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And Then There Were Two: Groupon & CertifiKID - The Last Remaining Daily Deal Sites

10.26.16

Our CEO and Founder, Jamie Ratner, reacts to Groupon's pending acquisition of LivingSocial and what that means for CertifiKID: 

Yesterday’s big news really hit home. Groupon acquired LivingSocial, its major competitor in the daily deal space. When I launched CertifiKID more than six years ago, there were scores of daily deal sites popping up every day, all pushing to be serious players in the industry dominated by the two behemoths – Groupon and LivingSocial. LivingSocial was DC-based, as is CertifiKID, so they were always our biggest competitor on the local level, even though we were focused on the family niche and they were focused mainly on restaurants and spas.  After our launch and early success, Living Social then started a family edition and further increased their offerings.  

As time went on, there was a feeding frenzy in the daily deal space, with companies – big and small – getting acquired, consolidating, evolving, dissolving, or just burning out on a daily basis.  When the dust settled, there were essentially three players left selling daily deals: Groupon, LivingSocial and CertifiKID.  Now with this acquisition, only CertifiKID is left standing alongside Groupon.  

Of course, it goes without saying that comparing Groupon and CertifiKID is not comparing apples to apples. Groupon is a publicly traded company, present in more than two dozen locations around the globe. It generates hundreds of millions in sales and has raised hundreds of millions in venture capital (VC) financing.  Plus, it has hundreds of employees. Despite these staggering numbers, Groupon has never been consistently profitable and appears to be in a constant state of transition.

On the other hand, CertifiKID has been profitable since its second month of operation and has grown by 20% or more every year, without the assistance of any VC financing. It employs a team of less than 15 people, all parents working from home. We now have more than 1 million mom and dad subscribers across the US. 

The CertifiKID recipe has shown that daily deal websites can be successful and thrive, while others fail. How did we do it?  With the right ingredients. Here they are:

1) CertifiKID has a niche – focusing exclusively on families – making us a trusted resource for parents, not just a daily deal site. Our customers and business partners know exactly what to expect each day from CertifiKID -- family, family, family -- while Groupon and LivingSocial have been all over the map, trying to be everything for everyone. 

2) CertifiKID expands carefully and strategically, with a "slow but steady" approach.  Groupon and Living Social – and many other copycats – were in a race to have a presence in as many cities as possible all over the US and around the world. This led to high overhead and a huge drain of resources and capital. I couldn’t tell you the number of 20-somethings looking for a job with CertifiKID after they were laid off by Groupon or Living Social and expecting a six figure salary.

3) CertifiKID invests time and energy in our merchant relationships, treating each one like a valuable partner and long-term relationship. Because Groupon's offerings are so broad and voluminous, it appears they just try to make as much money as they can on each deal and then move on to the next business opportunity. This bottom-line driven approach has never been our idea of good business. My team values the merchants we partner with, often having been regular customers with their own families before approaching them to be featured on CertifiKID. 

4) CertifiKID prides itself on phenomenal customer service, striving to respond to inquiries literally within minutes (including at night and on the weekends). We are also transparent when it comes to the terms and conditions of our deals. This has proven to be a key success factor with our subscriber base of parents. Moms and dads expect you to be up front and never put them in the position of dragging their 4-year-old to an event when admission is only for kids over five. Alternatively, Groupon and LivingSocial regularly leave out key details because they're focused on keeping their deal write-ups short and pithy, instead of giving customers the information they need to make informed purchases. As a result, I all too often hear people complaining about their customer experience with Groupon and LivingSocial. They might have huge email lists, but they don't have the engaged and loyal customer base we do. 

5) LivingSocial pooped out (as my daughter puts it) and took their eye off the ball (as my son puts it). Every day, my team and I continue to bring to CertifiKID the same passion and energy to our core mission that we had from day one when developing the CertifiKID concept at my family's kitchen table. We are committed to giving our mom and dad customers the best opportunities to try new things and spend time together at prices they can afford. It’s just that simple.

I will watch with great interest to see what Groupon does next after this acquisition. It will be fascinating to see what it means for the daily deal space, what it means for the Greater Washington DC area, and what it means for all of Living Social’s customers and merchants. 

What will it mean for CertifiKID? My sense and hope is it will mean more opportunities for us locally and nationally, which will lead to more opportunities for our customers and business partners.

