Every single weekend, Zachary Potter would find himself with the same question: What should he do with his kids that weekend? There were so many activities geared toward young adults or teenagers, but it was often difficult to know what activities were out there for families.
This perpetual dilemma sparked Potter to be the Co-Founder and CEO of ZuZu For Kids, a Raleigh-based startup that provides parents a website directory of kid-friendly activities for any location. ZuZu is participating in this summer’s Andrews Launch Accelerator at NC State.
The startup began last year when Potter joined forces with Co-Founders Mandi Biondi and David Fine. Biondi brings product management and marketing expertise, while Fine is the lead developer.
Says Biondi, “It can be really challenging to travel with kids in the restrictions that it comes with and the extra planning that it comes with. Taking that and making it a little bit easier for parents, anything that we can do to help parents have a more enjoyable and smooth vacation or activity time with their kids is what we’re looking to do.”
First launched in February of this year, ZuZu has grown from an original founding team of three to a larger organization of eight employees.
“With other people come new ideas and more creativity,” Biondi said. “I think our website has evolved and we’ve added new features to really try to hone in on what is going to be most useful and most serving to parents.”
ZuZu for Kids has already expanded far beyond what it originally intended to do. In addition to searching the site to plan kids’ activities, parents can also make itineraries or find pre-made ones for trips planned anywhere in the United States or Canada. Parents can also connect with each other by posting pictures and reviewing places they’ve been.
And parents get all of this for free since ZuZu is operating with a sponsored ad/post business model for the museums or venues that want greater access to parents. Once ZuZu achieves a larger user base, Biondi said they will also do affiliate marketing and bookings directly on the site.
ZuZu has also grown tremendously already through the Andrews Launch Accelerator, Biondi said.
“We went into the accelerator feeling like, ‘O.K., we’ve got a great product. Now what do we do?’” Biondi said. “Getting into this program has been really helpful because we are learning so much about customer discovery, figuring out where to go from here, and also learning about how to market.”
Overall, NC State has been an incredible resource for ZuZu for Kids, according to Biondi, who said they’ve found pretty much their entire team in NC State grads.
ZuZu for Kids is also taking advantage of the space in coworking community Raleigh Founded. Without being able to meet up there in-person—once they were past the fully remote workdays forced on most of us early in pandemic—Biondi said ZuZu for Kids would never have become such a cohesive team.
“Using this Raleigh Founded space where we get to actually have a space to work together in person has been really useful and I feel like really evolved the relationships among team members,” Biondi said. “The trust and ideas and the creativity is just tenfold since we get to be in person.”
Initially, when ZuZu had just started amid the coronavirus pandemic, the team was not sure how exactly families would return to in-person activities again. But they decided ZuZu was still a good bet to take. So they focused on product development. As time passed, more and more families were getting cabin fever and—as the most acute period of the pandemic began to fade—started once again to explore with their children.
“That was our strategy there: let’s use this Covid time to create a product, and once Covid starts to improve, hopefully people will be even more enthusiastic about finding things to do with their kids,” Biondi said.
Next up for ZuZu for Kids is to solidify its marketing strategy, attracting even more users to the site so more parents can have a social and exciting experience with their children.
“The more users we have, the better the product gets,” Biondi said. “Just like Instagram where the more and more people are on it, the more there is to share, the more there is to discover.”