By Sabina Mollot
It was three years ago when Lauren Pohl, a Kips Bay resident and mom, started a website aimed at listing all the elusive classes for kids in the city that she’d discovered were actually kind of hard to find. She learned this one day when Googling music classes for her daughter wound up being an unsuccessful effort, leading to disorganized or otherwise useless information. She was fortunately able to find the information she needed through friends’ recommendations.
However, at the time, Pohl, a corporate attorney who had been doing much of her purchasing online, through sites like diapers.com and FreshDirect, thought to herself that there had to be an easier way to find classes and camps for kids.
When it turned out that there wasn’t, she started her own company, called Kidz Central Station. Since then, what was a one-woman operation has grown into a booming little business with five employees, four of whom are full time. The company’s name is a nod to the Grand Central neighborhood, since in the beginning, the service was focused on the nearby neighborhoods of Murray Hill, Kips Bay and Gramercy.
Recently, Pohl spoke with Town & Village about the site, which has grown to list around 3,000 classes and camp programs taking place around the entire city.
The website, she said, was launched on January 20, 2013, which was a few months after Pohl started work on it. She began by identifying different kid-oriented businesses, and listing them in a way that allows users to search for programs by type like chess, baseball or cooking, and then register for the classes or camps online. There are also filters for days of the week and price.
To monetize the service while catering to small businesses, Kidz Central Station took commissions on the classes that sold, rather than selling banner ads. It’s since grown to also offer marketing services for companies as well, and a new feature on the site is the listings of kids’ party venues.
After launching, Pohl told other parents in her neighborhood, who seemed responsive to the concept.
“We have a strong network of parents and we got the word out gradually,” she said.
The company’s online registration feature wound up being especially attractive to some of the smaller kids’ businesses whose own websites didn’t have functions to sell their classes. But there was also interest from bigger names, too, like Gymboree and the NYU Langone Medical Center.
It was Pohl’s previous job, she said, that helped her transition to becoming the CEO of her own business.
As an attorney in the corporate world, “I saw people buying and selling companies,” she said, adding that many of them were “regular people.” Like any business, Kidz Central Station has its ups and downs in turns of how busy things get, but busier times, when the site gets the most traffic are weekdays, especially throughout the summer.
“The weekends are not so busy,” said Pohl, who guesses that most parents are probably using the site at work.
“I think what I noticed,” she added, “is that parents do everything on their phones. To get Uber cars, to get FreshDirect. This is a natural extension, booking kids’ classes. You’re taking technology to make life easier for busy parents.”
Pohl has two children, Lucy, 6, and Bryce, 3. Her company is online at www.kidzcentralstation.com.