Surprise Ride is disrupting the toy industry!

PYMNTS recently spoke to our very own Rosy Khalife on how Surprise Ride has upended, and brought innovative change to the toy industry. See what Rosy had to say below, and check out the full article on PYMNTS here.

Warby Of X: Surprise Ride, The Warby Parker Of Toys

By PYMNTS January 19, 2017

It seems as though children are stuck like glue to digital devices. Many parents admit it. They say, “We didn’t grow up that way,” but they aren’t sure how to pull their kids away from those screens.

Surprise Ride has an idea. Send the child a monthly subscription box packed with activities, games and projects — both educational and pure fun — that will have them playing and learning in the real world. The Washington, D.C.-based company is headed up by two sisters, Rosy and Donna Khalife, who said it wasn’t until later in life that they discovered that not every child has a crafty parent. Luckily for them, their father is a full-time artist who taught them many things about art, innovation and creativity, and now, the two sisters have shared that with the world.

For as little as $24 per month, a special personalized box will arrive at the child’s home ready to entertain and teach. There is a subscription — six or 12 months — or the option for a single box. Surprise Ride has been favored by thousands of families and even caught the eye of Kevin O’Leary on ABC’s show “Shark Tank.” The company was featured first in the typical pitch format on the show but then also, months later, when fans wrote in wondering what happened to the sisters and their company.

Rosy Khalife, chief operating officer and cofounder of Surprise Ride, spoke to PYMNTS about the founding of the company, what is was like on “Shark Tank” and what’s next as the company expands and puts more smiles on children’s — and parents’ — faces.

PYMNTS: So, tell us, what is the overview of Surprise Ride?

RK: We create activities that get kids to put away the iPad and play with things in the real world. Every month, activities, games, books, acts and whatnot all come delivered in one package to the child. It’s addressed in their name because kids love to receive mail. Each month, it’s focused around a certain theme that’s educational. One month, the child can be learning about volcanoes — building a volcano to make it erupt and really diving deep into that world — and the next month, they’ll be learning about Picasso, and they’ll do an activity about Picasso and learn about his life. Every month, it’s a different theme, and it’s always educational, and it’s always fun for the child.

It’s really meant to get them to do things in the real world with their hands — tactile learning and hands-on learning. Kids these days are doing a lot more digital and screen time, and they’re just growing up very different than how kids grew up, say, 10 years ago, 20 years ago. So, we’re trying to get back to that in having them do things that are in the real world.

PYMNTS: You and your sister founded the company. How did you come up with this?

RK: My sister and I started the company, really, because we were inspired by our own childhood.

Our dad is a full-time artist — and still is — and is very, very talented. Growing up, we had a different childhood than kids, which we later found out. We always assumed that kids everywhere had a “crafty parent” at home, and we later learned that that wasn’t the case. We did experiments with him. He was very innovative even in his way of doing art. So, we are always kind of helping him with his projects at home. That really influenced the way that our outlook was growing up and influenced us as people.

Now, we have two nephews — we have a third sister — and we realized that how we grew up is not how kids grow up now. They don’t always have an artist at home who can really facilitate these types of projects. So, we started Surprise Ride as a way to do that for kids that is educational and fun. It usually utilizes the left and the right brain, and it’s delivered to them easily so parents don’t have to run out to the craft store or spend hours on Pinterest trying to come up with these activities.

PYMNTS: How much does it cost per month?

RK: It’s $24 a month, and we have a couple of different plans. There’s a monthly plan, a six-month plan and a 12-month plan. And for folks who just want to try the product out or just send it for a birthday gift, there is a one-time box that they can purchase.

PYMNTS: Can you share about how many customers you have?

RK: We have thousands of users across all 50 states, and we have plans to roll out into Canada.

PYMNTS: Have you gotten external funding?

RK: We have. We’ve raised $2.5 million from an investor named Irwin Jacobs, the founder of Qualcomm. We are lucky to have him as an investor. And another investor of ours is Kevin O’Leary from “Shark Tank.”

PYMNTS: What can you share about the experience on “Shark Tank?”

People are always interested, and they asked us a lot about our experience on “Shark Tank.”

Our experience has kind of been a more unconventional one. We were part of an accelerator program when we first started the company. Part of that, they would tell us every day, you’re supposed to try 10 ways in terms of marketing. Every day, we would sit there and try to brainstorm how we are going to grow this company. And some of our ideas are more wacky than others.

