Liberal Arts Alumna Hooks Deal on 'Shark Tank,' Accepts $600,000 Investment

Penn State alumna Jamie Ratner appeared on the popular ABC television show Shark Tank on April 7 and secured a deal with Kevin O’Leary. Ratner and her husband, Brian, founded CertifiKID, a Potomac, Maryland-based deal website focused on kids’ activities and family entertainment.
Published: Apr 16, 2019

After receiving three offers from O’Leary, Daymond John, and Barbara Corcoran, founders Jamie and Brian Ratner accepted a $600,000 investment from O’Leary for a 19 percent stake in CertifiKID. His investment in CertifiKID is one of the top five biggest investments O’Leary has made in any company in 10 seasons of "Shark Tank." This is also the first external investment for CertifiKID. 

CertifiKID was started by the Ratners using the $5,000 Jamie Ratner saved as seed money for her business. She is currently the founder and CEO of CertifiKID while her husband serves as president. In her role, she is responsible for owning, operating and managing day-to-day business of the 17-employee team.

“CertifiKID was officially formed on a long drive to Pittsburgh in January of 2010 with our crying kids in the backseat and big dreams in front of us. We knew we needed to move fast, so we gave ourselves a launch date of May, with the goal of building our website and having 1,000 subscribers and enough businesses to run deals for one month,” said Jamie Ratner. “We hit our goals and 30 days after launch I was able to quit my day job as the business was profitable after our third month.”

The business offers discounts and deals in Washington, D.C. for families and kids. They have created deals with over 5,000 businesses since launching CertifiKID in 2010. Ratner describes herself as being one of the first followers of companies such as Groupon and Living Social in D.C.

“I loved the daily deal concept, but at the time, the focus was spas and restaurants, clearly not my focus as a new mom with a 3- and 1-year-old. So, I had an “AHA” moment as Oprah likes to say and saw the huge potential for gearing the concept specifically to what families want and need,” said Ratner.

As her company has grown, Ratner has had an unforeseen journey. She was named one of the region’s Top 40 Under 40 “Brightest Young Business Leaders” by The Washington Business Journal in 2011. CertifiKID has also been published through numerous news organizations including The Washington Post, The Washington Business Journal, Washingtonian, CNBC, NBC4 News, Fox5 News, WUSA 9 News, ABC2 News, Baltimore Business Journal and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Most recently is her adventure on Shark Tank.

“They do auditions in different cities every year and my mom told me they were coming to D.C. So, I personally reached out to a producer and got bypassed to the next round,” said Ratner. “My advice for someone is to jump in and jump ALL in…take it seriously, give it 100 percent and you can succeed. Trust your instincts, don’t second guess yourself, and just keep going.”

Ratner graduated from the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State in 1999 with a bachelor of science in administration of justice, which was sparked by her love for “Law & Order.” She also has a minor in psychology and went on to earn her master’s degree in security management from Northeastern University.

While she was a student at Penn State, Ratner was a member of the Sigma Delta Tau sorority. She also volunteered at various facilities associated with her major, including juvenile detention centers.

After earning her degrees, Ratner was a security analyst for the Institute of Defense Analysis, a government contractor. She worked as a government contractor, and later, as a security manager for the law firm Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C. However, she then decided to build her own business.

“I have always been an entrepreneur at heart, constantly thinking about business ideas. I also have always been a bargain hunter and had a passion for advertising,” said Ratner. “My business personally reflects these passions.”

Ratner continues to return to Penn State and keeps in touch with friends from school. She also follows updates from the school and utilizes the College of the Liberal Arts alumni materials. To current liberal arts students, Ratner has this advice: “It is important to get real-life experience during your summers and try to test out a lot of different jobs to understand what you excel at and enjoy.”