By JOHN T. WARD
Hoping to turn frustration into gold, two women from the Greater Red Bank Green have taken on the challenge of helping parents identify the best available extracurricular programs for their children.
Think of their online service, called Kidgooroo, as a kind of Yelp for harried moms and dads.
Kidgooroo began taking shape as an idea a year ago, when Rumson resident Alex Skove went looking for non-school lacrosse programs for each of her four children, now aged 9 to 14 years old.
The process was “very frustrating,” she said. Not only were online listings for lacrosse mixed in with results for other sports; there were no authentic voices by which to begin screening them.
“What parents used to do was call each other,”said Skove, 43. But that feedback is “tainted” by each child and parents own experience,” she said. “You’re not getting the aggregate feel.”
What was needed, she said, was a centralized source with a sampling of opinions, along the lines of Yelp or TripAdvisor. On those sites, “you can tell whose opinion you can trust.”
In the absence of that kind of feedback, answering a question like ‘who can teach my kid to play drums?’ or ‘who’s the best local math tutor?’ “actually takes a lot of legwork,” said Skove.
Skove had worked in investment banking and helped several start-ups find their footing, so she decided to create an online solution. She reached out to a friend of a dozen years, Cathy Goldin of Fair Haven, to explore the possibility of a partnership.
Goldin, 51, is a Madison Avenue veteran as a creative director, and was running a marketing firm here in addition to mothering three kids, aged 14 to 10. She was onboard with the idea immediately. A third partner, Alden Miles, is is San Francisco.
After a year of development and beta testing, Kidgooroo launched in September with 2,500 listings and a still-growing roster of activities ranging from cello to stand-up paddleboarding and reviews. The site is free to both businesses and consumers, and expects to make its money on advertising.
Listings include clubs, leagues, individual instructors, as well as established institutions such as Red Bank’s Two River Theater. Reviewers can suggest new categories, as someone interest in bagpipes did recently, said Skove.
While reviews can be displayed under pseudonyms, they can only be posted from true and verifiable account identities, which Skove and Goldin said is important for weeding out those solely meant to puff up or tear down a business. The site offers guidelines for constructive feedback but “we don’t believe in censorship,” said Goldin.
Red Bank-based Kathryn Leigh Music, which provides in-home instruction, is the subject of eight reviews, all of them enthusiastic, by posters using names like “NormalMom” and “CTH288.”
To get Kidgooroo rolling, Skove and Goldin have are using school fundraisers as a foundation for building their review archive, starting with Fair Haven. They make a $1 donation to the school for each review by a parent whose child attends the school.
“It behooves the schools to get kids involved” in extracurricular activities, which are associated with improved classroom performance, said Goldin.
The aim is to “grow it out town by town, school by school” until the site is national in scope. Skove said Kidgooroo expects to cover four states by early in 2017.
In the process, the site fosters a community founded on a sense that “we’re here to help each other,” said Cathy.
Rumson resident Lori Quigley told redbankgreen she turned to the site when her middle-school daughter picked up field hockey.
“It was a new world for us,” she said. “She wanted to play outside of school, but we didn’t know where to begin.” Quigley said she “spent hours asking friends and acquaintances about programs, taking photos of flyers on bulletin boards and emailing coaches.”
Though she’s friends with Skove, Quigley said she thought that “there was no way these guys could have captured all this disconnected, random information. But, sure enough, I plugged in my zip code and saw all of my research and then some, with program philosophies, contact numbers and reviews.”
Goldin said she used it to find ukulele lessons for her son, and “saved myself a week’s worth” of scattershot web searches and phones calls, she said.