One day, we added on there: go on “Shark Tank.” We thought that was super farfetched and super difficult, but we ended up emailing one of the producers — just cold emailing him about our company, our story and that we love the show. He ended up emailing back right away about jumping on a call right away. We had spent all this time writing this email that we had no clue that he would want to have a call with us right away. But we had a call with him, and he wanted us to send him a video of us “speaking to the sharks” like how we would pitch on the show.

So, we scramble to make that happen. We sent him samples of our product. Long story short, but we did this in a way that was a little bit more unconventional: We didn’t go to a casting call. That’s what a lot of people do.

We got teamed up with producers that perfected our pitch. Then, we got flown out to Los Angeles. Then, we did a dress rehearsal, which they still cut people then and we didn’t know that. Then, we pitched in front of the executive producers, the “big dogs” of the show. And they still cut people then. It’s a very intense process. And you have to not take it personally because it is so long in the making.

Even though they condense it down to a 10-minute segment, we were actually in there with the sharks for over an hour. We were most happy about the fact that they loved our product. They really respected what we are doing.

The segment aired a couple of months later, and we were just continuing the business just as it was and continuing growing. We got such an amazing response from people who watch the show. People want to give us their time in wanting to help us in any way that they could help us. And it was just a humbling experience.

And then, ABC reached back out to us at some point, telling us that they’ve been hearing from fans that that they want to know what happened to the girls that were on the show: ‘The sisters, what are they doing now?” They asked if they could come back and film what it’s like now.

We had moved into new offices, and the team had grown, and lots of things had happened. We were super excited about that. They came back and filmed, and we ended up getting a surprise visit from Kevin O’Leary. We really were surprised because we really had no idea he was coming. We actually thought it was our brother calling at first. When he came to the office, we ended up making a deal with him. And since then, we’ve been working with him as part of his portfolio.

PYMNTS: So, what’s next for Surprise Ride?

RK: One of the main reasons that people really love our product is that it allows the child to do something that isn’t on the iPad. It’s in the real world. So, continuing to think of other products that we can create that make the life for families easier. Creating more and more products that make parents’ lives easier is one thing that we’re super focused on.

Every year and every quarter, we try to set a goal for the company. This year, we’re super hyper-focused on growth so continuing to put Surprise Ride in places that you want to be.

PYMNTS: What does the Warby of X concept mean to you?

RK: When I think of Warby Parker, I think of a company that’s been super innovative in a space that unfortunately had not been remade in years and years and years. And that’s kind of what we think of us being in the toy space.

For as long as you can remember, it’s been about going to toy stores and picking out a toy for a child. And nothing’s changed. There’s now a focus on education and child development, which we very much think about it. And then, convenience. We will deliver the items right to your home. You don’t have to go to the store and pick it up.

So, when I think of Warby Parker, I think of mostly innovation and disrupting an industry that had been very long overdue to be disrupted. As it relates to Surprise Ride, I see that we’re doing that for the toy space. And I think there’s a very interesting correlation between the two.

Article written by PYMNTS


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Behind the Scenes: Surprise Ride on Shark Tank

It feels like it was yesterday when we walked through the doors of ABC’s Shark Tank. We’re recapping our whole experience in our latest video series, Thursdays with Donna and Rosy! If you missed our last episode, don’t worry, you can catch it here.

So what is it really like to take the Shark Tank journey? Press play to find out and check out our behind the scenes photos from our experience below.

The special Shark Tank Rides all ready to go. With extras, just in case!

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This is when we arrived at LAX! We were waiting to get picked up by the Shark Tank squad
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Our very own trailer on the set of Shark Tank. Wish we could have taken it home with us!

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Sneak peak inside our awesome trailer and Rosy getting ready for the show.
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All ready! Right before we left our trailer for the studio.
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Surprise Ride Featured on DCInno

Third time’s a charm! Surprise Ride is thrilled to be one of DCInno‘s 150 coolest companies in Washington, D.C. for a third year in a row. DCInno also featured us in their latest article, 8 Local Female Startup Founders Who Have Raised More than $1M.

Check out the article here.

 

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 @DC_Inno August 31, 2016, 12:38 p.m.

Donna and Rosy Khalife, Surprise Ride – $2.2M

Kids activity box startup Surprise Ride sends subscribers a differently themed package every month with a new set of puzzles, games, healthy snacks and other goodies. Sisters Donna and Rosy Khalife founded the company in 2012 and remain based in D.C. After pitching on ABC’s Shark Tank in late 2013, they eventually accepted a $50,000 investment from judge Kevin O’Leary earlier this year. Around the same time, the company closed a $2 million seed round.


