot of this info applies to me!

  • Gina

    This is too funny. When I was 14 we got the internet at my house and my dad showed me how I could look things up, etc. It was so slow and bad I said "This is dumb, I will never use this!" Hahaha, if I only knew. I don't know what life would be like without it.

  • Hannah

    I love your story so far! I discovered the internet at school. My parents never paid for internet until we moved overseas and they wanted to communicate with family via email. I remember the limited amounts of internet time and how you couldn't use the phone when someone was online. So funny!

  • Shirley

    Wow, this really took me back to my early high school days! We were one of the lucky ones who got internet… back in 1996.

  • Valerie Angel

    I'm excited to hear more! :)

    -♡ Valerie Angel

  • Beth

    I too used to sit and write song lyrics straight from the radio (i recorded the songs on a casette first OF COURSE) – used to rewind again and again until id got them just right.. that made me giggle – glad it wasnt just me! :) xx

    • dana @ wonder forest

      hahaha, yes! I totally cassette recorded EVERYTHING! Oh the lengths we used to have to go for stuff that is so simple now ;p

  • Ellie

    I commented on your "new here?" post ❤

  • Kelsea @ Pink Wonderland

    Oh man, you were persistent! Good thing too – look where it has gotten you! =) Excited for this little series!

  • Erin

    I honestly don't remember my first experiences with internet but I remember Angelfire and Xanga. My friends started blogging with Xanga when I was in high school. When I learned what "blogging" meant, I was hooked. I've done it on and off since, but was never as persistent as you in learning how to customize with HTML. I know the basics.

  • Lucy

    Aaah this post takes me back! I used to sit up all night learning HTML and working on Angelfire and Geocities sites. My friends thought I was crazy sad but it was the best thing I did in my misspent youth cause I use that knowledge every day.

    And YES to the lyric thing! Ha!

  • BittenGlam

    Oh this post reminds me of the good old days! When MSN chat first came out, no user pictures, no excess in emoticons, heck we called smilies emoticons! Do kids still do that or is it still smilies, I don't know! But I do recall everything you've mentioned including the pain of dial-up. Thank goodness for internet speed advancement! And I think it was Altavista back then rather than Google. I might be mistaken though.

    A Bite of Glamour

  • Laura

    Oh, I love this post. I'm a teenager just starting out with my business, so to read your story is like a little motivation session for me! thanks Dana!

  • Andrea Marie

    Such a great story!! I cannot wait for part two!!

  • Shaina Longstreet

    What a great start to your story. I remember trying to convince my parents to get the internet at home…they only finally got it 4 years ago!! 😛

  • Etheline

    New reader:) love your posts. My first Internet experience was with my hotmail email..I was oh so cool…lol

  • Dawn

    Back when I was at least semi-intelligent, I was part of a school group called STEP. It was a once-a-week extra class thing for gifted elementary students. It was during one of these extra classes that I first saw the Internet. I didn't quite understand it; I knew only that it was a huge deal, and that I should be amazed for our school's ability to connect to such a broad area of knowledge. I was probably about eight or nine then. In junior high, my home had the Internet, but it became too expensive for us to keep up. It did tie up our phone line, too (we didn't have multiple lines). I think I also had an Angelfire … or something like that. I thought it was the most amazing thing ever possible. *I COULD TALK TO PEOPLE FROM OTHER COUNTRIES???!?!? WOW!!*

  • Rachael Wilkinson

    I really enjoyed this post! Looking forward to part two. My first computer was crazy old, everything was on cassettes including my favourite games Hopper and Chucky Egg. They look antiquated now!

    Rachael x

  • teejrants

    I love this! I loved DOS, and I loved angelfire – well, I didn't, but nostalgically I do now. You brought back a whole heap of memories for me. Especially the one where I ran up a 200 pound phone bill because neither me nor my parents realised internet was billed by the hour! whoops!

  • 010

    Enjoy reading your post. Can't wait for part 2. I am also an internet junkie when I was in primary school.

  • Erin

    I was just thinking about it the other day, our first family computer that required floppy disks and later when the internet became something you could have at home. Yahoo, and chat rooms and ICQ. Fond memories, though I have no idea what I had to say for HOURS to people I didn't know. Excited for part 2.

  • Nikkiana

    Oh Angelfire… How your came was so much cooler than the websites that one could make with you… LOL.

  • hannah

    Thanks for sharing your story. I remember being ridiculously excited about having a colour screen on our family computer and they day we got DIALUP INTERWEBZ at home hahaha. I remember the first time I saw the internet was at my dad's office and it was just the netscape 'NS' circling around and around. Dad promised me this was going to change the world and I thought it seemed like the lamest thing ever. Little did I know that I'd be an addict in twenty years time haha.

