Jamie Ratner knew that whatever happened in the next hour, her life could change forever.
She was standing in front of five multi-millionaires to tape an episode of the ABC reality TV show Shark Tank, in which budding entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to investors known on the show as “sharks.”
Ratner had brought her family startup to the tank: CertifiKID, a website that offers coupons for camps, classes, and activities for children and their families. And now she was asking for $600,000 in exchange for 8 percent equity in her company.
“Walking in was really nerve-wracking. There are no do-overs, they never stop the cameras, and there are so many questions,” says Ratner, who graduated from Northeastern in 2001 with a master’s degree in security management. “We were in there for about an hour, but once I got comfortable it became fun.”
All five sharks were impressed by Ratner’s success, and for good reason. Since its launch in 2010, her company has scored over $30 million in sales. The website has over 1 million subscribers, and offers deals in 12 different U.S. cities.
In the episode, which aired in earlier this month, three sharks made investment offers, but only Kevin O’Leary (also known as “Mr. Wonderful,” a nickname that originated during season one of Shark Tank) seemed open to negotiating his price.
Ratner stood on stage with her husband, Brian, who is president of the company. Brian has a background as a lawyer, so he fiercely negotiated the numbers of the deal with Mr. Wonderful.
Brian was willing to offer a 15-percent share in the company for a $600,000 investment, but Mr. Wonderful said he was drawing a line in the sand at 20 percent. Brian, however, would not let up.
“This will be the best deal you do, we will make you money immediately,” Brian said. The other four sharks smiled, evidently pleased that Brian was standing up to Mr. Wonderful and not letting him bully his way to whatever price he wanted.
“I like your negotiating style,” Mr. Wonderful admitted. “I‘m loving you.”
“So do it!” Brian exclaimed. And finally, Mr. Wonderful decided to inch his toes across his own line in the sand, and offer $600,000 for 19 percent. Brian looked to Jamie one last time for reassurance, and made the deal.
Ratner says she was thrilled that they reached a deal with Mr. Wonderful. “He’s really supportive of mom-owned businesses, and he’s all about saving money,” Ratner says. “He aligned with our values and business.”
In her time at Northeastern, Ratner studied security management, and after graduating, she worked for nearly a decade doing various security-related jobs. In her free time, she enjoyed finding bargains online using websites like Groupon, but noticed there were no discount websites for family activities.
With two children of her own, she realized she might not be the only mom looking for cheaper family experiences.
So Ratner created CertifiKID, and within a month it became her full-time job. After a year she was named one of the DC-area’s top 40 under 40 bright young business leaders by the Washington Business Journal.
After their successful deal on Shark Tank, the Ratners were joined by Mr. Wonderful for an appearance on The View, a popular talk show on ABC. Ratner says that activity on her company’s website exploded after her appearance on the show.
Ratner is also the daughter of a Northeastern graduate, Gary Peyser, who studied industrial engineering and graduated in 1969. He spent most of his career working for the U.S. federal government, and had been retired for five years when his daughter asked if he would help out with her company. Peyser agreed, and became chief financial officer (CFO). In 2016, he was named CFO of the year by the Washington Business Journal.
Ratner says she hopes to expand her company to cover 20 different U.S. cities.
“I think the ultimate goal is to try to have a presence in 20 different cities the way we do in Baltimore and Washington, our strongest locations,” Ratner says. “We want to keep making a real impact for families and business-owners.”