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10 Must Things to Do in Brazil

July’s Ride has us dreaming about exploring the awesome country of Brazil. We came up with the best-of-the best to see, do, and experience if you find yourself jonesing for a Brazilian stamp on your passport. Check it out below!

1. Play beach volleyball at Ipanema or Copacabana

Located side-by-side in Rio de Janeiro, Ipanema and Copacabana are two of the most popular beaches in the world! Catch some waves or play beach volleyball with the locals here.

2. Dance at Carnival

Carnival in Rio is the biggest and most famous festival in the world. About 2 million people celebrate with parades, dancing, street carnivals, and samba music every year.

3. Visit Iguazu Falls

Iguazu is the largest system of waterfalls in the world, and sits right between Brazil and Argentina. Devil’s Throat, the largest of the falls, stands at a whopping 269 feet!

4. Walk up the Escadaria Selarón

Chilean artist Jorge Selarón dedicated his life to creating these amazing stairs. They are covered in over 2000 titles collected from over 60 countries around the world!

5. Head to the São Paulo Museum of Art

This museum holds the largest collection of Western art in Latin America, featuring pieces by Botticelli, Van Gogh, and Diego Velazquez.

6. Stroll through Ibirapuera Park

Some say Ibirapuera is comparable to New York City’s Central Park and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. With a museum, a music hall, and plenty of outdoor activities, it is an important landmark of São Paulo’s cultural scene.

7. Journey through the Cathedral of Brasilia

The Cathedral of Brasilia doesn’t look like a traditional cathedral, but that’s exactly what modern artist Oscar Niemeyer wanted. The building’s exterior has 16 identical columns, representing two hands moving upwards to heaven.

8. Explore the Amazon

The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world, with more than 10 million animal, plant, and insect species. There’s sure to be something here that you’ve never seen before!

9. Learn about the Brazilian Gold Rush at Ouro Preto

Pronounced oro-preeto, this town was the site of the Brazilian Gold Rush in the 18th century. With its historic buildings and cobblestone streets, Ouro Preto has unique charm and a whole lot of history.

10. Take in the view at Cristo Redentor

Also known as Christ the Redeemer, this statue is one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. At its base, you can see the entire city of Rio!

Can’t make it to Brazil but still want a piece of the action? Surprise Ride has your back. Purchase our Brazil box today!

Surprise Ride Co-Founder Donna Khalife Honored by Trending 40

 

Surprise Ride is pleased to announce that Trending 40 has named our co-founder, Donna Khalife as one of its distinguished Trending 40 Entrepreneurs Under 40! The list includes ambitious young entrepreneurs from the Washington, D.C. area such as Cove CEO Adam Segal, Hugh & Crye CEO Pranav Vora and Serene Almomen from Senseware, to name a few.

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To learn more about Trending 40 and see the full list of Trending 40 Entrepreneurs Under 40, click HERE.

About Surprise Ride

Surprise Ride is an innovative eCommerce company helping to make the lives of modern moms easier. Through conveniently pre-planned activities, kids learn and explore while moms take a break. Surprise Ride is based in the heart of the nation’s capital, Washington, DC.

The company was featured on the hit TV show Shark Tank and national media such as ABC, New York Times, The Washington Post, The View and NBC.

About Trending 40

Trending 40 is an events program that recognizes and celebrates the top talent in Washington’s technology, legal, association and corporate communities. Nominations are open to all and honorees are chosen based on demonstration of exceptional performance in their fields.

 

Surprise Ride Represents Women in Entrepreneurship at the United State of Women Summit

Surprise Ride was beyond thrilled to be invited to participate in the United State of Women Summit at the White House on the 13th and 14th of June! Follow our journey through the event and our favorite moments on our Twitter page @SurpriseRide 

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The Summit brought together thousands of the greatest minds devoted to changing tomorrow for women across the country. Surprise Ride has always been committed to promoting women in entrepreneurship and was honored to represent this very ideal at the White House. From the inspirational speeches delivered by First Lady Michelle Obama, Meryl Streep, Oprah Winfrey and President Obama to the incredibly significant discussions during solution seminars on the major issues women face today, the Summit proved to be an incredible platform to change tomorrow, today! #stateofwomen

Check out the video below and learn more about the United State of Women Summit HERE.

