For small businesses with limited resources, it can be difficult to target marketing efforts to a specific demographic over a particular geographic area. The same may be true for former corporate workers-turned-entrepreneurs, who were laid off as a result of the recession and are trying their hand at a new business. A new Web platform aims to fix this problem.

Berkeley, California-based MyCubi has established a way for service providers to connect with local people who have a specific need for their services. The site allows service seekers to send out requests that describe the service they need, called CubiCalls, which are then bid on by service providers, similar to how consumers bid on eBay for products. According to MyCubi founder Danielle McCormick, her team decided to go with an eBay-like model because its simple interface is 'something that is easy to understand and connect with.' For example, someone with a faulty sink drain will send out a CubiCall to local plumbers, and the plumbers will bid against each other, ensuring that the client gets the best price for the service provided.

The site also allows service provider to promote their business by creating free profiles, called Cubis, which can be customized with detailed information about the company. 'You can create a service for anything,' McCormick says. 'For example, if your friend is laid off and they're a journalist, they can create a Cubi and say, for example, ‘I do press releases and copyediting.' Then they receive a lead. [But,] it's not strictly for professional services. We've had profiles for odd jobs in the neighborhood, like babysitting, dog walking, and filing.'

Founded in July 2009, McCormick says that while MyCubi does not currently charge its 5,000 members for services, the company is in the midst of researching other job sites and obtaining feedback from users to determine the best way to set a price point. MyCubi has also been working to integrate different types of communication onto their Web platform, such as instant and video chats. McCormick adds that they have been looking into partnerships with mobile phone companies to link service providers to clients via text messaging leads.

Chandler, Arizona-based cheesecake baker Nick Pitarys is an example of one business owner whose products have been flying off the shelves as a result of MyCubi's outreach potential. He established his business, the Arizona Cheesecake Bakery, in May 2009 after he was laid off from his position as a sales director in the technology industry in December 2008.

'I went about six months after getting laid off before I started the bakery,' Pitarys says. "I have a degree and several years of experience, not only in management but in my technical field. I thought it would be pretty easy for somebody like me to find a job, but that was absolutely not the case.'

Pitarys jokes that the cheesecake business is in his blood, because his maternal grandmother took pity on his occupational situation in the recession and passed down the family's secret cheesecake recipe. He says he started out slow at farmer's markets, selling what has become his signature, 4.5-inch cakes for $6 a pop, and traditional 9-inch cakes plain for $20, and $25 for flavored.

Although Pitarys doesn't provide the type of service that allows him to bid for jobs, he says just having a profile of MyCubi has been beneficial. He attributes about 15 percent of his sales to MyCubi referrals. That added business has helped Pitarys' business grow. He is busy opening a new, 1,200-square foot space in Chandler, where he will be making wedding cakes on top of his locally famous cheesecakes.