Springfield, MO

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A billboard along U.S. Highway 65 in Ozark teases passersby about
A billboard along U.S. Highway 65 in Ozark teases passersby about eyes Springfield

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Not only is Rusty Brett in the process of launching a new business, he’s hoping to create a new definition for the word “noodle.”

The president and CEO of Columbia-based Service Evolution LLC kicked off the online business directory in mid-Missouri on May 1, with plans to roll out the site in Springfield on July 1 and statewide by July 15.

“We’re making (noodle) a verb,” Brett said. “If you need someone to mow your yard by noon the next day, you can noodle it.”

The Web site is free to users and serves as a database of business service providers for users to request a service or estimate sending a “noodle,” or message, which companies receive through the site, as well as via e-mail and text notifications.

Users can choose which companies get their requests from the business profiles posted online.

Since its May launch in mid-Missouri, 700 companies have bought into the concept, paying the $275 entry fee to become a part of the listing, and Brett said he expects that number to reach 1,000 by the end of June.

In Springfield, about 70 companies, including law firm Harmison & Pearman PC, have signed up for the service, he said.

Four salespeople are currently making pitches to others.

Affordability is part of the site’s appeal to businesses, he said, but it isn’t the biggest draw.

“The No. 1 thing that makes sense to most people is the ability to ask for something after hours and on the weekend,” he said. “Even business owners can understand that. They get home at 8 or 9 at night or on weekends, and that’s when they find out the deck needs to be cleaned or the roof needs to be repaired.”

Though the business model varies from other service databases, it is tapping into a need other companies also have recognized: a way to connect customers to desired services such as contractors, attorneys, caterers and even translators.

According to April’s American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, 62 percent of homeowners have plans to improve their homes this year, with almost half – 47 percent – planning to hire outside help for at least some of the work.

Trend setters
Angie Hicks, founder of Indianapolis, Ind.-based Angie’s List, recognized a need to help make those connections in 1995, starting a user-paid referral network that began as a magazine and telephone call-in service in Columbus, Ohio.  

Now, according to Hicks, the Web component,, is her company’s most-used method of obtaining referrals.

Members pay an annual fee to use the service. In Springfield, she said, approximately 4,000 users pay $10 per year and have rated more than 300 services since the company launched here in fall 2008. Companywide, more than 1 million members belong to Angie’s List, which offers 500 business categories, such as health care and pet care, in about 200 cities in the U.S. and Canada.

Consumer demand and population drive the company’s decision to expand into a city, Hicks said.

Atlanta-based, which rolled out nationally in early 2009, also uses customer recommendations to connect businesses and consumers. The service is free to users, and businesses can post their profiles and respond to customer reviews for free. A premium profile, which starts at $500 a month, allows businesses to add bells and whistles, said Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Rhonda Hills.

Businesses also can pay for more exposure, including banner ads and premium spacing that would have a profile appear at the top of the search results, she said, adding that a business’ place on the listing is related to the number of reviews posted.

“We’ve found that profiles with five or more reviews will receive twice the number of views,” she said. “Users are more likely to look at that company because they know the information and feedback is more comprehensive.”

More than 12 million businesses have a profile on the site, Hills said, and 14 million consumers have used

Brett’s expectations for’s first year aren’t set quite as high. The Columbia businessman hopes to have a business base of 3,500 in 2010, and he’s targeting first-year revenues of $1.5 million.

The company, which employs 25, is expecting to hire about 50 more employees by the end of the year, including eight salespeople and a territory sales manager in Springfield, Brett said.

Brandon Dodson, owner of Columbia-based CSG Restoration LLC, enrolled with at its launch. Dodson pays $1,900 for a year, he said, to have his business listed in roofing, siding, gutters and windows categories, and it receives premium position at the top of lists.

Dodson said CSG Restoration has had three inquiries, one of which resulted in a job.

“In the one contract we signed, it’s enough to cover all our annual expenses for all four categories,” he said.[[In-content Ad]]


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