"Groupon for Moms": Plum District Finds a Following

The deals site also just secured $8.5 million in funding. And by bringing moms—who source the deals—back into the workforce, there's a bit of Mary Kay thrown into the mix.

Plum District

How's this for a compelling, inter-generational pitch: "It's Groupon-for-moms meets Mary-Kay-without-the-lipstick."

That's how Megan Gardner, the CEO of Plum District, describes her coupon site to Fast Company (and, we're guessing, a few others at one point or another). Something of a mouthful, maybe, but it covers all the bases: Plum District is a daily deals site in the Groupon mold, only "by Moms, for Moms," in the words of the site. And it's on the rise, last week raising $8.5 million from Kleiner Perkins and others.

Gardner, who has an MBA from Harvard and was most recently in business development for Ameriprise, realized that there was a gap to be filled in the daily deals space. "Fifty million moms control 85% of household spending," she says. "That's how we honed in on this vertical."

Not only do mothers control the majority of household spending; they also know their communities well, and have or can easily forge relationships with local vendors. Realizing this untapped resource, Plum District decided on a novel model: have the moms not only buy the deals, but source them. Plum District is built by a fleet of part-time workers who arrange Plum District deals, winding up with a fraction of the revenue resulting from each. Plum District's top seller, Jillian Griffin of Newport Beach, has been orchestrating deals since soon after Plum District's launch a few months ago. So far, she's on track to make six figures this year. "She's a bulldog," says Gardner.

A mommy vertical also makes sense because of the ways mothers can act as ambassadors for Plum District in their communities, marketing the deals in unexpected and impromptu ways. A recent example of this comes from the Southern California team. Someone there realized that on the day of little league baseball sign up, an immense amount of traffic would be pouring into the little league website. Plum District partnered with the league site, arranged to put up a widget during the traffic surge, and donated some money to the league for every new mom who signed-up via the widget.

It's insights like these—that the channels of commerce are nuanced, often knit-up in the fabric of everyday life—that makes Plum District's model interesting. A model which, in some respects, is not a new one: "The Tupperware model has been around for a while," says Gardner. "What's different about this is the tactics the sales team uses."

Does she have plans to expand the model to other verticals? Moms aren't the only subset of humanity, of course. Democratic political strategist Mark Penn, who invented the phrase "soccer moms," was famous for spinning out terms for other key groups—"wired workers," "office-park dads," "mom-fluentials." Will Plum District be moving to tackle these other imagined communities?

Not immediately—but Gardner wouldn't rule it out. She notes that just the other day she saw a similar site for African-Americans spring up.

"I was at a party the other day," says Gardner, "when a stay-at-home dad came up to me and said, 'I like your site, but I want my own vertical. I want Deals for Dads.'"