Zahra Kassam started Monti Kids to bring Montessori Education into homes with young children from 0-3 years of age. As a new mom and former early childhood education teacher, she quickly found that there weren't a lot of quality educational toys for her to present to her own kids. With a Masters of Education from Harvard and a three-year stint as a Montessori teacher, she had a pretty good idea of what she wanted in educational toys.
Monti Kids is based on the Montessori curriculum. Montessori schools encourage learning through play, creativity and independence. Montessori uses developmentally appropriate cognitive, physical, linguistic, social and emotional materials. Kassam incorporates those principles in the Monti Kids toys she ships.
Kassam created Monti Kids as a teaching tool and it's the only at-home Montessori program designed and safety tested for birth to age 3. Kids' brains are 85% formed by age three, so it's a tremendously important developmental phase in a child's life. The Monti Kids toys aid in that development.
With each three-month subscription (there are 8 levels in total), parents get a box of toys, instruction videos and access to a support system of “certified Montessori experts.” It's very much like home schooling your toddler. Kassam wants to take it to a global level and wants a Shark to help her do it.
My Take on Monti Kids
As an educator with a Masters in Education and a parent of five with one child who attended a Montessori school, I totally get what Kassam is doing. While I buy into the Montessori curriculum, I feel the most important thing a parent can do is READ to their young child. Creative play IS important, but I personally believe there is too much emphasis on WHAT a child is playing with and not enough emphasis on HOW they are playing.
Each of the eight levels of Monti Kids costs $297. If you bought all 8 levels, that's almost $2400. For most new parents, that's a steep price tag. A library card and quality time is free. That said, I think Monti Kids will do well. While it is out of reach financially for many, it is within reach for quite a few. I wouldn't be a customer, but I believe they will have many.
Will Sharks Take this Business to School?
One thing that troubles me is why this business is in the Shark Tank at all. Ms. Kassam, in addition to running Monti Kids, is a partner in Zynick Capital, a Venture Capital firm that's funded over $3 billion in deals. That's Shark-like money. Why doesn't she turn to this business to fund Monti Kids?
Whether this comes out during the pitch or not, Kassam will face some tough questions about capitalization from the Sharks. Mark is usually quick to sniff out “gold-diggers,” or people who come on the show for publicity. This appears to be Kassam's play. The quality of the business aside, pitches like this tend to end up poorly for the business presenting. I predict no deal.