I have been a mommy blogger for several years. Then, my husband had a temporary work crisis and I had to get a “real job.” Having been a “creative” most of my life, I was pretty terrified about my future corporate prospects. A fellow Mommy pal shot me over a job opp for an unusual, new start-up company called HopSkipDrive. It is an “Uber-like” service for kids, created by Moms, for busy Moms, driven by experienced caregivers. But don’t let the comparison to Uber scare you.
These three Moms (Joanna McFarland, Janelle McGlothlin and Carolyn Yashari Becher) are doing it their own way and they are trailblazers in the business. The company is obsessive about creating a safe, reliable, convenient solution for busy parents. And man, do they take it seriously.
CareDrivers never just drop a child and go, unless the parent so requests. They walk a child in to where they need to go if the parent asks for it. Potential CareDrivers are probed deeply: they must have at least five years of child-care experience and go through a 15-point certification process that includes background checks, driving record checks (drivers must have a spotless driving record), meeting each CareDriver in person, vehicle inspections, reference checks and driver training. The vetting process is…unprecedented.
I got the job as HSD’s new Westside Manager. And it’s been an amazing, learning experience working with these three, passionate women.
If there ever was a “Modern Mom”, CEO of HopSkipDrive, Joanna McFarland, would fit the bill. I asked this busy Mom some questions about her new, behemoth gig.
What brought all three of you together? What was the six degrees of separation?
Janelle (McGlothlin) and I have known each other since our oldest kids were babies. We were at a birthday party and were complaining about how hard it is to get our kids where they need to go. I jokingly said we should buy a van and hire stay-at-home moms or nannies in the neighborhood to drive our kids. That idea of gathering caregivers to fill this need is what sparked the idea for us.
Carolyn Yashari Becher had been thinking about the idea for years. We were introduced through one of our advisors. We had very complementary skill sets and we dated for several months to make sure we could work together. Now we finish each other’s sentences.
Briefly describe your current job?
As CEO, my job is to be chief worrier. I worry about every detail of our business and whether we are doing enough to please parents, drivers, kids and employees.
What advice would you give people who want to follow in your footsteps and begin a start-up company?
Buckle down because it is hard. It is harder than anything I’ve ever done. The highs are amazingly high and the lows are despairingly low. And everything is personal because it’s your baby.
Looking back, are you glad you dove in and went for it? Any regrets?
I regret we didn’t get started sooner. I was afraid of taking the risk, but wish I had done it sooner. Other than that – no regrets. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
What do you think makes the HopSkipDrive formula so successful?
As moms, we completely get this problem. Safety is in our DNA and we approach solving this problem from the view of “what would work for our own kids?” We are authentic and I think that comes through to parents and CareDrivers.
Is having a new start up company like having a new baby?
It’s exactly like that. Everyone gives you a ton of advice based on their own experience. The advice is often conflicting and not relevant. You think you know what you are getting into, but you really have no idea until it happens. And every company, like every baby, is different. What works for one does not work for another.
What’s your favorite “escape” activity? yoga? meditation? belly dancing? etc.
Hah! Who has time? I love spending time with my family and grabbing dinner with friends. And, when I can sneak it in, I love yoga.
When you are at the point of exhaustion, what keeps you going?
What keeps us going is knowing what a massive difference we are making for the parents we serve in helping them manage their lives and their familes. I also think about the income opportunity we are providing for our CareDrivers and offering them a flexible way to make money on their own schedule in a way they feel is safe, and often with their own kids riding along as co-pilots.
Can a “Modern Mom” really have it all?
I think it depends on what ‘all’ is. A “Modern Mom” can define what she wants for herself and her family. There is no such thing as balance, but everything does kind of work out in the end. Over time, there can be balance, but maybe not in the minute. If the Modern Mom lets go of guilt, she can get a lot closer to having it all (I’m still very much working on that part).
How do your kids feel about Mommy starting “HopSkipDrive”?
One unexpected part of starting HopSkipDrive was seeing how proud my kids are of me, and knowing that I’m creating a role model for them of a strong woman. I was talking to a friend about the business and my oldest, Jackson, came up and announced “My mom has been on the news, and she started a whole company to help drive kids around!” I have never been prouder than that moment.