Business Plan Challenge

Finding kid-friendly events isn’t so easy. That’s where this Florida company comes in

Munchkin Fun founder Valerie Schimel and her family picking strawberries in South Miami-Dade — one of the kid-friendly activities listed on her site.
Munchkin Fun founder Valerie Schimel and her family picking strawberries in South Miami-Dade — one of the kid-friendly activities listed on her site. Courtesy of Valerie Schimel

Like many young companies, Munchkin Fun has taken a few zigs and zags.

When it won the 2014 Business Plan Challenge, Munchkin Fun was almost 2 years old. “Winning helped boost our visibility to local parents and build credibility with local business,” said founder Valerie Schimel.

At that point, the company had two websites: one for selling events, classes and camps for kids, and a second free calendar site. After winning the Challenge, Schimel decided to combine them in a move to bump up revenues and expand reach.

But the booking site didn’t generate enough money to make it worth the effort, she quickly discovered. It wasn’t long before Munchkin Fun reverted to its original plan of offering information about kid-focused events in a free newsletter supported by advertisers. Today, anyone can list an event for free in its calendars, though ongoing events that require a fee aren’t eligible.

“To some extent, I think we were too early on the class-booking feature,” said Schimel. But the original concept, born from her experience as the mother of three, remains true. “It can be fragmented for parents to figure out what's happening in town.”

Filling that void led the company to profitability after only two years, she said. Today the company has a team of eight — including five sales representatives; all work remotely, cutting out the need for a physical office.

To grow its business, Munchkin Fun has expanded into new cities. Today it publishes newsletters and calendars for Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Tampa and Orlando, and soon plans to add Jacksonville. It boasts 137,500 subscribers to its free newsletters across its five markets, including 45,000 in Miami-Dade, says Schimel. Last year, revenues were almost $350,000.

In April, she plans to launch Munchkin Blue, a newsletter, resource guide and calendar for families of all abilities.

Marketing continues to be a challenge, she says. She and her team rely on “word of Mom” and engage ambassadors to spread the news.

Her advice to other entrepreneurs: “Have patience and surround yourself with a great team. My colleagues at Munchkin Fun make each day fun, uplifting, inspiring and successful. We motivate each other.”

2014 winner: Munchkin Fun

Milestones

2012: Founded

2013: Achieved profitability

2014: Won the business plan challenge

2015: Expanded to Broward and Palm Beach Counties

2016: Expanded to Tampa

2017: Expanded to Orlando

Keys to success

We’ve enjoyed success by providing useful, ‘addictive’ information to parents. There are so many great things happening in our community for families, but it can be challenging for parents to get the info. We aggregate & curate it all into one streamlined location. We also work closely with our advertising clients to create effective products that service their needs.

Biggest challenge

Marketing is an ongoing challenge for us. We’re always looking to attract new parents & subscribers.

Best advice received

▪ Fake it before you make it.

▪ Test everything before you spend too much time money building it.

▪  Ask questions, listen closely and build prototypes.

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