Consumerism has changed our world drastically. A new product finds its way onto the devices in your home and every billboard on your morning commute. You can’t escape it.
Add in a bit of Globalism, and it is easy to see how the average family has been inundated with poor quality products.
This is how Sharon Vinderine started her most recent entrepreneurial journey.
Sharon is the Founder and CEO of Parent Tested Parent Approved Media (PTPA Media), a company transforming the consumer journey for millions of families.
PTPA Media’s goal is to put manufacturers in the hot seat by empowering families to be the judge as to whether a product earns the Parent Tested Parent Approved seal. Sending products directly to parents for free, families can judge products in the only testing ground that matters – their home.
Inspired by her vision to evolve the way we shop, we caught up with Sharon to learn more about the humble beginnings of PTPA and how she transformed her business into the success that it is today.
Below are the excerpts from the interview:
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at PTPA media.
I’ve always considered myself a serial entrepreneur. I actually launched the first wireless internet company in Canada in the 90’s, which I sold after the birth of my first child. My next major launch was a baby products company, which coincided with my time as a new mom – it was an interesting position to be in, because while I was struggling to find the right ways to gain traction for my own product line, I was also acutely aware of how important and confusing it was to find the right products for my own kids as a first-time parent. It’s very easy to get caught up in the notion that the most expensive products, or the products with the flashiest promotional campaigns are the must-have products. But after being disappointed with the quality and value provided by some of the choices I had made, I quickly realized the best recommendations I received – the ones that were right on the money, were the ones recommended to me by my peers – other parents – who gave real, honest, unbiased reviews. Those were the products I ended up trusting and relying on most.
As I was making these realizations, to enhance the launch of my own company, I had entered my kids’ product line into an awards program that promised promotional opportunities, brand awareness and research that would provide valuable insights to me as a product developer. I spent thousands of dollars and won the award, but the results were underwhelming, with very minimal insights that would actually help me grow my brand. This was all it took to light my entrepreneurial fire.
From that point, I began to imagine a concept where I could bring my experience as a new parent and the shopping experience together. What if one could walk into a store and at-a-glance, pick a product off a shelf, knowing that it really was the best choice for their family? Of course, we can’t go shopping with 20 of our best friends, but if there was a symbol to show that people just like me truly believed in this product, well, that was the next best thing, right? And that’s how our Parent Tested Parent Approved seal and community were born.
What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?
When you’re a small business, your company is only as strong as the people behind it. Building a team of entrepreneurial-minded colleagues who truly believed in PTPA’s vision took some trial and error, especially considering that building a small business may not come with the same promises of career advancement more typical corporate environments can offer. It took some time, but finding the people who not only understand the value of the service we are providing, but the potential impact we can have as well, was and is worth the effort.
Another core challenge I found was generating initial awareness for the PTPA seal itself. I literally invented a seal out of thin air and then had to build credibility around it for consumers, while convincing businesses that they wanted and needed it on their products in order to move their businesses forward. To drive awareness, I relentlessly pursued print and broadcast media. In fact, my very first TV segment, was on one of the country’s leading National morning shows at the time, and was approved by a Senior Producer who finally relented and offered me the spot if I promised to stop emailing her. Of course, one TV segment turned into highly anticipated monthly segments, which to date has turned into over 300 TV Shows positioning me as a trusted expert and building unprecedented awareness for the seal, which ultimately led to buy-in from multiple major national and boutique brands.
Tell us something more about PTPA and its mission and vision.
With our unique Seal-of-Approval program, our goal is to put the very best products into the hands of North American families and our community, comprising more than 200,000 members. These families are committed to giving honest, constructive product reviews to benefit parents and businesses alike.
In order to earn our seal, products go through rigorous real-life testing in North American households and are critiqued based on factors that really matter to parents – not just the bells and whistles. Parents know that if a product has the PTPA seal, we’ve already cut through the clutter for them and found the best option in the category in terms of value, functionality, quality and more. On the flipside, partnering with us allows businesses to establish credibility and trust and potential for growth, through valuable feedback from real families. It’s truly a win-win for all.
Investing in our communities and supporting each other as parents has also always been one of our objectives. We’re proud to share that to-date, we’ve given away more than 1 million dollars worth of product, which is something we are very proud of.
Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in the brand building niche through your expertise in the market.
Well, we created a seal out of thin air, that became a leading symbol of trust in the marketplace. It became as trusted a resource for product endorsement as a recommendation from your very best friend! We have helped businesses grow not only through earning our coveted Parent Tested Parent Approved seal of approval, but also via additional exposure we have provided them through media coverage on over 300 television shows, cross promotion and more.
We’ve also opened the door not just for big brands with big budgets to help stand out from the crowd, but also for smaller entrepreneurs whose ideas may have been born at kitchen tables between nap times, but are no less relevant and valuable. They are entrepreneurs, just like us, with big ideas and big dreams, and we are thrilled to be a part of their journey.
Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives your organization.
We believe that consumers truly know best when it comes to what they need for their families – they are the toughest critics and to work with us, you really need to believe that and respect it.
Our team is made up of entrepreneurial-minded critical thinkers who wear many hats. Everyone knows their role, but they are also committed to evolving the team and company on a grander scale. We’ve been around for 15 years, yet we operate with the mindset of a start-up – we’re nimble and we’re constantly looking for ways to evolve, while maintaining the integrity of our core values.
Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?
We’re currently in the process of developing a tool that will amalgamate our consumer data and purchasing trends and convert it to an (AI) Artificial Intelligence-based platform to provide even more insights for brands and products. Insights such as data on target demographics and potential success in key markets, in addition to more grassroots product functionality preferences. This platform will offer unparalleled insights for manufacturers looking to develop new products, in addition to those looking to improve existing products based on trending consumer demands.
If given a chance, what change would you like to bring in the marketing industry?
As influencer culture continues to grow, and sponsored content overshadows editorial, we stand by our desire to be honest, authentic and trustworthy. We hope to demonstrate our leadership through these values and encourage companies to look beyond likes and followers when sourcing collaborations for partnerships that can truly help grow businesses with integrity for the long term.
What, according to you, could be the next big change in the business development industry? How is PTPA preparing to be a part of that change?
We believe in the return of authenticity and honesty in the marketplace and we are already walking the walk, not just talking the talk. Consumers are smart and we need to earn their trust before we can earn their dollars. The most valuable tool a company can have today is honesty and transparency. Our entire business model was created from just that and our seal and community have grown rapidly because of it.
We’re also exploring the expansion of our awards program into new categories, and growth through new partnerships like our most recent one with Newsweek and many more on the horizon!
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run and what are your future goals for PTPA?
With the power of our seal and access to our consumer and product data, we believe that every brand that wants to stand out from their competition should be looking to earn the Parent Tested Parent Approved seal as an essential component of their launch strategy.
Another long-term goal is to partner with a larger media conglomerate in the family and parenting space, and position our community and program offerings as an ideal hub for content creation, video and TV production and more!
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the marketing sector?
There is a perception that being an entrepreneur is glamorous, and that good ideas sell themselves. But the idea is just one piece of the puzzle. You have to really believe in what you’re doing, not just on the good days, but the bad days too – and there will be lots of bad days. That belief system is going to be what pushes you day in and day out. Surround yourself with team members who believe in you and your company’s success – but know that they also rely on you, which can bring a high level of anxiety as things change day to day. Ultimately, creating and growing your own business takes lots of work, every day, but if you’ve got that dream brewing inside you, there is no end to the pride and excitement you can open yourself up to by giving it your best shot.