By Jane Wooldridge
The Miami Herald
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Valerie Schimel, owner and founder of “Munchkin Fun” shares her entrepreneurial journey creating and growing a business focused on kids.
The Miami Herald
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.”