For parents, whether first-time or seasoned, stay-at-home or working, young or old, taking care of their children is a top priority. Because of this, parents are willing to spend big bucks for their children’s wellbeing and happiness. According to CNN Money, U.S. parents can expect to pay up to $14,000 a year for each child in their family. This total not only accounts for housing, food, childcare and healthcare, but clothing, toys and activities as well.
Millennial parents (those 18 to 33 years old) account for $1.3 trillion worth of spending power that companies are trying to tap into, bringing a new wave of digital and physical products to market (The Biz Journals). These newly developed products specifically claim to help parents guide their children through school, extracurricular activities and other stages of life.
North Carolina boasts several startups dedicated to providing parents with products and services that help nurture and protect children, while also offering resources to help them be the best parents possible. Learn more about these startups below.
BLOBfish Activity Hub
The Triangle boasts a variety of track out and summer camps for children of all ages, but Ann McDowell and Max Shyshnyak discovered there was not a centralized source for parents to filter through all that is offered. McDowell’s 11-year-old daughter typically goes to eight different camps over the summer, and Shyshnyak’s six-year-old daughter usually participates in two different camps, so trying to find summer activities their children would find interesting proved tedious. Together, the team created BLOBfish Activity Hub in 2016, a kind of OpenTable or TripAdvisor for summer camps around the Triangle.
The team has compiled their filterable system by using reliable sources like Carolina Parent, Chapel Hill Magazine and Google. To get started on the app, families are encouraged to create a family profile that uses a child’s age, interests, school and other information to search the hub for the best possible camp match. BLOBfish is settling in to the $67 billion nationwide camp and extracurricular industry, and McDowell and Shyshnyak claim it is the only complete source of its kind for the Triangle area.
Currently, BLOBfish does not have a revenue model in place, but they plan to gain capital by collecting a registration fee from camps that elect to sign on with the service and selling ad space on their site. Moving forward, McDowell and Shyshnyak were part of Groundwork Labs’ winter 2016 incubator cohort, here they worked on refining their pitch and searching for outside investment.
Fundanoodle is an early education product line for children three to around seven years old, developed by pediatric occupational therapists Amy Bumgarner and Michelle Yoder. The line was originally sold under Carolina Pad, but in 2013, April Whitlock acquired the Fundanoodle brand from the company. Along with Bumgarner, Yoder and a team of early education specialists, Whitlock continued to develop the product line to create the startup Fundanoodle is today. The products provide parents and teachers with easy-to-use modules and kits designed to improve handwriting, motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Writing tablets, magnets and other tools inside the kits help prepare children for the classroom.
The mission of Fundanoodle is to create confident, proactive learners and foster a love of learning inside every child that touches their products. The modules and activity kits range from $8.99 to $32.99, and can be purchased at Toys R Us, Fundanoodle’s website and Amazon.
As a single mom, Stacey Shannon needed an easier way to transport her children to all their afterschool activities. In 2016, she built the solution—GoKart. Like Uber, GoKart is a ridesharing service, but specifically targeted for children ages six through 16. Parents can request pickup and dropoff times at least four hours ahead of time through their online GoKart account.
Children are notified by phone when their driver has arrived, and for children who do not have a phone, the driver is given a password to ensure the child gets into the correct car. Safety is GoKarts first and most important priority. All drivers go through a seven-year background check, and many have professional experience with children. GoKart costs $14 for the first five miles, and $1.50 for every additional mile. GoKart drivers pickup and deliver to locations within Wake County.
Office spaces aren’t typically an environment that openly welcomes children. However, at Durham coworking space Nido (which is Italian for “nest”), parents and their children are only separated by a few feet of hallway. Cofounders Lis Tyroler and Tiffany Frye, both working mothers, started Nido in Frye’s home in 2014, along with a handful of other families.
Collectively, the parents took turns caring for the group of children while others took time to work or pursue their hobbies. In 2015, the team took their idea to a commercial space in a retired Craftman-style cottage off of Broad Street. With the space, Nido offers an open coworking space for 12, as well as two classrooms taught by Montessori-certified teachers, a nap and feeding room, a conference room, kitchen, lounge and private office. Coworking and childcare packages start at $420 per month for two half-days a week. There is also a co-working community membership for individuals who do not wish to use the childcare option that is $300 a month for full-time and $180 a month for part-time (20 hours a week).
Nido is the only coworking space of its kind in the Southeast, and one of only 20 in the nation. But another way it stands out from other coworking spaces is that it fosters a sense of community to members by requiring them to contribute two to four hours a month to community tasks, which include assisting child care providers, making coffee, writing the newsletter or even cleaning (according to The New York Times).
The Nido website also highlights the benefit of harnessing the collective expertise of the community. Parents are able to go to each other for parenting advice or simply when they need help with a business idea. Currently, Nido has 28 families participating in their coworking community, with a growing waiting list.
Steven and Nikki Sacks founded PodKeeper in 2013, with the goal of creating a communication platform that can be the leader in online personal productivity for parents. After conducting what they called a “Busy Parent” survey, PodKeeper announced that 40 percent of the parents polled reported that they had mixed up pickup or dropoff times for their child’s extracurricular activity due to disorganization.
The PodKeeper digital platform creates a hub for a group of individuals—whether it be a family, sports team, class, or other group—to collaborate through the free online calendar app. No more navigating multiple group texts, emails or Google Calendar invites to keep track of all the details. With the app, parents can quickly schedule events, create sign up lists, store files and photos and provide important last minute updates from a computer, tablet or mobile device. The Sacks have over 20 years of combined experience in startups, corporate strategy, product development and online marketing that they have used to develop their product.
Many parents are unaware that what they say in front of their infants can impact early brain development. While participating in the Sloan Fellows business leadership master’s program at Stanford University, Nicki Boyd and brothers Jon and Chris Bogganio learned that 90 percent of brain development happens before a child sets foot in kindergarten, mostly in the presence of a parent or guardian. With this information in mind, they sought to create a device that would assist parents in expanding their child’s vocabulary and increasing learning speed.
The trio founded Charlotte-based VersaMe in 2014, and began working on Starling, a wearable device that can track the amount of words spoken to an infant daily. Though worn by the child, Starling connects to an app that allows parents to set word-count goals they want to reach. The app will even present prompts to parents that encourages longer conversations in front of a child that could introduce new words.
In 2015, VersaMe closed a $2.5 million seed funding round (as reported by EdSurge.com) and tripled their Indiegogo goal of $30,000 to launch the Starling in 2016. The device package costs $129 and can be purchased from the Starling website or Amazon.