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What it’s REALLY like to work with Mr. Wonderful

Would you like to know what it’s really like to work with Kevin O’Leary aka Mr. Wonderful? We spoke with Sara Gilgore of the Washington Business Journal to tell her how our experience has been so far!

See the article on the Washington Business Journal here.

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‘Get the f— out of here’: These D.C. entrepreneurs say Mr. Wonderful from ‘Shark Tank’ is a great guy

 @WBJonline Jun 1, 2016, 3:03pm EDT

The “Wonderful” in his nickname isn’t just for television — it might actually hold some truth.

Venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary, known playfully as “Mr. Wonderful” on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” has built a reputation as the mean “shark” on the award-winning reality show’s panel of investors. He’s most recently garnered national attention from a controversial interaction with a Boston entrepreneur who turned down his offer because it came from him.

But a local company working with O’Leary says his TV facade isn’t reflective of reality, and that it was a missed opportunity for Maneesh Sethi, whose “Shark Tank” appearance ended with O’Leary shouting, “Get the f— out of here.”

“I think Maneesh is absolutely wrong in this case,” said Donna Khalife, CEO of D.C.-based Surprise Ride, an e-commerce company that creates educational activity kits for kids. “Kevin puts on a certain persona on the show to really test entrepreneurs and make sure that they can deliver under pressure. It’s no different than what entrepreneurs face every day in a VC investor meeting or any other pitch.”

Surprise Ride co-founders Donna and Rosy Khalife created their company a couple of years ago and, after leaving “Shark Tank” without a deal on an episode that aired in the show’s fifth season, formed a partnership with O’Leary about a year ago. He made an unexpected offer during filming for its spinoff series “Beyond the Tank” — he would invest $50,000 in return for a 2.5 percent stake in the company.

“We thought he was coming by to get the update. We absolutely did not expect him to hear the update and make a deal,” Donna said of the episode that aired in October 2015. “We were told later that he had been speaking about Surprise Ride for some time. He even mentioned us on ‘Good Morning America’ once saying we were ‘the one who got away.’”

The sisters, who started building their company first out of a Boston tech accelerator program called Betaspring, wanted to partner with O’Leary because they say it was clear he would add value as an extension of their marketing team and understand the challenges associated with building a consumer product.

O’Leary was also attractive because he is a big supporter of women-led companies in an environment that has “a level of subconscious discrimination” against female entrepreneurs, Donna Khalife added. He’s also an accessible and involved partner who connects his portfolio companies with each other.

“One thing I’ve learned is he’s not just a figurehead on television, he’s not just a celebrity investor on ‘Shark Tank,’” Rosy Khalife said. “He is a real investor who wants to know the ins and outs of the business, wants to help you get partnerships [and] deals. It’s not just a one-time thing where he just signs a check. He’s very much a part of the day-to-day business.”.

The investor known for an obsession with money and one-liners — “You’re dead to me” is a favorite — has developed a shtick similar to that of Simon Cowell on “American Idol” over the show’s seven seasons. But he’s also an “amazing guitar player,” a foodie and a family man, Donna Khalife said.

“People always ask us, ‘Is he mean in person?’ He’s not mean, he’s a very nice person,” she added. “He is sharp and business savvy, and he asks tough questions. But that only makes us stronger and it only builds our company better, so we’ve had such a great experience working with him so far.”

Pitching the investors on “Shark Tank” is more like pitching at them, Donna Khalife said, and it’s difficult to get a sense for their personalities, “so Maneesh may have missed that,” she said.

“Being an entrepreneur is difficult, you have to have thick skin, and you have to answer tough questions. So I think Kevin does a great job at weeding out the entrepreneurs who can’t handle that kind of pressure that comes with starting a company from scratch.”

Sara Gilgore produces content for WBJ’s digital operation.


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Surprise Ride featured on CNN!

Kevin O’Leary, our newest investor, was recently on CNN, where he stated that “all of [his] returns were coming from companies either owned or run by women” – including our very own Surprise Ride!

Watch the video of Kevin talking about his women-run investments here.

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Shark Tank’s Mr. Wonderful to men: Run your companies more like women

On the ABC hit show Shark Tank, Kevin O’Leary (also known as Mr. Wonderful) is as blunt as can be, and focused on one thing only: returns.

And where does he find most of that coming from these days? Women. Specifically, businesses run by women.

Of the 32 companies in his private portfolio — with sales of between $5 million and $300 million annually — he says 52% are run by women.

