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Thompson helps homeowners avoid ‘bad apple’ contractors


Tami Thompson wasn’t uneasy about starting her own business this year because the circumstances leading up to it were too uncanny to ignore she said, which superseded any qualms about entering unfamiliar territory.

In May, Thompson, 34, a University of Northern Iowa graduate who originally hailed from Waterloo, launched her new business, Home Sweet Advantage Inc., a homeowner referral network. She was brimming with enthusiasm to introduce her business to Greater Des Moines, fueled in part by a motivation to help others avoid making the same mistake she had when it came to hiring a contractor.

“I came about this because of a negative experience that my husband and I had trying to get exterior work done to our home,” Thompson said. “We ended up getting cheated out of a lot of money by two different contractors, even after taking them to small claims court.”

Thompson said she was feeling frustrated and helpless about the situation until one day in January, while “burning off some steam” at the gym, she found the answer to what action she needed to take.

“I picked up a magazine that I had never seen before, and opened it right to the page with an article about a gal in New York who created and copyrighted a manual about a homeowner referral network,” Thompson said. “This opportunity pretty much fell in my lap.”

As she read on, Thompson said she saw this as her chance to help homeowners like herself find pre-screened and reliable service providers for a wide range of needs. Instead of aimlessly thumbing through the Yellow Pages and ending up with contractors who you later find out are habitually guilty of not finishing their jobs, going through an established network could keep out the “bad apples,” she decided. Plus, the business format allowed her to work out of home, which is important because she home schools her two young children.

“Instead of continuing to be mad, I decided that I was going to do something about it, and I think the best revenge is being successful,” she said.

Now, Thompson screens potential service providers by meeting with them, talking to at least seven of their references and asking to see verification of their liability insurance. Homeowners call her with questions about whm she recommends as a painter, mason, etc. She is currently able to currently give referrals in 38 categories. The best thing about it, she said, is that the homeowner pays nothing.

“If the two parties end up working together, the service provider pays me a commission when the project is completed,” Thompson said. “It’s an amazing idea because it’s free to the homeowner, the service provider gets to write the commission off as marketing expenses, and I get to earn a little bit of money to put away for my kids’ college education,” she said.

Out of all the different jobs she has had, including retail management, coaching color guard teams and selling cookware, she finally sees real long-term potential with her business. “Here, I’m so excited to have a way to make up for some of our losses, both emotionally and financially, as well as make a few contributions to my family.”

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