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Parent Tested Parent Approved: Meet the founder
For parents, there is no such thing as an easy purchase. Whether it’s for a new toy, app, or household appliance, shopping trips are a minefield of potential worries and concerns. Is it safe? Is it suitable? Will it withstand the intense pressures of playtime? These questions don’t always have a simple answer.
As both a parent and entrepreneur, Sharon Vinderine knows this struggle better than most, so she started Parent Tested Parent Approved – a community of parents that do have the answers – or at least some of them. Concerned parents see a seal of approval and have their minds put at rest, while testers receive free products to detail their experiences. It’s a win-win.
Launching back in 2008, PTPA is now a recognized and respected endorsement– particularly in Canada, where it partners with Toys R Us among others. We caught up with founder and CEO Sharon to discuss the business’ growth, what parents should be looking out for, and what’s next for PTPA.
What was the inspiration behind Parent Tested Parent Approved?
I had invented a product called the Kangaroo Towel for babies and I applied for an awards program in the hopes that it would garner me product awareness. The awards company promised that if I spent $3000 with them and won, I would receive all different types of promotional opportunities through magazines, press releases and their web site and would receive valuable feedback from their parent testers.
At the end of the program, I did in fact earn their award, spent another $2500 on their license and received no promotional opportunities and no feedback on my product other than “we like the color”.
In what ways did you set out to be different?
I wanted to make sure that we offered a program that truly gave business a means by which to connect with their target audience in an authentic way. Through television we started a trend of presenting our winners on morning shows across North America and it became a new way for consumers to make their purchasing decisions.
How did you get 70,000 families testing products?
Word of mouth. When we started, we would post on facebook that we had a product for testing and had 6 samples of it and all the parents needed to do would be to sign up to our site to receive the product for free.
Next time we would post, we would receive comments like “I don’t believe anyone gives anything away for free,” and the parents who had the opportunity to test in the past were chiming in with comments validating that in fact PTPA was true to its word. That truly helped spread the awareness.
Also, appearing on shows like The Steve Harvey show, Rachael Ray and Headline News definitely helped build awareness and the number of sign-ups grew exponentially.
Have you had to adapt to the rise of apps and smart gadgets? App stores have very visible review sections
Absolutely. As with any business, you adapt or you die. This business has evolved multiple times with the addition of new services, and with our proprietary review system being redeveloped several times. It’s always a work in progress and we never consider ourselves finished with new business development ideas.
How else have things changed since you started in 2008?
The way consumers make their purchasing decisions has drastically changed. In the past, parents would ask a friend their opinion on a product and purchase based on that opinion. Now they research every product, compare prices on multiple sites, read reviews by bloggers and look for seals of approvals on store shelves, all as part of their decision making process.
To PTPA, that means we need to be found easily by the consumer. We have been working with Toys R Us Canada over the last year in building further awareness of our seal of approval program. They highlight weekly in their flyers each product that has earned the PTPA seal of Approval with our certification mark so that parents can see that Toys R Us truly values their feedback. To us, this is a truly amazing endorsement by Canada’s Toy Store leader.
What advice do you give your parent testers?
We ask parents to be honest, regardless of whether they liked or hated the product. We do not want our seal of approval, that we have worked so hard to develop credibility behind, to lose that credibility simply because a parent was dishonest.
Do you have any particular favorite PTPA toys or products at the moment?
I have always been a fan of the cleaning products which is ironic since I despise cleaning (my husband can attest to that)! Some of my favorite products over the years have included the Shark Steam Pocket Mop, The T-Fal Actifry (best French fries around!), LOL Elmo, Magnetic Stick’n Stack, Little Bits, Sphero and the Dyson humidifier.
What should parents look out for when making a purchase?
Be vigilant when making purchases. When you pick it up and it feels flimsy or poor quality, it likely is. I really love the idea of researching a few key companies that you feel strongly about their products, get to know them and their ethics and if they are in line with your value system, it makes it easy to consider purchasing from them.
Who are your own internet heroes?
I have quite a few Internet Heroes. When it comes to inspiration, I turn to Robin Sharma and my newest favorite, Darren Hardy. They always have a way of helping me see the light at the end of the lonely entrepreneurial tunnel.
When it comes to brands that are making a difference, Telus (a Canadian Communications Company) is one that comes to the forefront of my mind. Specifically because they do so much social good. From free programs about teaching our kids about the dangers of the internet to educating adults on how to make sure their kids are safe online. In addition, I love that they are a mobile provider and they run regular campaigns during the holiday season asking consumers to “disconnect” from their devices and “reconnect” with their family and friends.
What’s next for PTPA?
The world is our oyster. I truly believe that. Our goal in the future is to partner with a strong media partner who can help us further build awareness of our program and help take it to new heights.
To become a parent tester, or to check out the latest parent reviews, visit the Parent Tested Parent Approved website.