Rich Sloan

Rich Sloan is chief startupologist and co-founder of StartupNation and host of StartupNation podcasts. He is also co-author of the acclaimed how-to book, StartupNation: America's Leading Entrepreneurial Experts Reveal the Secrets to Building a Blockbuster Business. Rich encourages you to make a comment under his blog posts or send him a personal message at member nickname, "Rich," here at StartupNation.

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Innovation is a necessity for most home-based businesses to survive. But the reason Child Shield, U.S.A., winner of the 2007 StartupNation Home-Based 100’s Most Innovative category, needs to stay ahead of the game is different from other companies simply trying to beat the competition.

Tucson, Ariz.-based Child Shield is a service that aims to educate and protect families from child predators. The primary reason the company needs to stay innovative, say its owners, John and Robin Raskob, is because child molesters are extremely inventive themselves, using Internet chat rooms and Web sites to sharpen their techniques and gain the advantage.

“They teach each other how to befriend parents, molest children, and not get caught,” John Raskob says. “It’s getting scary out there.”

By their account, the Raskobs are staying on top of the problem. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, for every 1 million children reported missing, 10,000 of them are never found, he says. Of the more than 1 million families that have enrolled in Child Shield, only three children have been reported as missing and each were found, the Raskobs say. And that, they say, makes running their innovative child-safety business incredibly gratifying.

“Not until Child Shield, U.S.A., has there been a program of prevention, education, and recovery of this quality and capability… a true safety net for parents and a very real investment in their peace of mind,” says a veteran police officer and regional CRIME STOPPERS program founder, in a testimonial on the Child Shield Web site. “In fact, I believe so strongly in the value of this program and its potential to increase the safety of our children that I personally recommend it to every parent in America.”

Enrollment in Child Shield costs $99 for a lifetime subscription, and then families must pay $15 per month to keep the service intact. After signing up, parents receive a child-safety kit and a monthly magazine that educates them on the tactics child molesters are employing. In the unfortunate event that a child is taken, the service offers a $50,000 reward for the child’s return, puts out posters reporting that the youth is missing, releases a previously made video of the child to the media, and provides other forms of recovery assistance.

John Raskob says that Child Shield is needed because it provides a service in a field where so many other organizations have failed. He says that even though the public is notified of registered sex offenders in their area, there are five times that number who have not yet been caught. Other programs don’t concentrate enough on the prevention of a kidnapping, Raskob maintains.

The Raskobs first became involved in Child Shield after acquiring the business in 1999 from founder Dave Slockbower, who created the venture in 1990. The couple runs the service in a converted two-car garage, as well as from a 40-foot former Greyhound bus, equipped with satellite-communications equipment, that they drive around the country during the summer. The vehicle also serves as a marketing tool, the Raskobs say, as it advertises their logo and Web site. The Raskobs call the bus “a rolling billboard.”

Child Shield also offers work-at-home opportunities for other entrepreneurs. The company employs a network of 2,000 independent affiliates who act as its local representatives around the country and also promote the business. The Raskobs use their mobile bus/office to recruit and have meetings with these associates.

The next step in Child Shield’s growth is stepping up its marketing efforts. Thus far, the company has done advertising on the Internet and radio and in magazines and newspapers. The outfit’s affiliates have also conducted grassroots campaigns by setting up booths at fairs and flea markets and handing out fliers at day-care centers, churches, and schools.

Then comes television. Child Shield is currently working on its first commercial, which it will test in the Tucson market.

With 55 million children in America, the Raskobs see a great need for their business to grow and become more visible to serve more families. “We haven’t even scratched the surface,” Mr. Raskob says. “We should be a household name.”

The Home-Based 100 judges agree: The Raskobs and their home-based business deserve to be a household name.

More featured 2007 StartupNation Home-based 100 articles:

View complete 2007 rankings

See 2008 Home-Based 100 competition