In this period of change and volatility in the daily deals space, I am so proud of CertifiKID’s stability and consistency.  We have had a profound impact on so many families, helping them save big on things they want and need, but maybe couldn’t afford or didn’t have the time or access to discover. I am especially proud of our team members, who bring new ideas, innovations and value to our CertifiKID community each day.

Here's to a bright future for CertifiKID, our partners, and our customers. Thank you for your continued support.

- Jamie

Tags: Groupon LivingSocial "daily deals" deals CertifiKID "Jamie Ratner" "LivingSocial acquisition" "Groupon acquisition"

CertifiKid Field Report: ABCmouse.com

10.22.16

The brain of a little one is an amazing thing. Think about it--in the first five years they go from not being able to hold up their heads to walking, talking, and having pretty strong opinions. Any parent who’s tried to get a three year old to eat something they don’t want to, knows this all too well. Taking full advantage of those brain-forming years is so important.

One of our team members recently took the subscription-based educational website ABCmouse.com for a test drive. Here is their CertifiKID Field Report:

What Makes It Unique?

With its bold colors and music, ABCmouse.com is visually engaging for little eyes and ears. The educational aspects come in the form of games and stories so kids don’t feel like they’re sitting down and “working” on their letters or colors.

When a child completes a task they earn points that they can then use to “buy” things in the pretend online store. I felt like this was a unique way to tie skill-building into the concept of accomplishment and reward.

The website is structured in a way that allows your child to move around in skill sets so that they always feel engaged. For example, storytime was fun for a while, but now they want to color. It’s a nice feature for keeping them interested in what they’re doing. Some of the site highlights are the learning zoo and books that are interactive.

They aren’t just learning to read when they’re on the site, they are picking up early keyboard and online navigation skills. That’s a big plus in my book!

Is It Easy to Use?

Yes and no. Younger kids, or those that haven’t had much exposure to computers or tablets may need you to be nearby to help guide them. Once they get the hang of it though they should be good to go.

ABCmouse.com Is Great for...

I think that the prime age group for this site is between 2 and 6 years. Some of the games and activities could be a bit rudimentary for older kids or those who are already early readers. My daughter struggled with reading at the Kindergarten level.

ABCmouse.com is perfect for her because she doesn’t feel like it’s a “Baby Place” which makes her enjoy the learning aspects. Honestly, I’m convinced she just thinks it’s a game.

If you have a child struggling with reading this could be the site for you. The same thing goes if you have a very young child that shows interest in learning beyond numbers and colors.

UPDATE:

After this CertifiKID Field Report was submitted, our CEO decided to sign her family up for ABCmouse.com. This is what they reported:

When I asked my kids why they loved ABCmouse.com (and they did) they said; “It feels like going to Chuck E. Cheese. You play games then get tickets to buy things for your character.” I felt like I was the winner here, my kids were working hard at learning and thought it was all fun and games!

My kids are fairly good with a computer. ABCmouse.com was very easy for them to use. The graphics are great and there are almost endless options for them to explore so it’s never boring. Having that huge selection of things for them to do made me feel like I was really getting my money’s worth from the subscription.

~ Jamie (CertifiKID founding mom and CEO)
 

CertifiKID Field Report: Educational Play with Square Panda

08.05.16

"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood." ~ Fred (Mr.) Rogers

Here at CertifiKID we subscribe to the Mr. Rogers philosophy. Whether it's outdoors in nature, exploring at a museum or helping history come to life by getting out and seeing where its happened, play is important. After all, raising kids is an EDventure (educational adventure), right?

When we got word that a new learning tool was out that uses an iPad coupled with smart letters to teach early reading skills, we were excited to learn more about Square Panda. It seemed like such a great way to get more out of screen time.

There were some big questions, though. Would it be entertaining enough to draw the kids away from mindlessly flinging digital birds at green pigs? Would kids really learn and have fun at the same time? Was it going to be one of those things they played with once and were done?

Right away one thing stood out about Square Panda. It isn’t just an app. It's an accessory for your iPad with actual physical letters that are read by a Smart Playset. Combining a tactile experience with adaptive software that identifies how your child learns really sets Square Panda apart. Would kids be excited to see the letters literally come to life? Um... we were, and we’re grownups (most days!).

