HomeStars is an online business selling premium listing service for contractors and home renovators. It is one of the fastest growing companies in Canada for 2010.
Today we have Nancy Peterson, Founder and CEO of HomeStars.
HomeStars, with only 14 employees, although they are still considered a start-up, at their current run-rate will be making over $1M in annual revenues! And it is still growing. Currently serving major cities across Canada and the US, HomeStars is the bridge between home-owners and great contractors for their home renovation needs.
Prior to HomeStars, Nancy has held senior management positions over the past twelve years primarily at Kraft Foods as well as Procter & Gamble, marketing world class brands. She has lived and worked in Canada and Europe. Nancy holds a BA from the University of Western Ontario and an MBA from the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University.
Success is when you know you are making a difference to your customers and audience.
What was the spark that led you to starting your business?
Looking for a great contractor for my house, and not being able to find one using the current methods – Yellow Pages, Friends and Family.
I had wanted to give my 60-year-old house a facelift — a new kitchen, an updated master bathroom, new windows and refinished hardwood floors. There was just one problem. I didn’t know any reputable contractors. It was pretty daunting searching through all the lists out there. So when I realized other homeowners faced the same situation, I decided to do something about it. In 2006, we launched HomeStars: a website where homeowners can post reviews of contractors, painters, electricians, plumbers and other renovation-related service providers.
Where did your business’s seed capital come from and how did you go about getting it?
The starting capital came from personal money. We also had help from friends and family.
Tell us a bit more about HomeStars.
A social media and advertising platform for homeowners and home service professionals. We sell premium listings to companies who want greater visibility on the site. Our service is based on homeowner reviews of Home Service professionals. We provide the platform for contractors to gain better visibility and to showcase their work through customer reviews.
What makes your platform unique and better than other sites out there?
Our point of difference is our vertical focus in home improvement, and becoming a leader in engagement between homeowners and contactors. We’ve also build a trust with our users based on great content and detecting fake reviews.
How did you build up your Management Team?
The best people came through my personal network. I had advisors and friends who found many of the people who are with us today.
What insights do you have from building and attracting your workforce?
Fish in your own pond. Look to friends and colleagues, you can usually find the people you need close to you already.
How did you brand HomeStars and market its services?
In the beginning it was a lot of home shows, as well as getting local press coverage. As the business grew, our base of companies started to see the value of the site for themselves and would start telling their clients about it.
Fish in your own pond.
Could you give us a brief description of your biggest success so far?
In 2008 we moved from ASP to a Rails platform, which allowed us to scale the business across the country and reach new markets. It was a challenging transition which required new team members as well as a lot of learning.
What other milestones has HomeStars celebrated recently?
We just signed a deal with a major national home service company, which we haven’t announced yet.
Do you have plans to expand to new Markets?
Our growth is very dependent on growing into new markets. We recently hired someone to grow eastern Ontario and the Ottawa region, as well as someone to grow Calgary. We are aiming to launch sales and marketing in a U.S. city early next year.
Now, on a more personal note, what are your goals as an entrepreneur?
To build a profitable and thriving service that helps homeowners to achieve the best home improvement experience.
What is your exit strategy?
Currently we are focussed on growing the current business. HomeStars could be a valuable acquisition to companies in the publishing and digital media industry.
Do you have any other ventures you are working on?
Not currently, HomeStars is a full time job.
The best thing about running your own business? Working on something from scratch and seeing it come to life … knowing you and your team made it all happen.
How do you define Success?
When you know you are making a difference to your customers and audience.
To what do you most attribute your successes?
There are a lot of people who have tried what we are doing, but didn’t have the patience or perseverance to really understand the market and the business. Those would be key attributes, as well as finding great people who are committed to the idea.
If you were to recommend a book or movie to a young entrepreneur, what would it be?
Right now our team has been reading First Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham. A great book about building a team who are aligned and motivated.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your life?
I’ve lost the safety net of a regular pay cheque and benefit plan so it’s made me more resourceful and focused to succeed. I’ve also learned a lot of new skills that I wouldn’t have had exposure to, as well as met smart and knowledgeable people in new industries.
What is the best part about owning your own business?
Working on something from scratch and seeing it come to life and have an immediate impact, knowing you and your team made it all happen.
If you had the chance to start over again, what would you do differently?
I would not have tried to expand so quickly but worked to deepen the size of our first market. The urge to want to grow bigger and faster is hard to resist.
Building a Better Solution and Comments
First, I would like to thank Nancy Peterson, Founder and CEO of HomeStars for giving us some of her valuable time to share her insights. Thank you!
Nancy’s experiences with HomeStars is definitely a great look into the web industry of today. Do not forget, HomeStars is still one of the fastest growing businesses in Canada.
But more importantly, Nancy offers a great example as to why it is so important to build up your own network and how much of an influence it can have over your businesses. Time and time again, she has brought up the importance of her network in helping her establish HomeStars.
Oh, and if you happen to need some home renovations or repairs done, thanks to Nancy’s hard work, now you know where to find the right contractors for the job.
For more information on HomeStars, click the link.