“Our original online content builds trust and makes the renovation process less scary.”Jean Brownhill
Founder & CEO
Jean Brownhill had years of experience in residential and commercial architecture. So when she decided to renovate her own townhouse in Brooklyn, she felt well prepared for the job. What she didn’t anticipate was how difficult it would be to find a great general contractor. "I thought to myself, 'This is really crazy,'" she recalls. "There had to be a better way." Experiencing what she calls "a classic entrepreneurial moment," Jean asked herself, "How can we bring high-quality construction resources to everyday people?" What began as a blog to educate homeowners eventually evolved into Sweeten (as in “home, sweet home”). “We’re essentially free renovation matchmakers,” explains Jean. Launched in 2011 with Co-founders Preeti Sriratana and Sherataun Nuss, Sweeten’s platform helps homeowners in New York City, Philadelphia, and surrounding counties find excellent contractors for their renovation projects.
As a business in a highly visual industry, Sweeten relies on their blog, social media, and video to catch customers’ eyes. In addition to sharing tips, before-and-after photos, and personal renovation stories, “we use YouTube to show clients that we’re real experts who care deeply about making our homeowners and general contractors happy,” explains Jean. “It helps capture the human element of our business and is a vehicle for building trust.” Sweeten also uses AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to attract clients looking for general contractors—about 40 percent of their commercial projects come through AdWords. And Google Analytics “is fundamental to understanding how customers find and interact with our website,” she adds. “It gives us the data to optimize our content marketing, resulting in a 60 percent increase in organic sessions in the past year alone.”
With an annual growth rate of over 300 percent, Sweeten is seeing growth on every front, from the size of the projects coming through their platform to the sheer volume of postings. The average project value today tops $100,000—up from $1,500 when they started. They currently have about 1,000 general contractors in their network and nearly $900 million in construction work in the pipeline. In 2017, Sweeten expanded to commercial projects, doing build-outs for restaurants, retail spaces, offices, and more. And in the coming years, they plan to branch out into other cities and states. “We want to make the renovation process less daunting for homeowners and businesses everywhere,” Jean says. “We’re definitely on our way.”