Jamie Ratner, a 1999 Penn State alumna, started a $5 million business from her kitchen table. Back in 2010, Jamie Ratner and her husband Brian, founded CertifiKID, a website that offers exclusive deals for family-friendly activities in major cities like Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.
Nine years later, the Ratner family secured a $600,000 investment on the hit TV show Shark Tank, marking one of shark Kevin O’Leary’s biggest investments in his duration on the show.
Ratner started her time here at Penn State by taking part in the summer session. “Out of all of my time at Penn State this was probably my favorite,” Ratner said, reminiscing about her first summer in Happy Valley.
Ratner graduated in 3.5 years and with a degree in administration of justice. During her time as a student, she went abroad to London and was able to study the criminal justice system there. She also became a member of the Sigma Delta Tau sorority her freshman year. Ratner then went on to earn a master’s degree from Northeastern University.
How does someone make the jump from a background in criminal justice to owning and running a multi-million dollar business? Without a background in business, she was without formal training as she built the company.
The idea for CertifiKID came about during Ratner’s time as a new mom — she was looking for affordable deals for local activities and events she could take her children to. From there, everything about CertifiKID was homegrown.
“I went on Craigslist at the time and I found somebody to do a website,” Rather said. “I picked up the phone book and was calling the local play-gyms and asking the owners, ‘This is the concept, would you be interested?'”
Ratner set goals for herself to track the business’s success. “I had the idea in December/January and my goal was — by May — to have one deal every day for the first month. From the very first deal, we sold vouchers,” she said.
Despite the company’s wild success, the Ratner family has been determined to keep it a family business. After all, that’s what the website is based on families. While running CertifiKID, Brian Ratner has kept his full-time job as an attorney. Jamie, however, was able to quit her day job just 30 days after the website launched.
Ratner said going on Shark Tank was something they had discussed for years. The decision to finally go on the show came after unsuspected growth from a deal on their website for a city outside of their normal limits.
“It came to the point where we ran this deal in a city in Minnesota – and we had no following really in Minnesota – but we partnered with a blogger there who posted the deal on social media and we ended up selling hundreds of getaways,” Ratner said. “Then it really struck in me that there is a huge opportunity on a national scale.”
The deal with shark Kevin O’Leary was just recently finalized. Since the airing of the show, however, Ratner said CertifiKID has roughly 200 new deals on its site and thousands and thousands of new customers.
If Ratner had to summarize the experience in one word, she’d say it was just plain “awesome.”