Dawn Scheurle always enjoyed dining at various restaurants, but once she had children, that became a challenge.
Sure, cost was a factor, but, more than that, it was difficult for the mother of three to learn which restaurants offered deals on kids meals. Scheurle figured if she was looking for this information, other moms probably were, too, and the idea for KidsEatOut.com was born.
When it launched, visitors to the website could learn not only which Columbus area restaurants have days when kids eat free, but also whether there are age restrictions or purchase requirements.
“From there it expanded to include reviews of all kinds of Columbus area restaurants, not only those places that offered kids deals because, to be honest, it would be pretty limiting to only go to restaurants who had a ‘Kids Eat Free’ night,” Scheurle says. “I looked and looked for reviews of restaurants and found a lot of stuff, but nothing that pertained to the specific needs of families. The ‘toasty and flaky bun and complementing rich and acidic accents from mayo, pickle, and tomato’ may be amazing, but if they don’t have crayons, I won’t have time to taste it!
“Our reviews are designed to provide all the information that busy families need to know before they try a new restaurant with their kids− information such as whether restaurants welcome families, have changing tables, activity sheets, high chairs, kids menus, and all those things parents need to make eating out fun for everyone involved.”
Read on to learn where Scheurle turned for help when launching her business, the biggest challenge she’s faced (and continues to face) as an entrepreneur, and what has turned out to be a “really pleasant and welcome surprise.”
Melanie McIntyre: KidsEatOut.com went live in 2009, correct?
Dawn Scheurle: Yes, although the seeds for it were planted back in 2006 when I bought the domain name and registered with the state. It took much more time than I anticipated, so it had to stay on the back burner until my youngest started pre-school.
MM: How long did it take you to develop your restaurant database?
DS: It has definitely developed over time. I launched the site once I had 20 reviews and 20 places with “Kids Eat Free” nights. We don’t go out every night of the week, so it took a little while to gather the information.
MM: Are you still adding restaurants to the database?
DS: We usually add new restaurant reviews weekly. It just depends on how busy we are. We add new deals as soon as we find them or hear about them from our site visitors and Facebook fans. Right now we have almost 50 reviews, 35 MomsEat2 reviews, and well over 60 kids eat free or cheap restaurants.
MM: What’s the “MomsEat2” section about?
DS: Moms are people too! And they like to go out on date nights, girls’ nights, and lunches occasionally without the kids. MomsEat2 is a place were we review restaurants without thoughts of children! Happy Hours, romantic spots, and fun places for lunch with friends all find a home here.
MM: The site also features kids menus for several restaurants in the area. Have you published menus for all the restaurants that offer deals for kids?
DS: Not yet. This page is relatively new. We are constantly looking for ways to make the site more valuable to our visitors. Through some feedback we received and our own experiences, we decided it would be beneficial to let our readers know what to expect on the kids menus before they went to a particular restaurant. Parents today are really conscious of what their children are eating and want options other than chicken nuggets and fries− although that’s what my youngest gets wherever we go!
Many restaurants provide healthy choices and a good variety of options. And if a restaurant is providing a menu for children, we, as parents, appreciate that and want to share it with our readers. While many restaurants include a menu on their website, most do not include their kids menu there.
MM: Tell me a bit about the “FabFinds” section.
DS: FabFinds is a little bit of everything. One day it may be a great child safety item we stumble upon, another day it might be a list of great eclubs for saving money while dining out, or a one-day deal −free Starbucks or National Ravioli Day, who knew?!− and still another may be a review of a local water park. It’s a place to share great information. And sharing information is what we moms do.
MM: Do you have any site traffic statistics , like how many visitors you get per month or per week?
DS: We average around 350 visitors per week, so in a month we have over 1,500 local Columbus area moms researching where to go out to eat with, and without, their families on our site. We also have a very active Facebook page with over 500 fans.
MM: Now I have some general questions about starting a small business. What resources did you use to get up and running?
DS: Not many! My husband agreed to let me dip into our savings in order to get the website up and running, from website development to hosting. From that point on, it was time and research. Time to research Columbus area restaurants and time to research how to start a business.
The Internet has been an invaluable information gathering tool. Type in “How to start an online business” and you would be amazed at all the information that is right at your fingertips. That is how I found out about the Small Business Administration, SCORE, and the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center−all great resources for starting a business in Columbus.
MM: Did you rely on any local advisers, role models, or mentors for advice and input?
DS: I found out about the state requirements for starting a business through the SBA of Ohio. I met with someone from SCORE who helped me to focus and develop a business plan. My brother runs his own business, so he was not only an inspiration, he was a great source of information and referrals. I have also taken advantage of many of the DEC’s programs.
One of the best things I have learned from this whole process is that entrepreneurs are pretty amazing and giving people. Almost everyone I have come into contact with is willing to help or give advice because someone did that for them when they were just starting out. It has been a really pleasant and welcome surprise. I hope to be able to give back someday as well.
MM: What has been the biggest business challenge you’ve faced since starting the site and how did you overcome it
DS: The balancing act. Not only the balance between my business and my family, but also the balance between running and developing a site that people will use and benefit from, which I love, and making a profit while doing it! “Overcoming” this challenge is a constant. It’s amazing to me how many different things go into running a successful business. You may have a great idea, but as a solopreneur, you have to wear all of the hats −from technology to accounting to social media to marketing…it goes on and on. It definitely isn’t “If you build it, they will come.”
In attending networking events and business seminars, in person and online, I am learning how to balance all the things that need to be done to run a successful business. It also really helps to realize this is a common challenge among business owners− actually doing your business, gaining awareness, and gaining customers!
MM: What is the most rewarding aspect of owning your own business?
DS: When I made my first banner ad sale, I would have told you that was it. A business thought that this site I built was worth spending their advertising money on. Woo hoo! I was pretty excited. But when that same business renewed their advertising campaign, that was better. The first time they took a chance on it. The second time, they knew what they were getting and they wanted more. That is rewarding!
I have to say that the feedback I get from the people who use the site is one of my favorite things. I love hearing from people, either through the website or through Facebook, that they got the deal I posted, or they totally agreed with our review, or they just want to say thanks for the information. It’s amazing for me to think that people I don’t even know are reading and using the information I am putting out there.
Oh, and I am totally a statistics junky. I love looking at how many hits, clicks, and views all the pages on KidsEatOut get!
MM: Is there anything else you think I should know?
DS: Eventually I plan to redesign the site a bit to allow visitors to review and comment on local restaurants. It would be great to hear from other families about their experiences at the vast array of Columbus area restaurants!