Camp Directors find a niche online
Nov 08, 2000 07:38 AM ET
By Cassandra Crowther, LocalBusiness.com


BOCA RATON, Fla., Nov. 8 (LocalBusiness.com) -- After five years of building NicheDirectories LLC, co-founders Nancy Diamond and Kim Bregman say they aren't planning on slowing down now.

Despite recent difficulties at many dot-coms, the Boca Raton-based company, which publishes six online family-oriented informational directories, is moving into a larger office space and launching two new directories.

Its flagship directory, KidsCamps.com, a database of camps and summer experiences, was launched in 1995.

"We had started back in '95 deciding that we wanted to be on the Internet, and that there was a significant lack of family content," Bregman said. "Price to entry was low, and we were looking for an industry with a lot of potential customers."

Both founders said that at the time they found it difficult to find information on camps for their children, and were looking to develop a comprehensive resource where families and kids could find information in one place.

The company has since developed CampJobs.com, a directory of camp-related job listings; GrownUpCamps.com, a directory of adult camps and recreational experiences, and RetreatSearch.com, a listing of alternative meeting sites for seminars, reunions and picnics.

In the near future, the company is aiming to expand further with the introduction of two new directories: ResortCamps.com, a directory of family vacations including cruises, tours and adventure trips that offer defined children's activities, and ResortStaff.com, a directory of classified jobs for the hotel and resort industry.

The company also runs two online malls, CampersMall.com and CampDirectorsMall.com, which are still in the early stages of development. Both currently offer links to other sites where users can purchase camping gear, supplies and information, but by next year the company plans to do its own e-commerce, allowing users to make purchases directly from the mall sites.

NicheDirectories also is planning to move into a larger office next month, Bregman said, because it needs more space and anticipates future growth.

Its co-founders, who both describe themselves as workaholics, currently share an office. The constant close contact keeps the communication flowing, they said, allowing them to overhear each other's phone conversations and to run ideas back and forth.

Last month, NicheDirectories received a "seven-figure" amount in venture funding from NewTek Capital Inc. In return for its investment, NewTek received a 37.5 percent ownership interest in the company along with three board seats.

However Bregman and Diamond said NicheDirectories is not searching for additional funds. The two founders started the business without venture capital, Diamond said, and it broke even just months after the site launched.

Listings with NicheDirectories are free; the company charges camps that link their Websites to its database. Camps without Websites can hire the company to develop, host, maintain and design sites and it does so for 10 percent of its listings.

NicheDirectories also earns money by charging for classified listings and for online advertising.

In the five years since the company was founded, Diamond said the listings have evolved as camps become more and more specialized, focusing on specific sports, academic interests or a creative arts. Because of the ever changing content of their Website, they are constantly adding and updating entries.

"Everything is updated yearly," Diamond said. "The resource is always growing, and the nice thing about the Internet is that it's current."

COMPANY: NicheDirectories LLC

INDUSTRY: Camping, recreation

PRODUCT/SERVICE: Online directories of camps for kids and adults, camp jobs and e-commerce sites selling camping supplies

FOUNDED: October 1995

MANAGEMENT: Nancy Diamond, co-founder: Formerly a producer and writer for MTV; Kim Bregman, co-founder: Worked as a business consultant for eight years, after working for IBM for 10 years.

OUTSIDE INVESTORS: NewTek Capital Inc.

EMPLOYEES: 12

REVENUE: Undisclosed, although Diamond and Bregman said the company has been profitable since 1996.

STRATEGIC PARTNERS: None

CUSTOMERS: Adults searching for a camp for their kids or for themselves, and camp job hunters

COMPETITORS: Petersons.com, Acacamps.org

STRATEGY: Kim Bregman: "To develop a niche and to penetrate it with a lot of services vertically."

WHAT KEEPS THEM AWAKE AT NIGHT: Nancy Diamond: "Being on the Internet. That means 24 hours a day we are always accessible and we're always checking our e-mails. Also, staying ahead of the technology curve."

CONTACT: Niche Directories LLC, 5455 N. Federal Highway, Suite O, Boca Raton, Fla. 33487; Phone: 877-242-9330; Website: www.nichedirectories.com; e-mail: info@nichedirectories.com