With the recession has come many things, and one of those certainly is the onslaught of coupon and deal-a-day websites that have surfaced over the past couple years. As consumers reduced spending on discretionary purchases and businesses found themselves with surpluses of slow-moving inventory, innovative bargain shoppers started launching simple websites that posted coupons or limited-time-only deals. Some sites have taken the approach of offering deals across the spectrum, while others target specific markets or demographics, such as sports enthusiasts or Chicago residents.
But while these bargain and coupon sites seem to be the hot space on the internet right now, we were impressed by the number of mom business owners in the 2010 Leading Moms in Business competition who were well ahead of the curve and have been dominating this save-a-buck space for years. In fact, most of the coupon-type sites listed in the ranking—three of which are in the top 10—actually launched before Groupon.com, a popular deal-a-day site that the market is touting as a pioneer.
Take, for example, mom business owner Jana Francis and her Murray, Utah-based Steal Network (ranked No. 3). The idea for the company, which runs BabySteals.com, KidSteals.com and ScrapbookSteals.com, came in late 2006 in her constant search to find good deals on hip and trendy clothes for her kids online. Nicknamed the “Dotcom Princess” by friends and family for her internet bargain-shopping savvy, the mom of three just didn’t have the time or patience.
“I [needed] a website that saved me time and money by bringing me the most popular baby products each day at amazing prices,” says Francis, 36. “And I knew that I could not be alone in [this].” So the soon-to-be mom business owner partnered with a web-savvy entrepreneur and proceeded to launch the first deal-a-day site for baby, maternity and mom products in April 2008 (Groupon didn’t launch till November that year).
From clipping coupons to coupon sites
So what is it about moms and deals? “Deals give moms a high,” explains Francis, referring to the popularity of these types of sites with both mom shoppers and mom business owners. “It’s in a mom’s internal chemistry to say ‘I got a deal,’ and most moms won’t say if they actually paid full price.”
Francis makes a good point—this has always been the case with moms. Many adults today remember when they were kids and their moms would clip coupons from the Sunday newspaper. Today, moms are still looking for the best deals, especially when recessionary budgets are tight, they’ve just moved online for coupons and discounts.
“Moms want deals, and they’re looking online for them,” Francis says, adding that aside from the fact that everything is moving online, shopping on the internet provides moms with the three things they look for in the experience: variety, community and convenience. They can find anything they need, from hardware to clothing; they constantly look to support and advice from other moms, especially mom business owners; and they can do it all without packing the kids in the car and leaving the house, she explains.
Mamabargains.com (ranked No. 4) founder Jessica Singer points to the excitement of the limited-time-only buying process as another reason these types of websites are so popular among both mom shoppers and mom business owners. “The ‘get it before it’s gone’ frenzy that ensues is incredibly fun and exciting for moms,” says the TK-year-old, who started her Salt Lake City business in May 2008. “Scoring the deals is more fun than coupon clipping could ever [be].”
A coupon site with a slightly different concept that was way ahead of the game is HotCouponWorld.com, launched by mom business owner Julie Parrish in 2006 through her West Linn, Oregon, company Coupon Girls LLC (ranked No. 6). The site, along with OrganicGroceryDeals.com, is a user-based community where women can manage their budgets, network with other shoppers, get money-saving tips, print coupons and more.
The idea was the “brainchild” of Parrish’s business partner, Heidi Kennedy, more than seven years ago. “And couponing is my passion,” admits Parrish, 36. “So it started out as just a hobby with 175 members.” Fast-forward through the recession, and the site has more than 250,000 registered users today.
Aside from the fact that moms, especially Parrish, love a good deal, she attributes some of the site’s success to her background in business. The pair had been tracking food prices and shopping patterns for years, and “noticed something was wrong in the economy even before anyone was breathing recession,” she explains. “We were already on a growth curve before the recession set in. It’s simply people learning to live on less.”
Parrish, too, has a point—as people look to save money, these coupon-based and deal-a-day sites are here to stay. And it’s savvy shoppers like these moms who are best suited to find the deals that get people so excited. While more websites like these will surely surface, the volume of mom finalists in this year’s competition is testimony that they were there first, and what helped put them ahead of the curve can’t be discounted—their hankering for finding a good deal.