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By David Mendosa

Last Update: July 1, 2000

If your Web site is so successful that you're going broke, what do you do for an encore? Jeff Hitchcock finally figured out how to do it.

‘As easy as 1-2-3…’

Five years ago in the Internet's infancy Jeff started the Children with Diabetes Web site because his daughter Marissa had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 24 months old. Three years ago I reviewed his site here.

Since that time it has become one of the biggest and most highly respected Web sites on diabetes. No other diabetes site except the American Diabetes Association and the Diabetes site of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Diabetes shows up more often on other sites' links pages.

Now Jeff is broadening his focus to encompass all of diabetes. The new site is called Diabetes123 for two reasons.

"Diabetes 123 will be for anyone who has diabetes, not just kids with type 1 in the families," Jeff says. "It's for adults with type 1 and type 2, women who are pregnant and have gestational diabetes, kids with type 2, anybody. There are a lot of people who didn't think that a site named Children with Diabetes applied to them, even though we have an enormous amount of content that could benefit adults who have type 2."

The other reason for the name, Jeff says is "that it is as easy as 1-2-3." He is trying to make it easy for visitors to the site, although it hasn't been easy for him.

With the help of a squad of volunteers, Jeff ran Children with Diabetes while holding down a full-time job. At first it was his hobby, requiring an hour or so every day and a few hours on the weekend.

As the size and activity on the site grew, about two and one-half years ago he established a not-for-profit corporation, the Children with Diabetes Foundation. His work on the site was now requiring several hours every day and up to 20 hours on the weekend.

Last year, his workload grew to the breaking point, Jeff says. And even with sponsors and banner ads, they spent more than they earned.

"There seemed no way out other than to shut it down and walk away," he recalls. "I was ready to turn it off and hide, because it was demanding way too much of my time."

The site has more than 7,000 pages including more than 5,000 questions and answers. It had 2.8 million hits in May.

The breakthrough came late last year. "I was in Southern California doing a presentation about Children with Diabetes at a retreat for the PADRE Foundation in Orange County," Jeff recalls. "Afterwards I was sitting out at a picnic table with Dan Lezak, a very successful businessman, and Cheryl Finch, a pharmacy consultant, both of whom have teenage children with diabetes. They asked me how things were going."

Jeff replied that the foundation and the site were broke. "Offhandedly they said, 'we will take care of that.'"

They did. Lezak, a reorganization specialist who is currently the chief financial officer of Hoelter Technologies Holding AG in Calabasas, California, got a group of investors together to form a new company, Diabetes123, of which he became chairman.

Diabetes123 bought the Children with Diabetes site from the foundation in exchange for stock. They have raised enough money so Jeff could resign from his day job in May and devote full attention to the Web sites.

Right now Children with Diabetes and Diabetes123 have the same content with a different look and feel. The two sites have different color schemes and graphics.

It's likely, Jeff says, that the two sites will continue to have the same content except for new diabetes education modules that they are developing for Diabetes123. These will be courses prepared by health care professionals.

The main focus will be on Diabetes123, Jeff says, but Children with Diabetes will keep its focus on parents and children. The future of one of the Web's top sites—actually two sites—now seems assured. 

The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.

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