Throughout the Business Plan Challenge contest season, we look back on the progress of past winners. JustAskBoo was a winner in 2009. We cover our winning companies for years to come. If you are entering the Challenge, act fast -- the deadline is March 11. More info on MiamiHerald.com/challenge
Five years ago this month, Boo Zamek (pictured at right) launched a Coral Gables-based e-newsletter business called JustAskBoo, where its readers, called JABBERS, can post questions seeking referrals and offer recommendations to one another.
“We also shed light on people who need help in the community,” explains Zamek, whose company won third place in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge and took first in the People’s Pick video competition in 2009. “From a JABBER asking for prayers for her 10-year-old daughter who is battling cancer to a woman seeking an egg donation to overcome fertility issues, our readers are always there.”
Today, JustAskBoo’s newsletters in Miami-Dade (north and south editions), Broward and Palm Beach counties, have more than 30,000 subscribers. The company is closing a $200,000 round of financing and is entering a “rapid growth phase,” says Zamek, president of a team of 15 women. With the financing, JustAskBoo intends to ramp up the marketing, including holding more events, to grow subscribers and advertising.
“We want to get to the place where we own our demographic in South Florida — affluent women, mostly moms, the financial decision makers,” says Zamek.
JustAskBoo’s newsletters are free and it makes its money off advertising, classifieds and subscriptions to the “Treasure Chest,” where readers can unlock a trove of archived recommendations — all vetted by editors. “We always use real names. You know who is giving the recommendations. The sources are reliable and local — which is huge,” Zamek says.
Zamek says she expects this growth phase to last about three years, and then the company will assess expansion outside of South Florida. That was the advice of her investors.
Another piece of advice she follows religiously: Print out your business plan, marketing plan and financial projections, put them on your desk and refer to them all the time.
“I love what I do, my investors know that,” Zamek says. “My investors aren’t looking for quick payouts; they know we might sell the business to the right buyer some day. But what we are doing right now is to grow, grow it strong. That’s our goal.”