What It Takes to Build Credibility from PROFIT Magazine, October 2013
How renovator-review website HomeStars stuck to the conviction that only homeowner trust could bring in the contractor dollars
Nancy Peterson had climbed way out on a limb. She had quit a well-paying job in marketing and invested her savings, plus money from friends and family, to launch a website for homeowner reviews of renovators. But it helps if a review site has reviews. And HomeStars had just 300—far too few to get contractors to pay for premium listings, the site’s sole revenue source.
So, while exhibiting at the 2006 Metro Home Show in Toronto, Peterson used a primitive method to attract the comments she needed to drive traffic and sell ads: “I stood in a booth getting homeowners to write reviews on paper,” she says, “because an Internet hookup at the show was too expensive for me back then.”
From that shaky start, Peterson, as her firm’s CEO, built HomeStars into the go-to reno-review site for Canadians, with more reviews and contractor listings than any other reno-review portal in the country. Today, HomeStars lists almost two million home-improvement companies across North America and features reviews from 72 Canadian and 241 U.S. cities. The firm’s five-year revenue growth of 902% ranks it No. 28 among Toronto’s Fastest-Growing Companies. In the process, Peterson has learned how to attract the critical mass of users essential for online success, build credibility and serve one group while getting all her revenue from another.