Another ingenious aspect of Square Panda is its ability to learn what your child's individual learning style is. It's a learning tool that learns! As it picks up on your child's preferences it then serves them tailored games and activities from a huge library of cloud-based programing that keeps your child challenged and engaged.

For this Field Report we enlisted some expert help from within the CertifiKID community. Beth B. is CertifiKID subscriber and mother of three. Her oldest is seven and she has a set of adorable three-year-old twins as well. Beth also happens to be a first grade teacher, which makes her especially suited to the task of putting Square Panda to the test.

After several weeks of fun and play, here is what Beth reported back to Team CertifiKID:

"Square panda is interactive, fun, colorful and very appealing to toddlers. It's great for identifying letters and sounds as well as reading readiness! My 3 year olds love it. They love the hands on aspect of it. I observed them repeating the letters and sounds and words. They love knocking down the bowling pin "guys" and then searching for the letter they need. It's great to have vowels and consonants in different colors. As an educator I'm highly impressed with this!!!!"

Lending more clout to Square Panda as a learning tool that combines play with adaptive education is the fact that Andre Agassi -parent, tennis legend and founder of the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education- was so impressed by the product that he both invested in it and joined the company board of directors. Agassi's foundation was built on the belief that, “With education there is hope,” a mantra that is a perfect fit for Square Panda as well.

Want to know more about how Square Panda works? Check out this video.

Play and learn on CertifiKID families!

Tags: CertifiKID Field Reports, learning, education, square panda

Fun Places to Find Pokémon

07.15.16

Gotta catch 'em all, do ya? I get it. The whole Pokémon Go thing is sweeping the globe and while there have a few scary stories surrounding the phenomenon, seeing kids - families even - getting outside, exploring, being active and having fun is pretty darn cool.  Heck, my kids and I were out in the park until almost dark yesterday evening and we met three families we'd never have known save for this fad.

I think the key to making sure that Pokémon Go doesn't just become another way for kids to get too much screen time is to plan your Poké-Time. Pokéstops can be found in some really cool places. Planning an outing at say a museum or park can include both Pokémon Go and other sorts of fun.

Catch 'em all on the National Mall

The Smithsonian museums are attracting Pokémon faster than any lure even a level twenty player could place. Double your fun and exploration by segmenting your time. The Air and Space museum is a bustling Pokémon Gym with lots to catch, even rare ones. It's also one seriously awesome museum for kids who are into STEM, SCI-fi, airplanes, space... okay, it's just plain amazing. Spend the first part of your visit catching all the Pokémon you can, grabbing eggs and leveling up. Then learn about Lindbergh, check out the lunar landing module, or even 'land' a jet fighter on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Top it all off with some ice cream on the lawn outside - yep, there are Pokémon there too!

Get some insider tips from Sergeant Nadia Tyler of Smithsonian Security. She's a huge fan, expert catcher and has some great insights on ways to make the real world connect to the Pokémon universe in this article. Some good advice from the National Park Service, "Remember to be respectful when you play and avoid looking for Pokémon at memorials."

Make Errands Fun!

While it would be great to spend your entire day with the kids just doing the Pokémon and playing thing at some point they're going to need to eat, go to the dentist, be clothed and all that junk. Ugh, errands. Do the kids get we loathe running around and getting things done as much as they do? We're allergic to fun, right. Pokémon to the rescue. Pull out the app in the cereal isle. Is there a Squrittle popping out behind the Pops? Pikachu has to get his teeth cleaned too. Look for the Pokémon in the mundane and before you know it your list is all checked off and you had fun doing it! 

Check The Map

As they say, there's an app for that and in this case the app is a map that tracks where to find a treasure trove of Pokémon. Curbed has come up with a nifty community mapping program that allows players to drop a pin in the map when they find Poké Stops, Gyms and more. Users are even leaving tips on which characters were found where. Brilliant!

photo courtesy of the National Park Service via Facebook

Where To Look

Here is a short list of some rumored Pokémon hot spots in CertifiKID cities: 

Washington, DC - National Mall, Capitol Hill, National Harbor waterfront, National Zoo

Baltimore - National Aquarium, Fells Point, Fort McHenry, Maryland Zoo

New York City - Nintendo World Store (obvi), Central Park Zoo, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Battery Park

Atlanta - CNN, Centennial Olympic Park, World of Coca Cola (rumor has it there are tons of rare ones near here)

Chicago - Millennium Park,  Navy Pier, The Bean

Dallas - Reunion Tower, Dallas World Aquarium, Nasher Center

Philadelphia - Independence Hall (the whole complex is a Pokéstop), Reading Terminal Market, Franklin Institute,

Pittsburgh - National Aviary, Carnegie Art Museum, Pittsburgh Zoo, Botanical Gardens

San Francisco - Golden Gate Park, Exploratorium, Ghiradelli Square

Los Angeles - Jumbo's Clown Room, Santa Monica Pier, Barnsdall Art Park, Union Station 

Tip: libraries and historical sites seem to be favorite places for Pokéstops. 

