What: Roommate service for
Who: Carmel Sullivan of Co-abode.com
Where: Santa Monica, California
When: Started in 2000
In an effort to temper the isolation she felt after her divorce, Carmel Sullivan decided to find a roommate--preferably a single mother like herself--to share her home. But after realizing no services existed to help with her search, she placed her own ads, personally conducted interviews and eventually found her perfect match.
Realizing that the women she'd interviewed--but hadn't chosen--might find compatible roommates in each other, Sullivan decided to get them in touch with each other. The women were extremely grateful for the help, prompting Sullivan to make a business of helping single mothers. "It's really an idea [whose] time has come," says Sullivan, 45, who notes there are a staggering 14 million single mothers living in the United States, many of whom are struggling financially as well as emotionally.
With the help of a friend in addition to $20,000 from an angel investor, Sullivan created a Web site that features member profiles of those looking for roommates, offers resources for single mothers and provides a "Circle of Friends" page that mothers can visit to get some support. Today, 4,800 users nationwide pay $30 per year for membership. Sullivan projects 2003 sales to quadruple 2002's $30,000.
Now that Co-abode.com has found some success--the business has been featured on CBS News, Good Morning America and Inside Edition--Sullivan has received countless funding offers. She hopes one day to create a nonprofit arm of the business to provide the first and last month's rent (in the form of a microloan) to women who are in dire need of relocation assistance once they have found their new roommates online.