Sweeten, the first online marketplace for home renovations, has officially launched in the New York City market. The website matches NYC homeowners and small business contractors with the best general contractors, architects, interior designers and landscape architects for their specific projects and individual budgets.
Originally launched in beta in 2011 by Jean Lauer, the site has garnered $35 million in construction projects in the New York City area and was named "Best Contractor Locator" by New York Magazine's Best of 2012.
NYC-based Sweeten team
Sweeten cuts through the “opaque renovation industry,” according to its founder, and exposes the market value of renovation projects according to neighborhood, building type, space and scope of work. At the same time, it helps small and medium-size general contractors procure clients.
Lauer, who is now acting chief executive officer, has a background in architecture, and previously oversaw store design for Coach Inc. Other co-founders include Preeti Sriratana, chief operating officer, who has overseen projects including Ground Zero, the New York Jets football training facility and Masa restaurants worldwide; and Sherataun Nuss, creative director, who has been with Sweeten since its early days.
The idea for the website first came to be a few years ago when Lauer was renovating her house in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and had difficulty finding the right general contractors for her project. She wasn’t able to find anyone who would come out to Brooklyn for the size and scope of work she needed.
Sweeten matches homeowners to three hand-selected “Sweeten-Certified” experts based upon attributes defined by their projects: scope, size, budget and timeframe, among others. Unlike a lead-generation service, Sweeten charges members (architects, designers and general contractors) 1.75 - 3.75% of the total project's budget once they are matched to homeowners and have signed a working contract with them.
New features have been added that allow homeowners to post their own “in-progress” and “after” photos. “By doing this, we'll continue to allow our community to spread the word for us,” said Lauer. “We have been marketing our site virally via weekly blogs to our homeowner network and will look to syndicate more of this content though an increase in distribution partnerships. We’re also throwing monthly events for existing and new homeowners to get together for educational programs, contests, or showcases.”
Lauer is looking to go beyond NYC and take the site national. “Our goal is that everyone will be able to find the professional resources needed for their renovation project on Sweeten.”