Great business partnerships are often forged out of friendship. Sergey Brin and Larry Page met in college. Bill Hewlett and David Packard became friends on a fishing trip. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (of Ben and Jerry's) were in the same seventh-grade gym class. But Greg Mazurek and Chris Bates, founders of ePropertySites.com, met over the phone, 1,100 miles away, in a completely different capacity: Bates’ was Mazurek's client.
Mazurek, a software developer living in southern California, ran a small company that provided Bates' Denver real estate brokerage with Web hosting services. Their relationship was strictly business, if not cordial, but completely virtual.
A year later, Bates decided to relocate. With a wife and two young children, Bates wanted to be closer to his original home—which happened to be a few miles from where Mazurek lived in Orange County. So when Bates and his family moved, he called up Mazurek to finally meet in person.
Over breakfast at Coco's, a restaurant chain in California, Mazurek, 51, and Bates, 39, discussed the beginning concepts of what would eventually become ePropertySites.com, the 121st fastest-growing company in America based in Aliso Viejo, California.
"At the time, we had no idea we would build a great business together," says Bates. "But we had a comfort level with each other from working together before. It was more that I knew that Greg was one of those rare individuals that wasn't just a programmer—he had a unique perspective on the industry that most technology experts don't. So I really appreciated that being a true sales guy and real estate professional. The unique thing about our company is that it really is built by real estate professionals for real estate professionals."
ePropertySites.com launched in 2007 as a platform for brokers to market their properties online. For monthly fees ranging from $10 to $49, the company offers brokers the ability to showcase their properties with dedicated sites, virtual tours, QR tags, Web chat, and plenty of other features. The company sells to customers in all 50 states and a few countries around the world. With about 20 employees, the company brought in $3.3 million in 2010, giving it a three-year growth rate of 2,219 percent.
Launching a real estate company in 2007 may sound like a scary, if not nightmarish business proposition, but Mazurek and Bates claim this was actually the perfect time to enter the market.
"We were in the right place in the right time," says Mazurek. "No matter what happens, you still have to market properties. And with the market the way it is, everyone has to market their properties more efficiently and more cost effectively."
Five years later, Mazurek and Bates’ partnership is still going strong.
"They say everything happens for a reason," says Bates. "I think that Greg and I meeting at that period of time was serendipity."