How 3 LA moms have created one of LA's fastest growing startups

by Patrick Hechinger
September 22, 2015
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Carolyn Yashari Becher, Joanna McFarland, and Janelle McGlothlin of HopSkipDrive
 
Ingenuity is often born out of necessity. And for three working LA mothers, the need to find a more convenient way of transporting their children has led to one of LA’s fastest growing startups. 
 
While at a child’s birthday party, Joanna McFarland and Janelle McGlothlin couldn’t help but vent their frustrations about their children’s schedules. After seeing the success of Uber and Lyft, they decided to create a safe, child-focused alternative to on-demand ride services. 
 
The duo had a formidable resume — McFarland is a 10 year tech vet with an MBA from Stanford and McGlothlin runs her own marketing company, WriteBrand, Inc. The final addition to the founding trio was Carolyn Yashari Becher, a lawyer and mother who had previously founded two nonprofits in LA. Together they formed  in November 2014.
 
“From the beginning we thought, if we want to create a service to help busy families get their kids where they need to go, safety is the most important thing,” said McFarland, now CEO of HopSkipDrive. “If this is a service we were creating for our own kids, what would that need to look like? We designed the service from the ground up with that in mind and that factors into every decision we make here.”
 
HopSkipDrive launched in March and received a $3.9 million seed round in June. The company has added over 20 new employees and onboarded more than 200 drivers to date. 
 
McFarland says their drivers are primarily parents, caregivers, teachers, and pediatric nurses looking for another source of income. Each driver must have five years of childcare experience, pass a rigorous background and reference check, meet with the company, give their fingerprints, and boast a spotless driving record. 
 
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A single ride costs $20 whereas a package of 50 rides can bring the price down to $12 per ride. Drivers receive 70% of every ride and McFarland says the response on both sides of the business has been inspiring.
 
“The feedback that we get has been the best part of doing this. We hear from parents all the time, ‘you’ve saved our lives,’ ‘you’ve saved our marriage,’ ‘I’m a single mom, I just moved here and don’t have a support network. I don’t know how I’d survive without you.’ One parent called us the ‘magic hour’ because we are able to give her an hour back in her day. When you hear the feedback on both sides, it makes us know that this is the right thing and that we’ve tapped into something unique.”
 
Since the launch, HopSkipDrive has tripled in size and now has over 4,000 parents registered on the site. The company has begun to expand to other parts of Southern California but is viewing 2016 as their year to expand nationally.
 
“We don’t really view ourselves as a transportation company,” McFarland said. “We view ourselves as a family management company solving problems and applying our technology to fix them. We’ve been growing so fast that it's really apparent that we’ve tapped into a massive problem.”
 
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