Brian and Jamie Ratner have a lot going on. The husband-wife duo are parents to two teenagers; the recent co-authors of ParentPreneurs: A Decade of Deals from a Messy Minivan; and the founders of CertifiKID, a 12-year-old web-based business that offers families discounts at nationwide locations, ranging from summer camps to amusement parks to farm festivals. Backed by Shark Tank investor Kevin O’Leary, CertifiKID is the kid-friendly version of Groupon. We talked to the Ratners about working together, parenting and one of their smartest business decisions.
Where did the idea for CertifiKid come from?
Jamie: I was in charge of security management at a law firm, and I had a blog on the side related to food and fitness—just what my interests were. I stumbled upon the company Groupon when it was first starting and I loved the concept, but it was all spas and restaurants. I had just had two little, little kids and wasn’t going to spas and restaurants. But I loved the concept, so I presented the idea to Brian on a drive. By the end of our drive, we had mapped out the business idea, and we were all in.
How do you support each other while working together?
Brian: We have had this amazing experience of being able to share something together professionally that I think has been really unique and enriching between us, but also for our family. We’ve written a book about this now, but it’s been a unique process for us of mixing marriage and parenting with business.
Let’s talk a little bit about the book. What was that writing process like?
Jamie: I love to write, so it was super fun for me. For 12 years, I’ve been just racing, especially having two kids. I haven’t had a chance to really reflect on these past 12 years, so the writing process allowed me to do that, which was really fun.
What do you splurge on with the business and where do you save?
Jamie: Well, we’ve never had an office, and that, I was very strong about. Brian kept saying, “We’ve got to get an office; you’ve got to get an office.” And I think that was probably one of our smartest decisions—especially during COVID. We were used to functioning remotely, so we did great throughout the pandemic. It didn’t really impact the way we work. So that’s a huge savings.
Brian: When we launched, we tried to do it on a shoestring because we didn’t know if this was going to be something that was going to succeed. So we didn’t invest enough in the technology out of the gate. And that just required us to invest a lot more later to clean up everything that we had not done initially. So, therefore, where we have splurged, no penny has been left unspent since then in terms of trying to build the technology side of what we’re doing.
Is there anything that you wish you had invested in when you first started your business?
Jamie: Maybe expansion quicker. In some ways, I attribute that to why we succeeded—that we were slower. But, there are still some parts of me that question, “If I had just invested in a couple more people, could we have grown a little faster and then a little more?” But I’m very risk averse.
How do you balance being parents and entrepreneurs?
Jamie: I think it’s integrating everything. It’s using that time when we’re driving to soccer games or sitting around waiting for the game to start. I have my computer with me, so we can take advantage of that time together to have discussions we need to have. Even our kids are exposed to us talking. They’ve learned a lot from hearing us on these drives as we’re constantly in the car going to soccer games.
Kevin O’Leary is one of your investors and business partners. What’s that relationship like?
Brian: It’s great. He and his team are our only investors. When we went on Shark Tank, we didn’t have external investment in this company because we were profitable in the first year and just reinvested and always thought about doing that. We were a great fit for him because we were a very mature business, so we had very strategic and specific needs. We didn’t need a lot of hand-holding, and we’re profitable, and he likes that. So, when we need things, we’re very specific and targeted with what we need, and as a result, he and his team are super responsive. They’ve created amazing opportunities for us. We’ve gone on The View. We’ve had a Facebook Live series with Tan France. [O’Leary has] given us really great advice, and we’ve done things with his other Shark Tank companies and partnerships. He also wrote the foreword for our book.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photos courtesy Brian and Jamie Ratner