One New York remodeler is intent on generating business with a shake.

Or is it a stir?

“We were thrilled,” says Dino Andreakos of his company’s bold foray into “remodeling speed-dating” at a midtown Manhattan restaurant last week. Inspired by an article in REMODELING, the co-CEO of Bullfrog Builders, in Queens, N.Y., sponsored an entrepreneurial evening called "Remodeling the Date," a tongue-in-cheek "dating" event aimed at getting to know prospective clients in a casual and conversational setting -- drinks on Bullfrog Builders.

Thirty-three guests attended, some of them sipping “The Fixer-Upper,” a summery Tequila concoction served for the occasion.

“We simply wanted to experiment, generate buzz, and try to bring a different element of interviewing contractors into the local remodeling arena,” Andreakos says. Working with a publicist, his company promoted the event via a press release as well as a postcard (shown) that was mailed to nearby businesses and posted on the Internet. Guests were “open and enthused, talking with us in a way that they would not have had this conversation been at a doorstep, [on a] construction site, or over the phone,” he says. That openness “reinforced our belief that homeowners truly want this one-one-one attention -- whether it has to be at an event or not -- the idea of genuine open conversation can translate to our business in every way."

Good vibes haven’t been the only payback, however.

From Bullfrog Builders' $320 investment in the flyer and drinks, it has, as of a week after the event:

  • Collected contact information for 34 people (including a woman who was attending a baby shower at the same restaurant, and came to Bullfrog’s side of the room out of curiosity):

  • Contacted 29 of the 34

  • Of the 29: been asked to reconnect with 17 after Labor Day; been told that seven are currently not interested

  • Scheduled and held in-house appointments with five

  • Of the five: sold a deck to one ($15,000)

  • Sold roofs to two ($9,500 + $6,487)

  • Sold masonry and a roof to one ($7,000)

  • Proposed a $27,000 kitchen to one, no sale yet

… for a grand total of $37,987 in revenue -- or a yield of $37,667.
Andreakos is still somewhat in a “state of shock over the event’s success,” he says, and is trying to figure out the best way to allocate resources for these events on a monthly basis at various locations. Each event will generate more buzz and attract larger crowds, he hopes.

“We are strong believers that in the downturn, personal relationships are the greatest insurance,” he says. Those relationships are “also insurance against the pitfalls of being CEOs. We never want to be ‘corporate,' we want our success and business model to be derived directly from our clients’ needs, and much of this has to do with spending real time with clients.” --Leah Thayer, senior editor, REMODELING.