In 1995, Angie Hicks lent her name to her new company, a service that crowd-sourced reviews of local businesses. “It seemed like one of those inconsequential decisions you make when you’re 22,” says Hicks. It turned out to be anything but inconsequential, as her company, Angie’s List, would become a household name and a major player in the home services industry.
Attaching her own name to the business cemented Hicks as the face of the brand. “In 2005, the marketing department said that one of the questions that they get the most was whether or not there’s a real Angie, so they asked me to be in the TV commercials,” she recalls.
The pressure of being the face and founder of the brand was daunting at times, leading Hicks to step away from the company in the late ’90s. “About three years in, I was getting burned out,” she says. She enrolled in Harvard Business School, a decision she now says was crucial to her ultimate success. “If I had not taken that break, I probably wouldn’t have stayed with the company.”
After graduating with her master’s in business administration in 2000, Hicks rejoined the business and, thanks to a decision to switch from local to national advertising campaigns, took Angie’s List from 30 markets to 100 in just a year. “I never considered myself to have the characteristics of an entrepreneur,” says Hicks. “At least, not the people I think of as major entrepreneurs: the big-ideas person, the charismatic leader, the risk taker. But the one unsung trait of being an entrepreneur is perseverance—that one, I had.”
The company began long before the days of Pinterest and Instagram, and since then Hicks has noticed a substantial shift in the way people think about design: “Interior design has evolved so much since I started this company. It’s much more attainable; people are taking on smaller projects. I think it’s part of the evolution of how people shop and buy and think about things. You can hire a designer now to just help you tweak an existing room and you can get someone who will do that, whereas before, a designer may not have taken that kind of job.”
A core tenet of the company, which went public in 2011, has always been being neighborly. “I remember one day, early on, an older woman called and asked for a mover because she wanted to move a loveseat from one floor to another in her house,” says Hicks. “I was like, ‘You are not calling movers for this! That’s a waste of money!’ I sent two of our interns over there to help her because that’s what a good neighbor does.”
Though the scale of the business has grown exponentially, it’s that attitude and what Hicks calls a “trust factor” that continues to make Angie’s List a valued resource. “We’re trusted collectors.”
In the latest episode of the Business of Home podcast, sponsored by High Point Market, Hicks talks with host Dennis Scully about her company’s humble beginnings, why the housing crisis was an opportunity in disguise, and more: