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Orlando Sentinel

Web Opens 'Door To Eden'

by Chris Cobbs

August 27, 2000
Copyright © 2000 Orlando Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

Irma YaporIrma Yapor puts in long work days, often sitting down in front of her computer at 7 a.m. and working until nearly midnight.

Persistence. Reaching for the stars – and then plotting how to get there – are owner Irma Yapor's strengths. ‘I know my limits and try to set achievable goals,' she said. (Angela Peterson/The Orlando Sentinel)

But she wouldn't have it any other way, because she is living her version of El Sueño Americano, the American Dream.

Yapor, 39, runs her own Internet-based business,, from the comfort of her home in Ocoee.

Her Web site, nine months in the making, is a virtual town where people can shop, exchange opinions, look for a job and tap into the dynamic world of the Internet.

The home screen, looks like a small town in America, with shops, a post office, a sporting-goods store and a bank.

"It's a virtual cybertown for residents and small businesses to interact and have their own space on the Internet, without a lot of expense," she said.

For a fee of $59 to $99, an individual can buy a Web site at Edentown, where he or she could post a resume, sell dolls or show pictures of the grandchildren, for example. A small business also can buy Web space -- and get help designing it -- for a modest fee.

Yapor runs her business in collaboration with seven programmers scattered around the country. actually is based on a Web server in Vancouver.

With a vision of how she wanted the site to look, Yapor paid programmers $25,000 to design and set up Via phone calls and e-mails, she established alliances and partnerships with more than 200 online companies.

Her business model is easy to understand. A Web surfer looking for a new dress clicks on a virtual storefront at A list of Web sites offering dresses appears on the screen. The shopper visits one of those sites and orders her dress. Yapor gets a small fee for each transaction.

"Creating has been a passionate experience for me," Yapor said. "It's something I believe in, and it's been very gratifying to bring this to fruition. It's like birthing a baby."

Yapor has an almost mystical view of the Internet and the possibilities it offers.

"The Web is the future," she said. "What's happening on the Internet is too big for words. When you enter the Web, it's like going through a door, and then another door. ... The whole world is there on a screen, right in your home."

Yapor has come a long way from her childhood in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, where she dreamed of becoming the first woman astronaut.

In pursuit of that dream, she enrolled at the University of Central Florida in 1979, planning to major in engineering. She later changed her mind and graduated with a degree in advertising.

It was a case of her creative side winning out over her scientific interests.

"God has a plan for you, and you have to follow the gifts you are given," Yapor said.

Along the way, she had to master English.

"When I first moved to Orlando, I had a very heavy accent and spoke only a little English," she said. "Because of that, I faced racism. I would go to the admissions office or financial-aid office, and they looked at me like I didn't understand anything. People looked down on you back then, but Hispanics have come a long way in Central Florida in the last 20 years."

There were no strong female Hispanic role models for Yapor, and she really isn't striving to be one. Still, if youngsters looked to her example of perseverance, she wouldn't object.

"I've always wanted to tap into new things and do what no one has done, such as my dream of becoming a woman astronaut," she said. "I can't be content, or I'll die. But I know my limits and try to set achievable goals.

"And I want to encourage other Hispanics to reach for their stars, as I have done."

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