SILVER SPRING – A Potomac family will jump into the “Shark Tank” as they try to convince a television panel of multi-millionaires to invest in their website business that offers both suggestions and discounts for family-oriented fun.
Jamie and Brian Ratner, and their two children, Lila, 10, and Noah, 11, will appear on the ABC show on April 7 at 10 p.m. While they have known the outcome since their episode was taped in September 2018, they aren’t telling anyone how they did.
The idea for CertifiKID came to Jamie back in 2010 as she struggled to find ways to have fun with her young children. She blogged about “learning how to be mom,” at the time, she said.
While similar to websites like Living Social and Groupon, CertifiKID is strictly geared to family and kid-friendly events.
“People view us as a resource, not just to find a deal, but also to find good things to do,” Brian said.
CertifiKID brings in about $5 million a year in sales. It started out as a Washington, D.C., Baltimore area resource, but has since spread to about 10 other locations throughout the country.
Their goal of being picked up by one of the sharks is to find a strategic partner that will guide them into becoming a national website, Jamie explained.
“We have such an amazing strength and footprint here in the D.C. area,” Brian said. The next step is to “get deeper into other cities and expanding into new markets.”
CertifiKID “is quite a family affair,” he noted.
Jamie’s father is the COO. “We brought him out of retirement, and he’s never worked harder in his life,” Brian said.
The couple’s two children are involved as well and even flew out to California for the show’s taping, missing the opening days of this school year.
Because they were to appear on the show, which was taped on a weekday, the children were tutored for three hours. This legal requirement was unknown to the family before arriving in California.
They were treated well, even getting their own trailer, but they had worked hard since learning in May of 2018 that they had been invited to a taping.
Tens of thousands of people apply to be on the show, Brian said.
“They say it’s easier to get into Harvard then to get onto Shark Tank,” his wife added.
Besides one day having fun at the Santa Monica Pier, Jamie and Brian Ratner spent most of the time perfecting their pitch.
“I don’t think you can understand both the thought and intensity” they put in to create their pitch, which will end up as about five minutes on the actual show.
“It was definitely not a vacation for Jamie and me,” he said.
When asked if they went in hoping to get a particular shark panelist, perhaps Marc Cuban, Kevin O’Leary or Lori Greiner, the couple hinted they had preferences but only said they were open to anyone.
No matter how it ends up, Brian said creating their pitch “actually was a healthy thing for us to do” for the business.
Despite their intense preparation, Jamie admitted she was quite nervous during the shooting.
“I’m not normally a hand holder, but I had a death grip on Brian’s hand to try to keep myself from shaking. It’s definitely an experience I’ll never forget.”
Running CertifiKID was not the future Brian nor Jamie first planned for themselves. Brian is a lawyer and is a partner in a law firm in D.C. He is president of CertifiKID, and the one who came up with the website’s clever name.
Jamie, who grew up in Rockville, majored in criminal justice as an undergraduate before obtaining her master’s degree in security.
She now works full time, asking local businesses for deals and coming up with promotions. The website includes deals on camps and classes, restaurants, entertainment, birthday party activities and products.
Those businesses are willing to offer discounts, because CertifiKID brings in business, she said.
The family plans to watch the show next month with friends and relatives at the Badlands in Rockville.