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Parents have help keeping the kids entertained

Rochester Business Journal
October 26, 2012

When Debra Ross started KidsOut-andAbout.com in 2001, she saw it as a simple community website.
 
KidsOutAndAbout.com still is a community website. But now it also is a mainstay in eight communities around the country, with potentially more to follow.
 
A native of New Jersey, Ross started out working for a mail-order publishing company in New York City. Through her work with the company, Ross learned the ins and outs of Mail Order Management software.
 
She became so proficient with software that she decided to start her own consulting firm to teach companies how to use it in 1994.
 
Around the same time, she met her husband, David, who was working at Eastman Kodak Co. Ross decided to move her consulting firm to Rochester.
 
"I totally fell in love with Rochester," Ross says. "I realized that I never wanted to leave. And once I had kids, I knew this was where I was staying."
 
It was during the pregnancy with her second daughter in 2001 that Ross' vision for KidsOutandAbout.com took shape. She would routinely discover an abundance of local activities for children. The only problem was that she kept finding out about them after they had happened.
 
"I thought there ought to be one website that compiles all these events for people," Ross says. "The Internet was in its infancy back then, so I figured I'd give it a shot."
 
Ross began building the website and its calendar. She called local children's organizations and persuaded them to post their events on KidsOutandAbout.com. Ross says it was not long before the website took off.
 
"Things began to build momentum almost completely by word of mouth," she says. "Here in Rochester, we like to celebrate what we have and take a positive spin on things. I thought of myself as a tour guide to the best that an area has to offer."
 
In 11 years, the Rochester version of KidsOutandAbout.com has grown to 300,000 unique visitors and 1.6 million page views each year. Ross also produces an email newsletter each week that goes out to 10,000 readers in the Rochester area.
 
Ross says KidsOutandAbout.com is finding success in other cities. The website launched in Albany, its second market, in 2010 and then expanded to Buffalo and Fairfield County, Conn.
 
Most recently, KidsOutandAbout.com expanded into four more cities-Houston, Salt Lake City, St. Louis and Ann Arbor, Mich.
 
Ross currently runs the company with her two partners, Steve Gordon, who is chief technology officer, and June Santini, vice president of business operations. KidsOutandAbout.com hires independent contractors in each of the new cities to act as content editors and sales managers.
 
Ross says KidsOutandAbout.com generates revenue from online ads. She plans to launch the website in 10 more cities next year. It takes about one year of promotion and marketing before the website starts to make money in a new city, but Ross says it is well worth the wait.
 
"It's a get-rich-slow business model," she says. "But it's a lot of fun and I love doing it. It's a really, really fun way to get rich slow."
 
Small Business is a weekly feature focusing on entrepreneurs. Send suggestions for future Small Business stories to Associate Editor Smriti Jacob at sjacob@rbj.net.10/26/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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