Have fun out there CertifiKID families and good luck catching them all! 

~ Lara

Team CertifiKID, Mom of 4, Level:8, Gym:Valor

 

Reminder: Enjoy playing safely. Always be aware of your surroundings and follow the guidelines that pop up every time you open the app.

Tags: just for fun

5 Great Ways to Enjoy Watermelon!

07.08.16

The laid back pace and sunny days of summer are great but if we're being honest one of the best things has got to be, watermelon!

What's better than a cool, juicy slice of this sweet treat when the day has been long an hot? Not much. Then again... just when you thought watermelon couldn't get any better we go out and find these amazing, creative and tasty ways to enjoy Nature's summer candy!

Watermelon Lemonade

photo courtesy of Cooking Classy

This recipe comes from Jacly of Cooking Classy. She writes, "I’m not ever big on drinks because I’d rather get my sugar from a decadent dessert but this is my new exception! It is totally irresistible and the watermelon and lemon flavor combination pairs perfectly together." And we're in total agreement. It's a refreshing twist that is perfect for a lazy summer afternoon, a fancy get-together or a casual backyard BBQ. You can find the full recipe here.

Speaking of BBQ... want to blow away your taste buds and best buds at your next cookout? Here is the way to do it.

Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce

photo courtesy of The Fit Fork

Yep, you heard that. Spicy. Watermelon. BBQ. Sauce. Drooling already, aren't ya? We must all give thanks to Jennifer of The Fit Fork who not only brings us this mouthwatering recipe for the awesome sauce to beat all sauces, but whom also pairs it with a juicy brisket and wraps all that wonderful up in a taco.

Our advice is to make this is BIG batches (here is the recipe) then can it and have summer all year long!

Watermelon Ice Cubes

This one is so simple you're going to be shocked you never thought of it. In fact it's so easy we don't even need a photo for it. Slice a melon into two inch think rounds. Cut around rind between the white and red flesh. Then cut a grid of one inch wide squares. Pull the rind off. Place cubes on a cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. BOOM, watermelon ice cubes!

Sour Watermelon Gummies

photo courtesy of Meatified

Um, Meatified may we make a suggestion? How about you change the name of your blog to OMGawdified? These gummies are as cute as they are cool and even tastier by two. Sour Patch Kids... meet the curb. The recipe is easier than you think. It might take a try or two to get the amazing results Rachel did but fear not even the mistakes taste great. Find the full recipe here.

Watermelon Sorbet

photo courtesy of Cincy Shopper

Summer gets busy. Sometimes at the end of the day all you want is a little something refreshing and easy. Jen at Cincy Shopper gives the perfect sweet solution with her four ingredient watermelon sorbet. You got that right, just 4 ingredients. We can't keep this one in the freezer very long, it's that tasty. Luckily it's also that easy. Give Jen's famous recipe a try here.

Filed under Just For Fun

Tags: recipes, summer fun

Expert Tips for Building Your Summer First Aid Kit

06.30.16

If you’ve ever had to go on a frantic search for Band-Aids while a tearful kiddo is hyperventilating, sure that scrape on their knee will cause them to lose a limb, you know how important having a First Aid Kit is. But did you know that a change in seasons means you should be changing things up in your kit? We’ve sought some expert advice on what you should have in the family First Aid Kit.

Tim Reel is a retired Fire Chief, Emergency Medical Technician and first responder with over 40 years of experience. He’s agreed to give us an easy list of things every summer First Aid Kit should have.

