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Macaroni Kid Keeps Parents In The Loop

by Gene Marrano

Geared largely towards children and their moms, a website and accompanying e-mail blasts called “Macaroni Kid” has arrived on the scene, featuring a calendar of family-friendly events and special deals for free subscribers. Macaroni Kid is a franchised operation; in Roanoke former teacher Jamie Clark, a mother of two young children herself, oversees its operation. There are more than 400 Macaroni Kid websites around the country, including Lynchburg and the New River Valley. Territories are protected.

“Its mostly me [doing the work],” said Clark, who has started to receive input as to what events she posts on the site ( Visitors to the website will find out about events going on around town, from Mill Mountain Zoo to the Taubman Museum, from book fairs to family movies at libraries. They can also sign up to receive occasional e-mail blasts from Clark about event reminders and special deals.

Ticket giveaways and other free offers are used to promote local companies. “It’s really all about keeping things local and giving families something to do,” said Clark, who had a booth at the recent Earth Day activities in Grandin Village.

Those deals are largely geared towards mothers, who constitute about 90% of the 1200 or so subscribers at this point, according to Clark. Discounts at local spas and gyms can be found, and the site offers more bargains, sort of a Groupon spin-off being test marketed in places like Roanoke. There’s a separate e-mail list for Macaroni Deals, which focuses on local businesses. Clark started the Roanoke Macaroni Kid site last October. “Now more and more businesses and organizations are definitely contacting me about their events coming up.”

She still does plenty of research however: “I do the work so other parents don’t have to.”  Clark promotes her growing subscriber base when she approaches a local business about coming aboard; many see it as a “golden opportunity. The families that Macaroni Kid [target] is perfect for so many businesses in this area. Most are very excited to help.”

There are fathers and grandparents among the mostly-mom subscriber base; many have more than one child, from 1-15 years old. “I try to put as many events [on the site] that covers those ages,” said Clark. She sends out the newsletter via e-mail every Tuesday.

Roanoke is among the top-25 Macaroni Kids sites in the country in terms of subscribers and currently receives more than 20,000 page views a month, some times 1000-2000 per day. “Lots of people are checking out the site … there are so many families here,” said Clark (35, a stay at home mom with 3 and 5 year old sons), who likes to work with locally owned firms.

She makes many by working with local sponsors and encourages them to use Facebook as a way to link to Macaroni Kid subscribers, the website and its own Facebook page. Facebook has been a big help in promoting her business and Macaroni Kid, even as Clark admits that at her age she’s “right on the cusp of not getting it.” But she soldiers on, determined to make Roanoke a more kid and family-friendly place, and more connected. “I love it,” said Clark, who adds new subscribers every day.


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