Munchkin Fun Classes
Headquarters: Miami; the company is currently incubating at Venture Hive.
Concept: Munchkin Fun functions like a curated TicketMaster for kids programming — the single place to find, enroll in and pay for kids classes and camps that have been screened by parents. “We personally visit every program in our network and only include those we’d send our own kids to,” said founder Valerie Schimel. “Parents want the best for their children and an easy way to get it — we deliver both.”
Story: Schimel works full-time and has three girls under five — she thrives on efficiency. Yet, finding quality family programming was a constant challenge. In 2010, Munchkin Fun launched a kids calendar that lists over 500 events and activities weekly. The calendar reaches more than 25,000 families weekly and provides content to NBC Miami, Miami.com and WPBT. In 2013, Schimel’s last unanswered voicemail about soccer pushed Munchkin Fun into class registration.
“Parents want to spend time enjoying their kids, not scheduling them,” said Schimel. “Finding and signing up for the best music class in your neighborhood should be as easy as buying a movie ticket online. It is now.”
Launched: June 2013
Management team: Valerie Schimel (CEO/founder), Aleesa Adams (VP operations), Molly Blanco (VP development)
No. of employees: 4
Financing: $230,000 seed round from friends and family.
Recent milestones reached: In June, MunchkinFunClasses.com went live, made its first round of sales and already has added nearly 50 partnering businesses to its network, including Actors’ Playhouse, Gymboree, My Gym, Play-In and Soccer Shots. The company has generated more than $2,500 in partner revenue.
Biggest startup challenge: Marketing. Parents and businesses are very enthused and loyal – once they find Munchkin Fun. “We need every mom, dad and grandparent in town to sign up for our newsletter at munchkinfun.com/newsletter,” Schimel said.
Next step: Increase the South Florida footprint. Munchkin Fun plans to saturate the Miami market this year and expand to Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton by early 2014. The company is about to close production on its first signature programming guide.
Mentor’s advice: Guerrilla PR is the most effective way to get the word out, said Dennis Scholl, VP/Arts for the Knight Foundation. Scholl, who has been involved in 10 startups, has been mentoring Schimel since Munchkin Fun was merely an idea. “People will be interested in her business but they are more interested in who she is — a mom entrepreneur. She has to be the face of the company. She has to put herself out there.”
They have spent a lot of time talking about ramp-up. “Her biggest challenge is not going to be being successful in South Florida, ... it will be her second and third locations,” Scholl said. But he’s confident, citing her razor focus on execution. “She is generating loyal customers. Her beta works. It’s a marketplace that she is personally invested in... This is her baby — she will make it sing.”
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