News Column

Website Connects Customers with Low-price Businesses

Oct. 14, 2012

Emily Roach

Need your car repaired, yard landscaped, house cleaned, office packed and moved? Imagine a website that lets companies bid for your job without going over the budgeted amount you set.

Corey Leff has created it -- spendLO.com debuted in South Florida just four months ago. Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties have been the test market for the local services website, and Leff considers is a successful first phase, as spendLO.com landed more than $200,000 in service contracts so far. Leff gets 10 percent of the contract price -- not enough so far to pay for the technology, but his primary goal for now is winning market share.

"There's always somebody qualified willing to do the work," he said. "You don't have to overpay."

Maybe you've heard of Amazon's Mechanical Turk or TaskRabbit, micro-labor websites that allow people to bid on your job no matter how small. However, spendLO.com actually checks backgrounds on businesses that register to participate -- insurance, licenses, Better Business Bureau rankings. Ultimately it adds customer comments as well.

"It's not Joe in a pickup truck doing your moving. It's not just some random woman coming to your house" to clean," Leff said. "It's not just getting good pricing; it's about getting good quality work."

Mike Litman has won bids on spendLO.com for his west Boca Raton-based business Personal Touch Landscape Design and thinks it's a great new opportunity.

"Long term I think it's definitely going to be a good company," he said.

While the two jobs he's done have been farther away than his usual south Palm Beach County base, he managed to do part of the work via photos and email. One was for $3,000; another for $2,700, meaning Leff has gotten about $500 from Litman's use of the website.

Litman said he only bids on jobs that are good business for him, and he hopes in the future they'll win him other work in the same neighborhoods.

The website moves to Phase 2 at the beginning of December and expands into New Jersey, Atlanta and Baltimore. Leff is improving the technology to send voice or text messages to vendors, letting them know about new service auctions to make bidding more timely and competitive.

That may not win over the owner of a commercial cleaning company who responded to a posting on spendLO.com. The owner said the website had not brought in new business and, in fact, hurt local businesses by making customers think they can get services for cheaper than a reasonable price.

As Leff points out, businesses who won't do the work for the set price don't apply. But he thinks spendLO.com is a mechanism to change the dynamics of the market, giving the customer the power.

"In the first 90 days of us launching the site, 30 percent of the people came back and posted another project," Leff said, "which means people are liking it."

Leff got the idea when he needed services for his main business, Document Nation in Boynton Beach. He spent the majority of one work day calling moving companies about relocating stored documents. His budget was $5,000, but no one would do it for that price, and then they kept calling and bugging him about the job, Leff said.

So the idea for spendLO.com was born in May 2011.

Even as Leff is working on the new and improved website, he's trying to raise $500,000 to $1.5 million to go much bigger with the idea.

Ultimately, Leff envisions partnering with a large media company that could provide marketing on a larger scale, thus fast growth. Or maybe selling spendLO.com to a company like Facebook, that has customers but needs a bigger revenue stream. Or maybe bringing in more capital will allow him to continue expanding.

He's entered contests and was picked by Enterprise Development Company of South Florida to present at its Emerging Technology Business Showcase in November. That will put spendLO.com in front of investors and entrepreneurs looking for the next technology to take off. spendLO.com

Generated more than $200,000 of business services since June.

Pays spendLO 10 percent of contract price.

350 registered vendors

500 users

30 percent repeat customer rate

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: (c) 2012 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)


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