GREYHAWK LANDING — As a stay-at-home mom, Rachel Branson has made it her duty to find a good bargain.
Whenever she’s found a good deal or a free activity, she’s shared the information with her friends who may find it useful.
But one day as she was driving up Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to her GreyHawk Landing home, Branson spotted a sign for free hot dogs at Crowder Bros. Ace Hardware that ultimately led to a new online resource.
“I thought, ‘You would never know (about this) unless you were driving by,’” Branson said. “I started putting this together in my head.”
Within weeks, Branson launched her new Web site, www.freeinmanatee.com. The site offers visitors a calendar of free events, opportunities for deals and discounts and a listing of restaurants that offer free or practically free kids meals.
Currently, Branson is working to add a listing of local parks and playgrounds with pictures and descriptions of each.
Content is updated at least every other day so the site can be a one-stop resource for families.
“I’m always looking for ways to save,” Branson said. “I wanted one place where I could put all that information and help other people. It’s been fun for me to do, and I hope other moms appreciate it.”
Not having grown up in Manatee County, the young mother had learned about many of the area’s parks and activities through play groups and friends. So she knew that having one place to go for information would not only be helpful for her but for others as well.
Within days of coming up with her idea, Branson stuck to her free-is-best mentality and headed to the library to check out books on designing a Web site. If what she created didn’t turn out well, no one would have to know. But if it did, it could be a resource for other moms.
Plus, the new skills she learned would be marketable if she ever enters back into the workforce, she said.
Branson began reading, researching and working on the Web site during her 2-year-old son’s nap times. Learning HTML proved difficult, but it was just the challenge she needed.
Although Branson said she would love to improve the graphics on the Web site, doing so would require purchasing software, and for now at least, she is keeping the investment as minimal as possible in keeping with her theme.
The Web site launched in mid-April, and Branson said she eventually may add a forum for mothers to share ideas and money saving tips through the site. She hopes to have the parks and activities section finished within a month.
Contact Pam McTeer at [email protected].
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