A Q&A with Curberry co-founder and president Andrea Manes. The Vacaville, California-based startup, which is a neighborhood lifestyle information site for home buyers, launched to the public last week. It was founded last year by Manes and her husband Tim, and has been completely bootstrapped to this point.
SUB: Please describe Curberry and your primary innovation.
Manes: Curberry.com is a new, innovative website to help homebuyers and renters find their dream neighborhood. Anyone can spend a weekend painting a wall or remodeling a bathroom, but it’s the heart-and-soul of the street that really tips the scale for true contentment.
Through a short survey, free registrants will answer questions about their current surroundings. Topics like yard maintenance, holiday participation, parking, safety, and pets will quickly create an identity for each street, avenue, and apartment complex across America. The more users who register, the more accurate the street-level ‘looking glass’ becomes; and it’s our hope this vast database will change the way we think, search for, and purchase real estate.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Manes: Curberry.com has a large user demographic and market. Whether you’re a 20-something college student venturing out for the first time, or an empty-nester looking to downsize, we have something to offer. Curberry allows users to gain an insight into their perfect neighborhood. Dog lovers, for example, will be able to find new neighbors who share their pet passion. Families with young kids will be able to find a great cul-de-sac with other children, safe vehicle speeds and a neighborhood watch.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Curberry from the competition?
Manes: Curberry.com is unique. We performed extensive market research before beginning this project, but found nothing quite like us. We’ve always had great sites like Yelp to help us choose a new lunch hangout, or Angie’s List to pick the right tile guy, but nothing to assist us in making an even bigger decision—your new neighborhood.
SUB: You just announced the site’s official launch. Why was this the right time to launch?
Manes: Spring is a great time to launch a website that promises to help homeowners find their dream neighborhood. Home sales are on a rise, and even for existing residents, springtime gets neighbors outside and talking. Do you love where you live? Why or why not?
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Curberry? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Manes: There was definitely an ‘aha’ moment, but it wasn’t a fairy tale experience. My husband and I raise three small boys in a small city in Northern California. Like many people, it wasn’t until after the ink was dry on our escrow paperwork that we discovered some disturbing characteristics about our neighborhood. Most we’ve learned to overlook—nobody’s perfect. The proverbial ‘light switch’ came on one evening after a verbal battle with a neighbor. The scene left me feeling sick, angry and altogether disappointed that we couldn’t pack up and move.
Then it hit me. Any real estate agent or MLS search site can help you find your dream home—nice kitchen, big backyard, white picket fence for your 2.5 children, but what about the neighbors? Do they blast music all night? Do they mow their lawn and bring in their trash cans? Do they bake cookies and invite you over for barbeques and offer to feed your cat while you’re on vacation? These are questions your realtor can’t legally disclose under the Fair Housing Act. But Curberry can because we ask the residents themselves.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Manes: I spent a lot of time with a pad and paper—writing, crossing out, writing, starting over. I had a clear vision for what I wanted the site to look like in my mind, but it’s hard to pull those ideas out of your head. I would drive around neighborhoods thinking: “Are these people happy where they live? If so, why? And if they’re not, what would they do differently if they could have a Mulligan and start over fresh?”
When I felt I had my ideas laid out, it took over a year to create what you see now on Curberry.com. It wasn’t always easy, but definitely worth the effort.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Manes: True story—the original name was ‘The Neighbor Network.’ We had the domain registered and everything. Then one evening, while having dinner with my husband, the little light bulb went off again. Some of the most successful websites out there—Google, Trulia, Zillow, Expedia, Amazon, or Yahoo, for example—all have short, simple, quirky names. They’re easy to remember and fun to say, and usually have nothing to do with their website. We thought of neighbors bringing over a fresh berry pie to welcome the new family, and it clicked—curb, street, road, avenue, block—Curberry.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Manes: I’d have to say the top three challenges were development, funding and family. The first web developer we hired led us to believe they possessed the intimate programming experience needed to build our high-caliber, superior-quality website. Unfortunately, after nearly six months of trial-and-error, and thousands of dollars, the website was still far below the standard we had set for ourselves. We were forced to sever our relationship with them, and at the time, I felt it was like taking two disappointing steps back. It also delayed our previously-planned fall launch date. We’ve since hired an amazing developer who has done the job of ten, and we are eternally grateful for all his hard work.
Funding was another challenge. Curberry.com is 100 percent self-funded. I’m a stay-at-home mom with three little boys, and my husband is an engineer. Making the investment to start this company was a huge leap of faith, but one we passionately feel will help other families. Juggling my full-time duties as a wife and busy mother while working from home to build Curberry was, and still is, a delicate balancing act, but one I enjoy immensely.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Manes: Right now, our focus is on getting the word out about Curberry.com. Because of our broad target demographic, we feel advertising opportunities on the website will be the primary source of income. We encourage realtors, contractors and lenders to check out our advertising page on Curberry.com.
SUB: What are your goals for Curberry over the next year or so?
Manes: Our main goal this year is to spread the word about Curberry.com and expand our user database. Every family that takes three minutes to register is reaching out to help other families who are looking to move. We’re creating a neighborhood network—good communities, being built by good people who share similar passions and traditions.