  • ElleSee

    I totally remember ICQ…good times! My first website was with Geocities. My husband — then boyfriend — had created one for his skateboarding videos and photos, and I made one with poetry. It was a lot of fun. I remember using Ask Jeeves until Google came into the picture, and searching for anything was next to impossible. But now there is so much more information out there! How the world has changed :)

  • ♔ Intuition ♫ MagicDrag ♔

    I remember ICQ, that time I was watching my mom when she used it. Then the first thing that I learn about Internet is MSN messenger hehe

  • Tasja

    Great story! I love to read it when people tell about their passion :)
    And it totally brings back the memories haha The good old times! I absolutely looooved DOS games *-*
    I don't often meet girls that have a thing with computers or that are entrepreneurs, so I think that that's really cool!
    So ok it's totally different, but I'm a total geek and I already know my basics in C++ and I'm probably going to try software development (I'm actually a physicist) next year and thought about doing website design in my 'free' time.. just have to find some free time.. :')

  • LuckyRainbowDesigns

    This story sounds just like me! I was obsessed with the internet when it came about first and was crazy jealous of those who got computers and were allowed to 'surf the net' When an internet cafe (note: it was just a shop with computers, no coffee!) opened up in my home town in Ireland, well I was hooked….I could not leave the place!

    Same as you, chat rooms were fascinating! It was such an exciting time and hey, I also wrote down songs from the radio or tapped them!!!! :)

  • Allie Todd

    How you describe discovering the internet is seriously so awesome (and funny)! We're going to feel SUPER old when one day we all have kids, and we talk about "back in my day…" and then they'll look at us and roll their eyes.

    P.S. I'm excited for part two! Woo hoo!

  • Christina Clarke

    Oh I remember that perforated paper and the built in track ball! Wow it sounds like we grew up in the Stone Age lol! I was not as lucky as you! I didn't not have access to the internet until 2002 OMGOSH can you believe it? LOL seriously my family had the internet my parents refused to get internet so my first real full unrestricted access to the internet was when I went off to university :-O I moved back home for the summer after first year and my parents HAD to get internet while I was home because I was taking an online course and I NEEDED to keep in touch with my friends. When I left to go back to school they disconnected the internet and just reconnected their services about a year ago when both my parents retired and didn't have access at work.
    Looking back I don't know how I survived without the internet.

    Looking forward to part 2 I have wondered about how you started your business for a long time especially as a fellow Canadian. :-)

  • Jenny Holiday

    Ohh I LOVED reading this Dana!! Totally cracked me up! But also…loving your story!! Thanks for sharing!!
    XO Jenny

  • Glampire Victoria McEwan

    Looking forward to reading the second half of your story. It is so weird thinking back to how the internet and computers used to be. I remember when my school first got macs and they were blue or orange and the laptops came with handles! Which I think is actually quite a neat idea, more laptops should have handles.

    Much love:


  • Lacey

    I actually had a moment of sadness when Geocities shut down a couple years ago. All the crappy websites of '90s boy bands that I spent so much time on…it was like my childhood was shutting down too.

  • Kayla fromSealedWithAKay

    What a great post! You had a dream, and you didn't give up on it! Woo! I'm already looking forward to part 2!

    xo Kayla

  • Mindi

    I remember Angelfire :) I had fun making my very ugly little website. I can't remember what it was called-but I spent hours and hours adding new things and changing everything. Do you remember those little mini digital cartoony dolls? I can't for the life of me remember what they were called-but my angelfire site was full of them. My main page had a door-you clicked it and then it was like being in to little room. It was all decked out in that little doll stuff. I loved it!

  • Nathalieso

    I'm amazed at how well you remember that time. My dad was quite in advance on his time with the computer at home and the Internet, so I got used to it very quickly. I was never interrested enough tho that I would get into making websites and all. I think now we use all those tools that have been created by others and don't learn how to do it ourselves.

  • Lindsey Leitner

    Oh my I remember angelfire! I think I then started using freewebs or something like that because it was more optimizable! I was just like you I dove in and learned whatever I could! But I was luckily I built my first computer when I was 11 and since that point I was hooked.

    I unfortunately took some time off during high school because I did not have time and other things were a priority (looking back I don;t know why) and I am so happy that this past year or so that I am getting back into it seriously! I have a Web Design Certificate and an Associates Degree in Business Application Development and I am hoping that I can start really putting it to use!

    Can't wait to here more of your story!

  • Nikouka

    I'm so happy you decided to publish your story! :)

  • Jennifer M.

    Oh this brings back so many memories! My first site was on Angelfire too. I thought it was so awesome that you could put words online and other people could read them around the world (of course no one every did read mine, but that wasn't really the point). Lol.

    I think back then, Excite search was pretty big. And yes, Yahoo! I don't even remember Google being a thing until much later. Oh and I think I used MSN search for quite awhile as well.

    I remember my first email account was with Juno – a free dial-up email service — that's all it did was email. Lol. How archaic now, right? I was 18 and in college and my roommate and I would literally print out every email we got and put them in a binder to re-read later. It seemed so new-tech and futuristic that our parents could communicate with us instantly all the way from home without needing to call us. Imagine printing out every email now??

  • Roxanne

    A little late but I just starting reading this series. Kind of inspiring to me to see how it all started for you! :)

    xx. Roxanne