Posts Tagged ‘Business Plan Challenge’

Just Ask Boo Wins!

May 19, 2009

JustAskBoo Logo

Congratulations to JustAskBoo on their great recognition from the Miami Herald as the #1 People’s Pick for the Business Plan Challenge, and #3 overall from the Herald judges! With 192 entries, a third place finish is an incredible achievement! I was so honored to have been quoted in this article, and wish Team JAB many years of success.

Below is the article that appeared in The Miami Herald on Monday.
People’s Pick and third place (tie): Online grapevine wins hearts — and clicks
As the keeper of the e-mail list for her first child’s play group years ago, Province ”Boo” Zamek was soon the go-to person for information dissemination. Along with the time for the next play date, she was adding requests for housekeepers, nannies and handymen and it spread from there.

That sparked an idea. Why not have an online grapevine, supported by advertising and subscriptions, that would help people with their busy lives? So Zamek, who has 15 years of marketing experience, started JustAskBoo, incorporating it in February 2008.

It’s a thrice weekly free newsletter full of referrals and referral requests submitted by the more than 4,500 subscribers or JABbers. There’s also advertising and paid content, such as items for sale, store openings, jobs and charity events. Referrals are archived under 250 categories in a ”Treasure Chest” that is available for a $7.95 monthly subscription fee. About 1,200 JABbers have subscribed.

”Like many entrepreneurs, I saw a niche and filled it,” said Zamek, who tied for third place in this year’s Business Plan Challenge. Zamek, of Coral Gables, also won the ”People’s Pick,” garnering about half of the 2,153 votes cast by readers.

Zamek’s idea is part Craigslist, part Angie’s List, part Daily Candy, but really very different. ”We’re not a blog; we’re not a mom’s website; we’re not about one thing,” Zamek said.

Here’s how she sets her site apart:

• More variety of posts and highly local content, all provided by the members.

• No anonymous comments are allowed.

• While JABbers are encouraged to give favorable reviews of services when they are deserved, they obey the Golden Rule: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

• Nearly all referrals, except for nannies and housekeepers, are archived in the Treasure Chest, available anytime.

Anne Miller, a healthcare consultant in Coconut Grove, said she wished she had a JustAskBoo site when she moved here four years ago. She had started a home renovation and had one bad experience after another.

But since she signed up for the newsletter late last year, she has found a general contractor, an upholsterer, lampshades and the perfect frameless shower door. She also has used the service to give away items and placed an ad for administrative help that got 35 responses.

”It feels more like a community to me than going to the database on Angie’s List,” said Miller. “Having full names mean something to me. I know someone is standing behind their recommendation.”

Plus, she said, it is fun. When the newsletter comes, “I’m always curious what’s in there this time.”

Zamek and her team of three work closely with advertisers to make sure their messages get people in the door. Jennifer Stone, of Coral Gables, said JAB’s advertising director, Zaria Walter, helped her choose lettering and image size for her ad and also suggested catchy wording for a “deal of the day.”

Stone said she got several calls as a result, and that led to new clients. ”I’ll be going back to them for sure,” she said.

Realtor Ashley Cusack of EWM in Coral Gables said her JAB ad ‘is reaching a group I wanted to be reaching very pointedly. So many people say, `I saw that house on JustAskBoo.’ ”

Revenues are running 20 percent above projections, said Zamek. Still, when the economy tanked in March, JustAskBoo lost advertisers.

Zamek, however, did what a lot of business owners wouldn’t do — she hired more help. ”I knew I needed to focus on what is working and what is not working for our advertisers,” she said. She contacted them all and explained why they should give JAB another chance. Now the advertising is back.

”We needed to become their ad agencies. We needed to come up with their strategies. It takes a whole lot of time to do it, but it keeps us successful and them successful,” Zamek said.

Judges were impressed with not only the strength of her management team and advisory board but also that she is already bringing in impressive revenue.

Still, some thought the plan could be easily copied. Zamek counters that it is expensive to build the correct technology, making it hard to replicate.

Right now she’s working on raising money to finish the technology and get licensing deals in place to start in other areas. ”I feel like I am on a springboard. We are very close to entering other cities,” Zamek said.


We are so thrilled to be a part of Just Ask Boo and encourage all of you to visit their website and sign up for their e-newsletter! Become a JABBER!