School is almost out. Do you know what your kids will be doing this summer?
If you haven’t already locked in a place at Camp Longhorn or Camp Waldemar, and are at loose ends where to send the kiddoes, Houston entrepreneur Emmie Chang says she has a solution: Camperoo, her startup that offers one-stop shopping for parents to browse among the dozens of summer camps, music lessons, and sports clinics.
“There are a lot of listings services and directories but not a marketplace,” Chang says. Camperoo aims to be an online portal where parents can research, enroll and pay for classes in one place.
She’s not the only entrepreneur who’s homed in on kids as a lucrative entrepreneurial space. What was once informal intelligence passed among neighborhood mothers, leads on children’s activities has quietly grown up into an industry worth tens of billions of dollars. “What it means for kids to do things out of school has changed,” says Katie Thompson, founder and CEO of Seattle-based Sigby, which also offers an online source for kids’ activities. “My mom used to say, ‘Go outside.’ That doesn’t happen anymore.”
And with educators and parents now focused on “discovery-based learning,” along with the reduction of extracurricular programs by schools, what was once referred to as day care now involves a much richer fabric of things that kids can do, she added.
The idea behind Camperoo and Sigby is familiar to us already. The websites work in the same way as those to find accommodation for our own travels—Airbnb, for example—and where to put Fido while we are away, like DogVacay. A potential customer plugs in geographical coordinates, a zip code or city, and a list of children’s camps, available couches, or doggie homestays pops up.
You then choose which activities you are interested in and sign up and pay the fees directly on the website. Sigby doesn’t prompt you to create an account until the final checkout. Less convenient to me is Camperoo’s requirement of setting up an account before you can look at prices.
I contacted Camperoo about this via the site’s live chat and, to their credit, they responded promptly, but say there is no way around the registration requirement. The representative says they offer a $25 credit once a potential customer does so. It’s always nice to get a discount but the requirement is as if Macy’s required you to create an account before you could browse through the racks of clothing.
That hiccup aside, both sites do bring together disparate listings onto one site. Sigby focuses on the Seattle area while Camperoo has listings in Austin, Dallas, and Houston in Texas, as well as Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Thompson started Sigby last November after becoming frustrated with trying to find activities for her own children. “I had personal pain in the space,” she says.
She figured she couldn’t be the only parent looking for a better way and, so, she turned to what she knew: technology. Thompson previously worked as a … Next Page »
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