As a property manager in Syracuse, NY during the late 1990s, Donna Glassberg noticed a problem that needed a solution. Renters struggled to find housing in an easy, accessible way.
While walking in her Syracuse University neighborhood, Donna would see cars pulled off to the side of the road, writing numbers off the for-rent signs plastered on the sides of the buildings. She thought this was a terribly inefficient way to find housing for students and faculty moving to the area. Since she was immersed in the industry and understood the process well, she knew she could create something that would help both her employers and her renters to connect in a more efficient way.
A change was needed, and Donna knew she could make that change. Her son was ten years old at the time and he was learning how to make a simple website. He explained to his mother that his friends would be able to see this website from their own homes! This was a novel concept since during this time period there was a total of 200,000 websites.
The innovation process began for Donna and she thought, “I could create a website that could be the answer to the problem I wanted to solve.” She launched her website before Google and before smart phones, so this was quite an innovative concept. She wasn’t even sure how renters would find the site.
Find the site they did and OrangeHousing.com became the first rental website in Syracuse, exploding with popularity. Within in a month, the SU Chancellor’s office called to ask what exactly this website was and if they would be allowed to link to it for all those involved at SU to see. After a short period of time, more links were made to ESF, OCC, SUNY Upstate Medical, and LeMoyne College.
As the market changed, Donna started to notice another potential problem. She was limiting her audience. She needed to start marketing her website to more than just students and faculty looking for housing in Syracuse. So, OrangeHousing.com diversified and began opening the site up to young professionals wanting to rent in Syracuse. Why just cater to one demographic? There are many who need this service.
The competition has definitely increased globally with over two billion websites, and many being national sites, that OrangeHousing.com must compete with. But that is not affecting OrangeHousing.com too much since they continue to stay one step ahead of the trends.
The site is constantly drawing new property managers and owners posting the openings they have. The fact that the company uses a local number and not a 1-800 number is to their benefit. People want that personalized service, that human connection, and that is what Donna provides. A personal feature the site provides is a list of resources the new residents might need such as an eye doctor, where to get winter clothing, and whatever other local services the renters have questions about.
It is quite remarkable that this small website that was formed in 1997 is not only in operation to this day but it is still the go to for many newcomers to the area. Donna credits this to the fact that she is not afraid to seek assistance with her business. “Seeking out help from others, like Melissa at SBDC, is beneficial to one’s business even if you have been running a successful business” says Donna Glassberg. To keep it successful, a business owner must observe his or her surroundings. What is the environment of the industry? How can a business do the business better? Constant evaluation of what the clients’ needs are is one way to continue to grow. As the demand changes, the business must change. Having a growth plan is a great way to ensure that your business stays in the forefront of the industry.
Donna Glassberg has no intention of settling with where she is at. She is always looking to the future. Within her latest growth plan was to obtain her Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) certification so that she would be more of a benefit to her strategic partners, such as Syracuse University, ESF, Onondaga Community College, SUNY Upstate Medical, and LeMoyne who all value working with MWBE certified businesses.
Advisor Melissa Zomro Davis referred Donna to Lamont Mitchell who oversees the MWBE certification for the city of Syracuse. Lamont assisted Donna with the process and now she is Syracuse City WBE certified. Donna states, “I will continue to seek out help when needed. I believe the future for my website will be continuing to grow with housing options as well as partnering with businesses and nonprofits who want to advertise as well on the site”. OrangeHousing.com is the only Syracuse city WBE certified website for Homes/Apartments for rent in Syracuse.
Donna has begun working on her next project to stay ahead of the trends. She is going to start promoting housing options on the OrangeHousingNY IG (Instagram) site. Her national competitors are not doing this yet.
Working with her community resource partners, staying engaged with her community, and acknowledging the strategic partnership’s wants and needs, she has made OrangeHousing.com a staple in the community. When the times changed, so did OrangeHousing.com. “Being open to change and trying to stay one step ahead of the times helps me to stay in business,” says Donna Glassberg.
Donna is truly a woman entrepreneur pioneer, one who will ensure her business continues to stand the test of time by being willing to foster change, growth, and use her innovation skills to be beneficial to her strategic partners in the community.
Article published in the BJNN on January 20, 2019
Melissa Zomro Davis is an Advanced NYS Certified Business Advisor at the Small Business Development Center located at Onondaga Community College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read articles and advice written by our very own Onondaga SBDC Business Advisors!