So where do we start? Most importantly the Chief stresses that you should always have a minimum of two kits; one for the house and one kept in the car. One of the least expensive ways to get started is buying a pre-made kit for your foundation items. Look for kits that contain at least a minimum of;

  • Gauze
  • Tape
  • Antibiotic Ointment (like Neosporin)
  • Band-Aids (be sure there are several sizes)
  • Scissors
  • Anti-Itch Treatment
  • Benadryl
  • Alcohol Swabs
  • Fabric Bandages
  • Safety Pins
  • ACE Bandage

It is relatively to find kits that contain these items both in stores and online. Now to add to the kit for summer.

First things first, be sure you have a container big enough to hold everything. That may mean that the box or bag your kit came in needs replacing. Ideally the kit should be waterproof and easy to grab and go with. Some ideas for that, include: insulated reusable shopping bags with zippers, waterproof canvas bags or backpacks, air tight portable tool boxes.

Now that you’ve got the right container, here is what you may want to add to your at-home kit;

EpiPen - Many people have a history of severe allergic reactions and some may be allergic and not know it. Anaphylaxis is the term used for these potentially life-threatening reactions. If someone in your home has severe allergies like this talk to your doctor who can give you a prescription for an EpiPen or Auvi-Q. Be sure to get instruction in the proper use of this rescue device.

Numbing Spray - The Chief cautions that this shouldn't’t be used for burns, but it can come in handy for numbing the pain of cuts and scrapes so that they can be attended to.

Sunscreen - Yep, extra sunscreen is a must-have.

Lip Balm - Not just for kissable lips, balm soothes sunburnt, dry and/or cracked lips.

Emergency Blanket - Sometimes called ‘Survival’ or ‘Safety’ blankets these are those weird things that look like an uninflated mylar balloons. They are First Aid kit essentials anytime and everywhere. Used to care for those in shock, protect against cold and even cool you down when overheated, you need these.

CPR Shield - This is a simple tool with a powerful job. It helps protect both the person administering mouth-to-mouth and the recipient.

CPR Instructions - Even if you’ve been CPR certified for years it’s still helpful to have this on hand in an emergency.

Tweezers - Essential when removing things like broken glass, burrs, splinters and such. (my little brother had to have rocks removed from his nose. Yes, more than one rock, more than one time. Because, boys.)

Magnifying Glass - Helpful when you have a small splinter to go after.

Splint - No, you don’t have to tape sticks together like back in Scouts. Pick up a ready-made splint at any drugstore and put it in the kit. Not sure if that finger or toe is sprained or broken? Splint it, then head to Urgent Care.

ZipLoc Bags - Perfect for packing a tooth or digit for transport to the ER. Got ticks? If you pull one off you may want to save it for identification. All ticks are gross, some are carriers for nasty diseases.

Now that you’re ready for almost any bump, bruise or emergency at home what is it you’ll need when you go on the road? Chief Reel advises that all of the summer extras should be in your car kit year round. In addition to those you’ll also need;

Water - You might think that water bottles would fit the bill here but Chief Reel recommends less bulky and easier to pack Datrex Water Pouches. He advises that these not only take up less space they’re also lighter to carry and if you need to leave your car, that matters. If you're stranded water is going to be the most essential item in your kit. We all need it to survive!

Small Flashlight - A solar powered one may be your best option.

Cloth Sun Hat (one for each member of the family) - These roll up easily for storage and both protect you from the sun and cool you off in the heat - when wet.

Protein Bars - If you get lost or stuck in the middle of nowhere the petrified fries under the car seat may end up looking like an option if you don’t prepare. Chief Reel says to look beyond Clif bars and instead look at higher calorie, more nutrient dense options that come well sealed, like; S.O.S and Mayday survival bars.

Safety Flares - To signal for help.

Baby Wipes - These are a multi-use wonder.

Collapsible Umbrella - Protects from both the sun and the elements.

Saline Solution - For washing out wounds.

Bug Spray - If you have to leave your car and trek to civilization you’ll be far more comfortable if the bugs are not’t making a meal out of you.

It may sound like that’s a whole lot of trunk space to take up, but if you should ever need it you’ll be glad you did. And if you pack properly it really won’t take up that much space.

Another tip from The Chief is to be sure to check your kit often to see what might need to be replenished or replaced. These are just a few of the essentials, you can always add more. There are some great resources out there for building the ‘ultimate’ First Aid kit. A good place to start is The Red Cross. As always, you know your family best if there is something missing from this list that you know you'll need, by all means add it.

Have a happy and SAFE summer CertifiKID families!

Tags: Tips, Resources, Expert Advice

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