They call their dynamic “a Lucy and Ethel relationship,” but unlike many of Lucy’s harebrained ideas, Joyce Shulman found an unfulfilled niche in her concept for an extremely local, free, online newsletter for kid and family-friendly activities in the Hamptons. With her Ethel, Bridgehampton-resident Nicki Hemby, working by her side and Shulman’s husband Eric Cohen, in a year-and-a-half their business — Macaroni Kid — has become a go-to resource for parents on the South Fork and beyond. “Publisher moms” nationwide are operating their own Macaroni Kid websites ensuring parents will never have to worry about what to do on a rainy Saturday again.
Macaroni Kid began over dinner and a bottle of wine at Shulman’s Water Mill home. Hemby, recently returned to the East End after living in Florida, was once employed by Shulman and met with the mother of two to catch up after several years a part.
“I had not seen her in seven years and within an hour-and-a-half we had started a business,” said Shulman.
The idea had been in the back of Shulman’s mind for several years. As a mother herself, she saw a need for a “hyper-local,” weekly resource for parents looking for activities, classes and programming for their children.
“Busy moms and parents do not have time to parse through it all,” she said. “I believed if we built it, they would come.”
Hampton Kid debuted in May of 2008, but quickly, after garnering great reviews from local parents, Shulman, Cohen and Hemby realized creating a way to market this to other communities, and other parents, was possible without taxing the time of the already busy trio.
“The key element was to find terrific publisher moms,” said Shulman. “It allows these moms to build their own business and one of my favorite things is we are building an incredible network of publisher moms. They are single mothers, they are married, they are breast cancer survivors, they worked and are now at home, or have always stayed home with their kids.”
Macaroni Kid has so far included over 50 publisher moms. In addition to the Hamptons Macaroni Kid, there is Manhattan East Side Macaroni Kid, a San Fernando Valley Macaroni Kid, a San Diego Macaroni Kid and a Wichita Macaroni Kid, and that is just to name a few. According to Hemby, the company is reeling in two to three new publisher moms a week.
“A lot of it is word of mouth,” she said. “When you are getting something you like as a parent and you are happy, you tell your friends about it.”
Publisher moms are responsible for their local content and Hemby provides them with weekly suggested content that applies to parents and kids nationwide, for instance this week’s piece on flu prevention, or arts and crafts activities and book reviews. Publisher moms decide what of that they wish to publish.
“We don’t want to be down their throats about it,” said Shulman. “We try to be as supportive as we can be. We do encourage our publisher moms to publish every week, ideally on the same day and time so you become what parents rely on and that is when they really start sharing your service with their friends.”
Shulman said Macaroni Kid is hopeful for its first publisher dad, and already boasts what she calls publisher-mimis – grandmothers running their own Macaroni Kid website.
Publisher moms pay the company a monthly hosting fee of $59 for which they also receive technical support from Cohen, who also recruits new moms into the business. From there, any additional revenue the site earns from its nine available advertising slots is the publisher mom’s to keep.
“We have publisher moms who like the platform and don’t aggressively pursue advertising and we have publisher moms who are in it to make some money,” said Shulman. “They set their own rates and we are here if they need us for any advice.”
Macaroni Kid does require its sites to comply with privacy guidelines and asks that content be restricted to kid and family-friendly editorial. It also, said Shulman, aims to be inclusive of all kinds of families.
One aspect of the Hamptons Macaroni Kid both Hemby and Shulman hope to expand on is focusing on the individual achievements of local children.
“Please, let us know about your kids,” said Hemby. “We want to highlight their accomplishments.”
While the Macaroni Kid offices in Water Mill may be a little hectic in the summer, Shulman, Cohen and Hemby maintain a focus on their own children, in addition to the schedules of children across the South Fork.
“Nicki is an extrodinary mother and she gives very sage advice and part of it is to not sweat the small stuff,” said Shulman. “You are not doing your kids any favors by making sure all things are perfect and you don’t have to worry about them every second of the day. They are okay.”
“And if not, you’ll get a call,” laughed Hemby. “Just keep checking your phone.”
For more information on Hamptons Macaroni Kid, visit hamptons.macaronikid.com