Hi Surprise Ride Family,
Many of you have been with us from the very start – when we first appeared on Shark Tank three years ago! Thank you for continuing to tell friends and family about Surprise Ride. We wouldn’t be here without your continued support
This week, we’re launching a special collection in Michaels Stores beginning Saturday, October 14th! It’s the screen-free fun and learning you’ve come to know and love packed into beautiful packaging that makes the perfect gift for any little one in your life. The one of a kind collection will be available in stores in the greater Chicago, Houston, and Austin areas as well as online on Michaels.com! This launch is dear to our hearts… We grew up going to Michaels with our dad, and we never imagined that we would see a product we created on their shelves. We really need your help to make this launch a success. Here’s what we need from you:
- Live in any of these cities? Go to your local Michaels Store this weekend and check out our rides! (Find your local store here)
- Have friends or family in these cities? Tell them to go check out our kits! Go on, hit forward on this email RIGHT now. We <3 you 🙂
- Live in or near Chicago? Join us this Friday, October 13th at the Michaels Store on 3131 N Clark Street from 1:30-3pm to meet us and Shark Tank’s Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary! We’ll be autographing kits and taking photos!
- Bonus: If you post a photo next to our Michaels Store display, we’ll send you a thank you and a special surprise! It will be awesome, like you, we promise. 😉 Use #SurpriseRide and be sure to tag us @SurpriseRide.
Any questions? Hit reply to this email!
Rosy & Donna
Founders of Surprise Ride
Growing up in a creative home, with an artist dad, we were always working on a new DIY project… whether it was modelling with clay, painting whimsical birdhouses, or more likely helping our dad frame his latest artwork! These projects made for some of our favorite childhood memories. This is why we’re so excited to announce that we’ve partnered with Michaels, the leading crafts retailer!
Surprise Ride and Michaels are a perfect match, especially since we spent so much time shopping there as kids. We’re joining forces to make it easier than ever for families to spend time together without the gadgets and create memories that last a lifetime.
Starting this October, you’ll be able to find a brand new collection of our most popular learning kits in select Michaels stores across the country as well as on Michaels.com. (Find your local store here!) We couldn’t be more excited to share this news with you, and we’re so grateful to have you aboard this Ride.
Donna, Rosy, & the Surprise Ride Team
P.S. Check out our live announcement of our Michaels partnership on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange below!
The podcast What’s Working in Washington recently spoke to our very own Rosy Khalife on how Surprise Ride is tackling screen addiction in kids. See what Rosy had to say below, and check out the full article and podcast on Federal News Radio here.
DC sisters foster creativity in kids
By Candice Pye – May 30, 2017
Screen addiction is seen by many as an epidemic. Children are spending countless hours a day staring at tablets and televisions, and parents are wondering how to get them inspired to be curious, creative minds.
Sisters Rosy and Donna Khalife, Co-Captains of D.C. start-up Surprise Ride, say they have the solution.
“Research shows that kids are spending [more than seven] hours a day on screens and that’s a big problem,” says Rosy Khalife. “We’re there to help.”
Surprise Ride is a subscription service that delivers hands-on activities and toys to kids. Each month, they deliver a new product to their customers. Their packages typically include a book, a snack, and a hands-on activity that is meant to draw children away from their screens.
Packages can also be bought one-off on their website, and Surprise Ride will also be launching in retail later this year.
What differentiates Surprise Ride from other toy companies is its kid- and parent-friendly material. “The biggest problem we’ve found with a lot of toys and activities that are out there is [that they] always need parent supervision. Parents are so busy,” says Khalife.
“Our activities have photo instructions that are very easy. They speak to the child and it’s very easy for them to do it on their own.”
“[The toy industry is] constantly churning out products that are just for the child. They’re very bright, they’re loud, packaging is crazy…everything in it is for the kid and that’s not what mom wants,” Khalife told What’s Working in Washington.
Surprise Ride is growing, with 20 employees and the founders still hiring.
With their appearance on hit reality show Shark Tank, they were able to go about financing in an atypical fashion. Not only did they acquire hundreds of customers the night that their episode aired, but Shark Tank investor Kevin O’Leary made them an offer and they took it.
Khalife says she owes a large part of her company’s success to her prime location.
“We love D.C.,” says Khalife. “You’re able to hire from such a wonderful, diverse group of people. People who have worked in the government, people who have done advocacy, people who have worked at non-profits…you get a really great array of people here.”
Article and podcast by Federal News Radio, What’s Working in Washington
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The Small Business Journal recently spoke to our very own Donna Khalife on what it’s like to have Kevin O’Leary on board. See what Donna had to say below, and check out the full article on The Small Business Journal here.
