Noozhawk Talks: Leslie Dinaberg Sits Down with Rachael Steidl
Recognizing the need for a centralized place for parenting information in Santa Barbara, Rachel Steidl created SBParent.com , which quickly became an indispensable resource for parents when it launched in 2002. Part Internet portal, part calendar and part bulletin board, today her business not only serves locals, it’s also the model for 18 other cities that have licensed the ParentClick.com technology.
LD: How did SBParent start?
RS: I was watching the frustration of how much work it was for parents to find resources. When I looked into it and tried to find out why it was so hard to get information, one of the things I realized was that advertising is so expensive and most businesses can’t afford to do it. My goal was to bring all of that word-of-mouth information under one central spot by making it affordable for businesses and nonprofits.
LD: How is ParentClick different than SBParent?
RS: Prior to (starting ParentClick ) we were getting a lot of inquiries from people wanting to know how to get something like this going in their community. So we looked at what we had done over the last three years and decided we could help fast-forward them getting to where SBParent has gotten to by not having to do so much of the learning. So we created ParentClick. What we do is provide service agreements to these territory owners, which builds the technology for them, the Web site, gives them training and ongoing support, but they are in actuality their own business.
LD: So is it a franchise?
RS: It’s not a franchise in the sense that they have their own business name, their own business model, they set their own pricing. We’ve also expanded services for people who don’t have it in their city. We added travel with kids, children’s book and movie reviews, the recipe club and articles.
LD: Have you found that the other sites are different from Santa Barbara?
RS: It’s up to each territory whether they want it to make money and if they’re going to do sales, but to me, no matter what — and I have committed to this since the day I started, whether I was getting a check or not — is there will always be information for parents so that itÕs not a waste of their time. Some territories are definitely stronger than others in terms of the consistency with which they are posting information.
But on SBParent, new information is going up every single day. When I was in Greece this summer I was posting information — we just don’t ever stop, because to me it’s a business, but we always look at it from the parent perspective.
I would rather talk a potential owner out of doing the site than take a check from them for the wrong reasons.
LD: Is it still mostly a solo operation?
RS: Locally Julie Sorenson helps me, and she is really a huge, huge part of SBParent. But ParentClick has been solo. But we’re hiring.
My daughter said to me the other day, ‘”Mommy,” because she always told me she’s going to do my site when she grows up. She says, “I don’t know if I’m going to do SBParent.com when I grow up. I just think it’s too much work.”
LD: How and when do you work?
RS: My standard working hours, now that all my kids are in school, are really 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. I’ve gotten really disciplined, even though I still work out of the home, at not working on anything going on in the home — just working.
From 2 to 8 p.m. are my mom hours and then from 8 p.m. to midnight are usually work hours again. My kids’ biggest complaint is my pulling up to pick them up from school on my cell phone, because I am literally doing calls until I pick them up. One of the things I tell a lot of the territory owners, as wonderful as it is working from home and as wonderful as it is being your own boss, it’s no less work — actually, I think it’s a lot more juggling — it’s just that you get to control what those hours are.
I would not change it for the world because I get to be at all my kids’ things. To me it’s worth working at night to be able to have that time with the kids during the day.
LD: Do you ever think it would be easier to have a job with set hours?
RS: Sure, but the funny thing is that even on my worst day where I’ll look at the big picture and go, did I make a mistake growing the company, did I make a mistake starting a business, I look at how itÕs affected people and the e-mails we get or the great conversations with some of our territories, and I think, you know what I love what I do.
Vital Stats: Rachael Ross Steidl
Birthdate and Place: July 17, 1970, Los Angeles
Family: Twins Ashley and Whitney, 9, and Emily, 5; husband Jamie.
Civic Involvement: Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, board president; Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, oversight committee; Santa Barbara Foundation, Katherine Harvey Fellows; Junior Philanthropists, Fund for Santa Barbara; Hope School PTA.
Professional Accomplishments: Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year, 2007; 40 under 40, Pacific Coast Business Times; ParentClick.com is now licensed in 18 cities, with more on the way
Little Known Fact: Rachael’s parents had a great cookware store in Santa Barbara in the late 1970s-80s called D. Crosby Ross, which was a cross between Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma.