Are you overwhelmed when searching after school activities and camps for your children?
By Micaela Williamson
Two local moms were tired of scouring the internet and beyond to find extracurricular activities for their own children, and created the award-winning Activity Rocket website. I chatted with the founders, Ilene Miller & Lisa Friedlander, about the website, its recent expansion into the NoVA area and more in my interview below:
Why did you feel the need to create the Activity Rocket website?
With 5 kids between us, we were frustrated that we could make our dinner reservations in minutes on Open Table, but when it came to finding soccer or ballet for our kids – you had to talk to 5 friends, spend hours on the internet looking for classes and camps, compile all of the information you found into complex spreadsheets to make sure you didn’t double book kids into classes or camps, fill out redundant registration forms for each kid for each activity year after year and write tons of checks.
We imagined a one stop for moms – where you could search for classes by the criteria most important to you – days, dates, time, price, location or activity type and easily share what you found with your kids friends – because let’s face it – kids like to do activities with their buddies. Moreover once mom (or dad) found the perfect class or camp, we wanted them to be able to sign up using a “common registration” form – one that could live in their dashboard on our website and be reused every time they signed their kids up for an activity so they would not have to retype the same information over and over again. And best of all, we wanted parents to be able to pay for multiple kids and multiple camps and classes shopping cart style in one transaction.
How does Activity Rocket work?
The BETA site launched fall 2011 is a dynamic search engine that enables parents to search for classes and camps like swimming, lacrosse, ceramics and animation by activity type, schedule, price and location. Parents can also browse by special needs to find classes and camps that will either make accommodations for all kinds of children or target special needs kids specifically. PTAs can browse by activities at schools to identify metro DC businesses that will bring their activities to your school to enhance your after school program. The site is also has amazing deeply discounted deals, parent ratings and reviews, a blog full of expert advice, planning and calendaring tools, and so much more.
What made you decide to expand the site to include Northern Virginia?
Demand! We launched in Montgomery County, MD and soon after friends, parents and local businesses were ringing to ask when we would be expanding into NOVA (and DC, Chicago and San Diego). That’s when we knew we had struck a chord with parents and businesses by making a traditionally slow, disconnected process much more efficient using modern technology and little mom ingenuity. We are growing with Rocket speed. If you are a parent – check out the website and share this FREE resource with friends, neighbors, schools, churches and the like – they will thank you for making them a super mom! And if you are a business, please contact us to climb onboard. We have more than 200 businesses already on the Rocket in NOVA and more coming on every day. If you offer dance, sports, academic enrichment and the rest – Rocket is your ticket for connecting with registration ready parents.
Describe the inspiration behind creating the “Special Needs” section of your website?
We each have special needs kids with learning and other disabilities. Illene’s son has a rare tumor called a hypothalamic hamartoma that causes epilepsy. He was diagnosed at age 4 and is now 11. Finding classes and camps that will accommodate him was a struggle, and we felt incredibly empathy for all of the parents that are struggling to enrich their kids that might have special needs. There are many businesses that will make accommodations or even offer special programming but there is no easy way to connect the dots. We connect the dots!
Do you have any plans for future expansion or additional website features?
We will be relaunching Activity Rocket Summer 2013 and will basically put the website and all of its functionality on steroids for both our parents and our nearly 400 local businesses. While the beta site connects parents to right activity at the right time and goes a long way to disrupt this time consuming process, “Rocket 2.0″ will realize our vision for the ultimate one stop for mom – where mom can search, compare, share, find, and buy her classes right on the spot.
Find out more at www.activityrocket.com.
Micaela Williamson is a co-author of local travel guide, Kid Trips Northern Virginia, an extraordinary resource that provides descriptions, useful information and insider tips for hundreds of local destinations. Micaela is also an award winning blogger who enjoys supporting area businesses and scouting out family-friendly venues with her two young sons.
Tags: Activity Rocket, Activity Rocket Summer 2013, Chicago, epilepsy, Family, Family Features, hypothalamic hamartoma, Ilene Miller, interview, Kid Trips Northern Virginia, Lisa Friedlander, Maryland, Micaela Williamson, montgomery county, Northern Virginia, Northern Virginia Magazine, NoVA, Rocket 2.0, San Diego, Washington D.C