Sunny Nunan, who was the youngest child in a big Italian family, recalls her father had a spaghetti sauce she believed he could bottle and sell. Although he never heeded her advice, Nunan took her creative selling instincts and used them to start Core24. The B2B enterprise combines elements of networking, marketing, and business development to drive revenue.
After graduating from the University of North Texas, Nunan went to work for a database marketing company, then the Royal Caribbean cruise line. Her next move was to D Magazine Partners, where she was part of the sales team that launched D CEO in the mid-2000s.
At D CEO, Nunan began receiving calls from clients wanting to know which companies they should call on for help in different service areas. She also started hearing people in the professional services community talk about how they build their business on networking and referrals.
“I thought, ‘Isn’t there a place out there where people could go … for recommendations?’ There wasn’t,” recalls Nunan, Core24’s founder and chairman. To her, this translated into a need for a network of the best outsourced business service providers—and she could build it.
In August 2009—during the Great Recession—Nunan, then a single mother of two, left her job at D CEO to launch Core24. “I had no savings,” she remembers. “I guess I was crazy. That’s what it took. You had to be crazy.”
The company’s name refers to the 24 areas of expertise of its providers—expertise Nunan believes every organization needs, from advertising and marketing to wealth management. Members of the Core24 network pay an annual fee in exchange for various services, including placement in Core24’s “Little Purple Book”—a directory of locally vetted business resources—and information listed on the website, blog, and in the company’s newsletter.
The company divides its providers into two tiers: the primary Core24 tier, plus a “preferred partner network,” which offers ancillary services like photography. The former pay roughly $18,500 to join; the latter, $9,500. Customers pay Core24 members directly for their B2B services.
Companies wanting to join go through a careful, seven-step vetting process. Once a company passes, it’s invited to apply to become an “approved business.” The provider then gets plugged into a system that involves extensive interaction with other experts, which research shows drives referrals.
“You’re not going to do business with people you don’t like,” Nunan says. “So, while there are other organizations that are networking groups, the thing that makes us different is, we vet.”
Three years into Core24, Nunan decided to pursue another idea. With all the business awards programs out there, she noticed there wasn’t one for administrative professionals. After gaining the support of Colleen Barrett, president emeritus and corporate secretary of Southwest Airlines, Nunan launched the “Admin Awards” in Dallas in October 2012. The program has since been expanded to Fort Worth and, recently, to Silicon Valley.
Core24 has grown along with its clients; it now has offices in Dallas, Austin, Houston, and Denver. “The impact we made very quickly,” Nunan says, “was giving exceptional service providers a way to differentiate themselves—which leads to more business for them.”