Laurie Felker Jones is the Founder & CEO of JuiceBox Hero, a startup which leverages technology and public affairs to help working parents, providers and major employers navigate access to child care.
What inspired you to start your company?
The short story is that I had this problem. And, in a time where we have AirBnB, Kayak.com and Zappos to search, filter and compare I couldn’t believe we didn’t have market-specific tools to secure care for our most important people! So, never one to sit around and complain, I set out to change this unbelievably analog process not just for millions of Americans -- but also for myself! I have two toddlers who need child care; I’m our #1 customer!
Here’s the long story:
I had a big, complex job and I loved it. And, I then I became a (working) mom. Even though I was high-performing professional problem-solver I was completely taken aback by how hard it was to figure out child care for our family. I google-d “day care + zip code” and got more than 70,000 results! Then what? Compounding the volume was the wide range of incomplete information these results returned from a fragmented market. There wasn’t a common vocabulary -- or at least I didn’t understand what vocab there was! (What’s the difference between Mother’s Day Out vs. part-time? Licensed vs. accredited? What do you mean “full-time” can end at 3pm and not include summers?, etc). And, even if I -- or the market -- had this framework there wasn’t a tool to filter based on logistics (location, hours, price) or our family’s values and interests (dual-language, Montessori, faith-based, etc).
I wished for a single place to compare, review, search, and secure child care options. I wanted Kayak.com for child care.
But, even though I had this problem and wished for something different, I wasn’t inspired to start my company until I re-connected with a former colleague who happened to be a world-class developer. He was also the father of a toddler. He immediately got it and we got to work on creating JuiceBox Hero.
The current funnel by which parents search for child care is long and tedious: manually filtering and managing this process takes more than 40+ hours over 9 months for the baby-preK ages and several months annually for the school-aged kids for summer care. It’s not only time-consuming, the lack of tools + high value we place on our kids (duh) + need to go to work makes this problem frustrating, anxiety-producing and panic-inducing.
We’re setting out to change that.
What advice would you give to fellow women who are looking to start their own tech company?
Believe in yourself and ask for help.
Chances are if you’re thinking seriously about building a company or creating a product or service you’ve got 1,000 reasons why you shouldn’t. Questioning ourselves is the downfall and superpower of women. Think about it: if we’ve already punched 1,000 holes in why your idea and business may not work, we’re that much further ahead of the stereo-typical founder who says “why not?” and fails because there were lots of questions he hadn’t thought through. Chances are you’re way smarter than you give yourself credit for.
Speaking of smart: seek out experts. This includes you, or else you wouldn’t have the idea. Hold on to that. And, it’s all about team. I had the great fortune to meet Ada Ryland mere months after beginning my venture. Ada is an early-stage founder coach. Her unique expertise is grounded in the teachings of Lean Start-Up methodology. That framework is key to having a shot at even starting!
Also, talk to everyone about your idea. I, too, once thought someone might steal my idea. But the truth is: executing is the hard part. And, whatever your big idea is, you can not do it alone. Find your many communities and allies -- including awesome men. It’s diversity of thought that makes the difference in effectiveness.
What are ways you stay current? Do you have any favorite websites or podcasts?
I love How I Built This. I love the community we created in Austin (that’s growing beyond Austin!) of Female Founders. I set Twitter alerts on movers & shakers: those expanding the pie and boldly telling their narrative: in particular, I’m a big fan of @ArlanWasHere and @Lpearson.
What is your favorite founding mom moment?
Using my beta to find child care for our family!
How do you create balance in your life?
I don’t! After years of driving myself crazy trying to measure the scales of balance, I just decided to disappear the convo from my life. I add the big things in first: family, work, health, friends. Everything else gets done or it doesn’t. My kids, my husband, my colleagues and my friends simply have the Laurie that they have. I’ve stopped chasing “balance”. Saying “No, thank you” or “I would love to but I can’t”, and having a team helps tremendously. I have a tendency to push too far and then retreat into my hole to recharge. I have lots of amazing people in my network, but very few very close friends. When it’s a rare weekend day when we don’t have anything going on they day can feel so long and I love that. I am not the kind of person that is happy sitting around.