When O’Leary’s team did a year-end audit of the second half of 2014, he noticed a pattern:

“Not some of my returns, all of my returns were coming from companies either owned or run by women,” he told CNNMoney in a recent interview. “That was extremely interesting for me, because I’m not into, you know, gender warfare. I don’t care. I would give a goat money if I could make money with a goat.”

Turns out goats aren’t as savvy, though.

His companies with women at the helm include O’Leary Fine Wines, Wicked Good Cupcakes, GrooveBook, Bottle Breacher, Surprise Ride and Easy Daysies.

O’Leary boils the success of women-run companies down to this: “Women set goals that are achievable in business. They don’t take inordinate risk and set goals that nobody can achieve. They don’t take inordinate risk and set goals that nobody can achieve. When you set goals for your employees you can achieve, that generally builds morale. It gets better results.”

And he’s not the only one seeing those results.

VC firm First Round Capital found their investments in companies with at least one female founder performed 63% better than their investments in all-male teams, according to a report released last year.

So who would O’Leary call the best female CEO in America today? He gives that honor to HP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman.

“Meg Whitman has done an incredible job taking a lot of heat in a big strategic move to take one of the most memorable and oldest corporations in America and chop it in half with an ax,” O’Leary says. “It takes balls to do that.”

Still, women are often paid less than men for equivalent work in corporate America. O’Leary says that’s a “legacy issue” and points to compensation committees making what he calls a mistake by hiring outside consultants and using “comps.”

“We should be paying on performance. So what happens is they run around, they find all the equivalent female executives in that role and say, ‘here’s the pay packages’… which makes no sense.”

So has Mr. Wonderful found anything men do better than women in business? “I haven’t found anything lately, I’m sorry … Not in my returns lately. Not in the last eight years.”

His message to male entrepreneurs: “Mitigate risks like the women. Look at the way they’re setting goals … Be like a woman and get me some returns!”

O’Leary in no way sees the rise of women in business to mean the decline of their male counterparts. He sees it as a rising tide that lifts all ships.

He admits that earlier in his career he didn’t always give women in business the shot they deserved.

“Years ago…I tended to do what the industry has done — favor men just because those were the ones that were getting funded,” O’Leary recounts.

“That is not what I do today. My results are basically black and white. They are telling me in America we are not using enough women in management.”

Article written by Poppy Harlow


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Surprise Ride featured on Tech Cocktail!

Tech Cocktail recently covered our awesome deal with Kevin O’Leary following ABC’s Beyond the Tank. See what the company’s very own Kristin Pryor had to say about us below and check out the full article here.

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DC’s Surprise Ride Accepts Deal from Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary

For one DC startup, the past year has been quite an adventure. Surprise Ride, a fast-growing e-commerce site for kids, was recently featured in an episode of Shark Tank spinoff Beyond the Tank. They ended up walking out of the experience with a $50,000 investment from Shark Kevin O’Leary.

Surprise Ride was founded by the sister team of Donna and Rosy Khalife. They grew up in a family of six living in a one-bedroom apartment. Knowing that, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine why they decided to focus their energies on building a company that delivers hands-on activities to kids. In today’s world of over-worked parents and screen-obsessed kids, Surprise Ride is making it easy for parents to provide their kids with educational and engaging activities that keep them engaged and away from the iPad.

It’s been over two years since they were featured on Shark Tank and walked away without a deal (despite an offer from Shark Robert Herjavec). However, they made Shark Tank history by being the first company to which a Shark returned and made an investment offer. O’Leary was surprised to find out that Surprise Ride had surpassed their $500K projections, and in fact, doubled them, generating $1M in revenue. O’Leary offered them a $50,000 investment in return for a 2.5 percent stake in the company.

“I like what they’ve done so far. I’m gonna pour gasoline on this fire and get this to 10 million in sales.” Said Kevin O’Leary in a statement about now owning a piece of Surprise Ride.

We all know how TV works, and while the episode plays it off as if the sisters had no idea what was happening, they probably had an inkling that it would end in good news. And with O’Leary’s background in educational software, he will likely be a huge asset to Surprise Ride’s business, and particularly their marketing efforts (which they admit is a challenge).

“We’re thrilled to have Kevin aboard the ride. For us, having him onboard is about more than the investment. His passion for kids was obvious and he immediately got our product. His experience in the kids’ education space, having sold his company to Mattel, makes him a key adviser as we grow.” Says CEO Donna Khalife in a statement.
It will be interesting to follow Surprise Ride and see how this high profile investment impacts them as they grow.

Article written by Kristin Pryor


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