Houzz_Body.jpgby Erin McDermott.

Houzz.com is adding more small business owners to its invite list.


Its now easier than ever to get your work, goods, or services in front of the 23 million unique visitors that are perusing the pages of the platform every month. Launched in early 2009, Houzz.com has seen vigorous growth that has made it the center of the online universe for those in Americas $300 billion market of home remodeling and design.


More than 350,000 contractors, decorators, architects, artisans, and others have created Houzz pages, uploading more than 3 million photos that have proved magnetic to followers via the Web, on its recently upgraded mobile app, and through its biweekly newsletters seen by millions of users. Houzz is altering the social-media interaction between customers and the professionals they hire, giving small business owners far greater insight into what clients and potential clients really want.


To that end, Houzz has been flinging open its doors, helping more professionals get in on the conversation. Among its recent new offerings: expanded access to its Houzz Pro+, its paid local marketing program (up from its initial 12 test regions); Houzz Site Designer, a set of easy tools that make it easier for anyone with a Houzz page to build a free, sleek Web page for either traditional or mobile screens; and its Real Remodeling Costs interactive guide, with input on prices, materials, construction considerations, and advice from regional businesses.


Building websites is not the business these folks are in, says Liza Hausman, vice president of community at the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company. It tends to be expensive and time-consuming and often folks have websites that are out-of-date from a content perspective or arent optimized for mobile devices. Were trying to take the effort that they put into that away, so they can focus more on doing the work they do and market themselves in the best way possible. 


However, the most intriguing new component for home-goods entrepreneurs is likely the recently added marketplace feature, which is enabling vendors to now sell goods directly via Houzz. A bit like the arts-and-craftsy Etsy, the Buy on Houzz option is offering items that reflect the look and style of the site, from hundreds of vendors listing more than 650,000 items to date. Houzz breaks the categories down by rooms and by items, with the ability to search within each for certain price ranges, too. Houzz collects a 15 percent fee on all sales, and fulfillment is left to the vendor.


While still in its early days, vendors on the marketplace say its been good for business so far.


Houzz_PQ.jpgKelly Eberly, a textile designer in Greenwich, Conn., recently expanded her Houzz exposure, moving several decorative pillows from her Kee Design Studio onto the Buy on Houzz marketplace. So far, she says shes been seeing an increase in traffic from the items to her website, though no sales to date. Compared with Etsy, where she also has a shop, Eberly says the Houzz support services were very receptive and helpful; less beneficial, the Houzz feature lacks the built-in analytics that are built into the Etsy model for sellers.


Still, Eberly says shes feeling very encouraged by her Houzz shop, particularly because of the number of users that go on the site and a recent request for photos that will be included on a future Houzz newsletter. Im keeping my fingers crossed that I will be getting more traffic that way, and Im sure I will, she says.


Greg Sheres has a 100 percent success rate in sales on Houzz so farand its completely by accident. Its the latest iteration of the business for the furniture designer, whose works were coveted among celebrities and Wall Street types. For years, he sold his works wholesale to retailers, most of whom dissolved in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008. Now Sheres is based in Victoria, British Columbia, and hes only recently started venturing into online sales.


When a colleague on a hotel project asked him to look at an image for reference on Houzz, Sheres said he had no idea what it was. But he signed on, filled in a profile, and checked a box that identified him as a seller. Figuring why not? he uploaded a few photos, too, and then forgot about ituntil a few months later when he started getting emails from people about a particular dining table, asking where they could buy it. I hadnt even gotten around to marketing it, he laughs.


Now hes signed up on the Houzz marketplace, too, which he finds easy to manage and in the company of consumers with an eye for the out-of-the-ordinary. Sheres sees it as the next evolution for his line of work.


I can change my offerings so fast, he says. Houzz has been truly empowering for an artisan. Before, wed have to go do craft fairs or art galleries, which can be costly. With this, you dont have to rely on anyone to accept you into the show.