Of all the affinity networks online, moms may be the largest and are certainly one of the most engaged. At the same time, these women control a disproportionate amount of discretionary spending and are constantly looking for inspiration and utility around the topic of raising kids.
Two women who know first hand the power of this audience are Soleil Moon Frye, aka Punky Brewster, and veteran entrepreneur Kara Nortman, both of whom have two young children (Nortman’s 37 weeks pregnant with her third). Together, they are also the founders of a new mom-focused content and commerce startup Moonfrye, which today announced $2.5 million in Seed funding led by GRP Partners with participation from Greycroft, Daher Capital, and Google Ventures.
Fry has been building an online community at Moonfrye.com for approximately two years where she and a team of contributors have dished out advice and commentary on the joys (and pains) of parenthood to a large and highly engaged audience. Although site traffic figures are not public, Moonfrye has accumulated 1.5 million Twitter followers and more than 500,000 Facebook fans. With the addition of Nortman last summer, first as an advisor and then as a partner and CEO beginning in February, the company is evolving to offer digital and physical DIY (do-it-yourself) craft experiences to families.
Soleil and Nortman, like moms everywhere, struggled to find convenient, engaging, and educational activities for their kids both during the everyday, and during long car rides, airplane trips, or the dreaded alone time with dad. After gathering ideas and suggestions from the Moonfrye audience, the pair are confident that they’ve arrived something unique and compelling – they’re just not ready to tell anyone what it will look like.
Moonfrye will launch its mobile app this summer, at which time the product will become clear. What we know at this stage is that the focus will be on children and parents creating and sharing together in new ways that “favor process over outcome.” The product will also focus on the combination of both digital and physical creation. Oh, and stickers. There will be stickers.
“If moms are shutting off passive entertainment in favor of engaging their kids actively on mobile devices then we have made our small dent on society,” Nortman says.
This is not Frye’s first family oriented venture. Previously, she co-founded what she calls the first eco-friendly baby store in LA, The Little Seed. Later, she developed a product line exclusively for Target and is currently the big box retailer’s Mommy Ambassador. She also is a regular contributor to The Today Show on the topic of parenting, and has written two books on the subject titled “Happy Chaos,” and “Let’s Get This Party Started” (to be published in October). In other words, this is not her first rodeo.
Norton, on the other hand, has digital media and technology in her bones. Most recently, the Stanford MBA and Princeton alum was the SVP Consumer Businesses for IAC-owned Citygrid Media, where she oversaw the Citysearch, Urbanspoon, and Insider Pages products, reaching a combined 35 million consumers per month. Prior to that, she ran mergers and acquisitions for the company.
In addition to attracting investment from GRP’s Mark Suster and Google’s Kevin Rose among other prominent media investors, the company has assembled an advisory board consisting of Chegg CEO Dan Rosensweig, author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, former Facebook Marketing Director Randi Zuckerberg, former Ning co-founder and CEO Gina Bianchini, Apple Senior Manager Erik Lammerding, and BranchOut founder and CEO Rick Marini.
As Moonfrye has demonstrated over its first two years, content publishers who can speak authentically to the mommy crowd have the opportunity to develop highly engaged and loyal audiences. Similarly, ecommerce channels that can deliver targeted goods and experiences within the category have proven highly profitable. By combining both, and addressing the very real pain point of keeping children engaged while not melting their brain through mindless video games or cartoons, Moonfrye has the opportunity create a truly beloved brand.