Being The CEO of Your Company and Having Kevin O’Leary on Your Team
By The Small Business Journal – May 25, 2017
Surprise Ride designs activity kits and toys aimed at keeping elementary school aged kids entertained away from screens. The company was founded in 2013 by sisters Donna and Rosy Khalife. The women wanted to find a way to give moms a break but also keep kids away from screen time. Their idea was inspired by the DIY activities their dad would make for them as kids. Surprise Ride was featured on Season 5 Episode 9 of Shark Tank where the Khalife sisters turned down offers from the Sharks but later accepted a surprise offer from Kevin O’Leary on an episode of Beyond The Tank. I recently caught up with Donna Khalife, the Co-Founder and CEO of Surprise Ride. She talked to me about what her day-to-day currently looks like at the company, how to deal with burnout, and her work-crush on Sheryl Sandberg, among other things.
Jay: So what’s it like at your position now with Surprise Ride what is it like on a daily basis for you?
Donna: Right now it’s really about reaching more people and reaching more families. I spend a lot of my time on growth, dreaming up partnerships that could be mutually beneficial and also thinking about what type of hires we need to make to be able to support our growth.
Jay: What role does Kevin O’Leary play at Surprise Ride? Is he pretty hands-off as an investor or does he play a more active advisor role?
Donna: There are two things we love about having Kevin on our team. First, he is a brilliant entrepreneur. It’s wonderful — pun intended — to work with an investor who is not just financially minded but also has experience with operations. I was on a call with him yesterday and I had a very real operational question and I knew that there would be no one that could answer it better than Kevin. Because he’s been there and he can speak from his personal experience. The second thing is, he is just a good person. He really embodies the values of Shark Tank, encouraging and empowering people to be entrepreneurs, to create jobs, to create products that consumers can love and enjoy.
Jay: There’s a tremendous value that investors like Kevin bring, as you mentioned, but there’s so much work that you guys do that he trusts you to execute. So, how do you find that balance between what’s on your shoulders and what you can ask of him?
Donna: It’s a balance for sure, but the bulk of it is on our shoulders, it’s really not half-and-half. It’s more like 95-to-5 or 98-to-2. Having mentors like Mr. Wonderful is really all about helping you fill in the gaps and get guidance more than anything but you have to ask the right questions for it to be fruitful. That relationship can not carry you: you really have to carry yourself.
Jay: What’s been the happiest or most awesome piece of feedback that you’ve ever gotten from your customers?
Donna: One thing that really stuck with me was a question from a little girl named Sophie. she asked us, “from the thousands of questions that you could be covering in your Surprise Ride kits, how do you choose the themes?” This was an amazing question because adults often ask us things like, “don’t you think you’ll run out of topics to cover? Is this sustainable?” Children really see the world in this very curious way and they’re trying to absorb as much learning as possible. And they’ve got that thirst for learning. Sophie’s question reminded me why we do what we do: to feed children’s curiosities, to get them off of screens and get them fascinated with the real world.
Jay: If you got stuck in a window seat on a three-hour flight and you could choose anyone in the world to sit next to and pick their brain who would that person be and what would you ask them?
Donna: If I could go back in time I’d probably pick Albert Einstein. Learning to see the world with that childlike wonder is something that I think more and more adults need to do and that’s one of the things that we try to foster through our activity kits for kids, just nurturing that curiosity. I think that’s something that Albert Einstein really embodied. Today, if I had the honor to sit next to someone, I would probably pick Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook. She’s an amazing human being and woman in the workplace, (where are all my #LeanIn ladies?). There’s so much I could learn just chatting with her both on a professional and a personal level.
Jay: What advice can you offer to budding entrepreneurs?
Donna: Don’t forget to have fun! I wish I had more fun when we first started the company. When we first came up with the concept I had a blast but once we launched it things just got stressful. As the owner of a business it’s easy find yourself lost in the weeds worrying about every detail can be very stressful and really keep you up at night, which is an easy way to burn out and I think I got close to that at one point and when you get close to burnout it really doesn’t serve anyone, it doesn’t serve your company it doesn’t serve your customers, your employees or yourself. So I think I would just remind anyone who is launching a company to take breaks, have fun, celebrate the victories don’t feel like this is the end all be all, give it the best shot and see where the journey takes you.
Article written by The Small Business Journal
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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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Excited to have made it on the list of 2016 50 on Fire companies! Thanks for voting for Surprise Ride! We are constantly touched by all your support. We’re looking forward to 2017 and all the fun surprises we have coming your way!
Donna & Rosy
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!
This is when we arrived at LAX! We were waiting to get picked up by the Shark Tank squad
Our very own trailer on the set of Shark Tank. Wish we could have taken it home with us!
Sneak peak inside our awesome trailer and Rosy getting ready for the show.
All ready! Right before we left our trailer for the studio.
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.
@DC_Inno August 31, 2016, 12:38 p.m.
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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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 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.
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.