By Candace Sipos -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- When Amy Ohm started a website in September 2010 to connect people diagnosed with similar ailments, she had no idea it would blossom so quickly.
A former software sales executive, Ohm got the idea after being diagnosed with melanoma in 2004. She scoured the Web for information on the illness and came up only with more worry and doubt and no sense of support.
She anonymously used her own website to gather that support and to bring the community feel to others spanning the globe.
Seven years later, Ohm is cancer free and owns a website, Treatment Diaries, that has far outstretched her expectations. There are 33,000 diaries on the website written by people from more than 128 countries.
Forty-seven percent of the users have visited the site more than 200 times each since February, meaning they visit about two to three times a day.
Ohm signed a three-year lease for office space at 31 S. Braddock St. starting Dec. 1, and she's looking to hire about 10 full-time employees over the next year -- two each for information technology work, marketing via social media and sales.
She also has been in discussions with Shenandoah University officials about initiating an internship program.
Instead of having to meet with various businesses to discuss advertising on the website, she has had organizations contact her within the past 60 days, including two relatively new national sponsors. All of the ad space on the website, which is targeted to users based on their location and illness, is valued at $570 million, although she doesn't expect to sell it all within the next three years.
"It certainly has grown a lot faster and gone a lot wider by way of impact [than I imagined]," Ohm said.
She has various ideas for expanding the business, including adding a mobile application, more effective and advanced search tools and allowing the ability to view certain aspects of the website in Spanish.
Treatment Diaries was named "Small Business of the Day" by Fox Business on Oct. 25 and was covered by Cancer Fighters Thrive Magazine, which has a website that receives 9 million hits per day, Ohm said. That story developed into an alliance between Ohm and the magazine's editors -- Ohm will send users to the magazine and vise versa.
As with many hospitals in the Northern Virginia area, Winchester Medical Center offers the website in the interactive patient care portal accessible at bedside for the patient.
Ohm believes the website has done so well because it's a platform that just didn't exist before.
"When you're sick, you're in desperate need of support that you just can't find anywhere else," she said.
Treatment Diaries is a free resource available at www.treatmentdiaries.com.