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Entrepreneur Profile: Angie’s List

This post is part of a series on successful entrepreneurs and business owners and how they meet the many challenges related to financing, building, and exiting their companies successfully.

Angie Hicks wanted to make it easier for everyday consumers to discover and share information about local services companies. So with the help of a former boss from a college internship, she started Angie’s List, a review service based in Columbus, Ohio.

Angie's List Logo

Members of Angie’s List pay for access to reports and reviews about local professional service companies. Whether you’re looking for a plumber, a mechanic, or a dentist, Angie’s List can help you research and evaluate professional services before paying for them. In addition to its website, Angie’s List publishes a consumer magazine and employs Neighborhood Specialists who are available to help you via phone.

Since launching in 1995 with just a thousand members, the company today boasts more than a million members nationwide. Angie’s List has attracted $81.5 million in funding from investors, and it expects to generate $60 million in revenue from membership fees and advertising this year.

Angie Hicks

In a recent interview, Hicks discusses some of the challenges she faced in starting the company and imparts some words of wisdom for her fellow entrepreneurs. We encourage you to read the article in full, but here are some lessons she shares in her interview that we wanted to highlight:

  1. Learn to overcome rejection. For the first year, Hicks worked by herself and went door-to-door to sell memberships. It was “one of the hardest things” she had ever done, and she faced plenty of rejection. Instead of focusing on how many “no’s” she got, however, Hicks kept her mind on the big picture and resolved not to quit. Hicks went from selling a membership a day for the first four months to having a thousand members by the end of the first year.
  2. You don’t have to raise venture funding to start a business. Although Angie’s List has raised multiple rounds of funding over the years, it was started on just $50,000 of capital from friends. We’ve previously highlighted in our weekly series of top private business articles ways in which small business owners can raise smaller amounts of capital from friends and family. Hicks was able to raise enough money on an as-needed basis, and it was only when the company was doing well enough to be noticed that it met with several venture capital firms.
  3. Building a sustainable company requires solving a real problem. As the internet empowered consumers with easy and free access to information, Angie’s List began to face a new competitive challenge. The company has overcome this by continuing to create real value for customers through the quality of its information – as Hicks says herself, “consumers are willing to pay for good information.” We’ve discussed in a previous post some of the elements of building a sustainable company, and we think Angie’s List has endured because it embodies many of these elements: clarity of purpose, a large market, focus, and, of course, being a “pain killer.”

Hicks says she’s having fun with continuing to grow Angie’s List, and while she is looking at exit opportunities along the way, it doesn’t look like she will be selling the company anytime soon. When she does, though, we’re confident that she’ll face no shortage of interested buyers.

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