Stern junior builds buzz with website meant to connect homeowners with contractors

Courtesy of BuilderBuzz
Courtesy of BuilderBuzz

Stern junior Michael Lisovetsky is still technically a college student, but he can also be classified as a businessman. The full-time student is the co-founder of start-up company BuilderBuzz, a website that allows homeowners to easily connect with contractors when seeking home renovations.

The website, which Lisovetsky describes as the “eBay for home improvement,” is a place for homeowners to post renovation projects. Contractors approved by BuilderBuzz reply to posts with a bid that consists of a time frame of the project’s completion and its estimated cost.

Contractors must undergo a screening process before they can use the site. Public records are searched for complaints about past services, and previous employers are called and questioned about the quality of workers’ finished projects. If the contractor meets BuilderBuzz standards, they can bid on posts, a method inten-ded to ensure high-quality work for homeowners.

“Homeowners have actually been pretty skeptical in general because they’ve had a lot of bad luck in the past with contractors,” Lisovetsky said. “Our major hurdle right now is … how do we convince homeowners that we’re more reliable than everybody else?”

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After a job is completed, homeowners are encouraged to write feedback about the finished project.

The website is intended to assist contractors in expanding business as much as it is to connect homeowners with reliable workers. Exposure online makes contractors better able to expand their business to new clients.

BuilderBuzz is throwing the charity event Chanukah on Wheels Extravaganza on Dec. 4 at RollerJam USA skating rink in Staten Island. The company will cover the cost for any kids affected by Hurricane Sandy.

This past May, BuilderBuzz reached a milestone when it became officially incorporated. While the site is fully functional, the company plans to improve its service based on user feedback. Homeow-ner and contractor connections thus far have been made either through the website or by BuilderBuzz workers via phone and email.

Homeowner Vadim Tsipenyuk used the website to find a contractor to work on his basement that was damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

“The job was done very well,” Tsipenyuk said. “It was actually very difficult to find anyone at the time to work on the basement, but it was easy through [BuilderBuzz].”

In addition to Lisovetsky, the BuilderBuzz team consists of co-founder David Khandrius, who is a Baruch College Zicklin Business School junior, Elizabeth Volk, a Columbia senior studying financial economics and Philip Santini, who has a masters degree in business administration.

Khandrius said tarting BuilderBuzz has helped him realize business experience outweighs formal business education.

“More and more every day our eyes are opened to the fact that college is a necessity but it is not enough,” Khandrius said. “People want to know who you are and what you’re doing, not just what you know.”

From 2010 to 2011, Lisovetsky and long-time best friend Khandrius were working in a Staten Island home improvement retail store. It was there the basic idea for BuilderBuzz was born. The two were hired to manage the company’s online solution, creating and building the store’s website.

They were constantly surrounded by homeowners who frequently complained about the contractors they were working with and vice versa. The irritation of both parties inspired Lisovetsky and Khandrius to develop a company that would make business between homeowners and contractors result in satisfaction.

The idea solidified in the spring of 2013 when Lisovetsky was accepted to the Founders Institute, which is “an entrepreneur training and startup launch program” according to its website. Lisovetsky submitted the idea for BuilderBuzz and received an abundance of positive feedback. The reaction gave them the motivation and confidence to pursue their own business.

Lisovetsky attributed his early entrance to the business world as the source of his professional knowledge.

“Later in life when people start companies, they have a lot of biases … but for me everything was fresh,” Lisovetsky said. “In the past five months, I feel like I’ve learned more that I have in the past five years, and it’s because I’ve been around such motivated people: entrepreneurs, mentors and other students.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Dec. 2 print edition. Nicole Del Mauro is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]

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