SitterCity.com's Genevieve Thiers spotted a pregnant woman looking for a babysitter on her Boston College campus and immediately came up with the idea for her company, an online community that matches care-seekers with care-givers. Featuring gauzy photos of smiling moms, the site is designed to reassure visitors that hiring a babysitter or housekeeper online is no big deal. "If people could use the Internet to find true love, why not use it to find a quality sitter?" Thiers says. Today, the Chicago-based start-up spans both coasts and hosts more than one million profiles. In 2008, revenue topped $4.6 million.
"We didn't choose to be an online-only company," says CEO Jeff Goldberg, "online-only chose us." After researching all possible distribution methods, Goldberg decided to launch CaliBamboo.com, a business that sells bamboo fencing and flooring, online. Today, the site features an audio introduction and tool that lets visitors vote for a "project of the month," and more. Says Goldberg: "We have been able to grow much faster because we can control the sale all the way through ourselves without having to wait on distribution channels to develop which can take much longer."
To sell online advertising campaigns, TriadDigital.com CEO Greg Murtagh has built a website that lays out his company's value proposition, and then segues into a series of case studies that cater to different types of clients. Though the advertising business is in the doldrums, Triad's revenue topped $51.4 million last year. "In a downturn, it’s much easier to sell sure-fire, cost-cutting applications versus projects that might generate revenue," Murtagh says. "Those that gave up after the bubble burst missed an incredible opportunity."
CJ Environmental, the parent company of CashforGoldUSA.com, has managed to build a following that by creating a site that makes exchanging your old dental fillings for cash seem like a no-brainer. The company's flagship site features an instructional video, live chat functions, and links to news reports that assert that the service is the highest paying among a sea of competitors.
To serve all the folks who are churning out mobile apps and widgets, DeviceAnywhere created an easy-to-use site for programmers that lets them test their software on a variety of devices, 24 hours a day.
Kevin Sproles stated his modest web-design company at the age of 16. Today, the design service, Volusion.com has evolved into an e-commerce platform that creates the shopping-cart software used by roughly online 15,000 merchants. So what does his site look like? Among other elements, Volusion's homepage promotes a free trial and an online demo, and its navigation bar features a "pricing" tab that lets potential customers choose among 5 levels of service, including a free offering.
A gaming studio with a heavy focus on animation, Animax maintains a site that is as fun and interactive as the games it has created. The company's portfolio, for example, appears to be locked in a vault, and visitors are invited to play Tic-Tac-Toe.
Hoping to bridge the gap between lick-the-seal Hallmarks and impersonal e-cards is SendOutCards.com allows users to create custom cards online, which are then printed and delivered to the recipient. SendOutCards was founded on the fulfillment of a promise to always act on inclinations toward general kindness, says CEO Kody Bateman. "The most important thing to running an online business is keeping it personal," he says. --Keaton Gray