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Among families of working parents and kids involved in multiple after-school activities, transportation can be a logistical nightmare. There’s the challenge of coordinating dropoffs and pickups, negotiating with spouses about who will leave work early and relying on carpools.
That’s why Joanna McFarland co-founded HopSkipDrive. The two-year-old startup provides rides for busy households by matching them with highly vetted drivers, known as CareDrivers, who get kiddos from point A to point B.
They only hire individuals with at least five years of childcare experience who have undergone lengthy background and reference checks, vehicle inspections, ride-alongs, trainings and in-person meetings with the HopSkipDrive onboarding team. And while creating a fun and safe environment for families and kids is paramount, McFarland learned they were only half of the equation. The drivers were also their customers, and HopSkipDrive needed to keep them happy, too.
“Very early on in our pilot mode, when we were still really figuring things out, our initial pricing structure was based on a flat fee per ride plus extra based on distance,” McFarland says. “We heard from CareDrivers that that wasn’t sufficient. We added time in addition to mileage, because we realized that we needed to offer our service at a price that would be fair to CareDrivers.”
Entrepreneur checked in with McFarland to see what the company has learned from this experience.
This conversation has been edited.
What have you learned about growth while doing good?
In a city like Los Angeles, where there’s really bad traffic, it can take a long time to go a short distance, so the mileage alone wasn’t really covering what the CareDrivers would need to feel like they were being fairly compensated. So we adjusted, we evaluated, we looked at the model and we changed our pricing structure on the parent side and on the driver side so that we were able to compensate drivers for time and distance.
We were still building our billing systems. The new formulas were a bit more complicated and we had to make sure that the systems could handle that. We also had to think through some things like wait time, because especially with kids, a lot of times the driver has to park, go into the building, sign the child out, etcetera. We had to think through definitions of, when does a ride start? When does a ride end? And how do we make sure that we’re calculating that time fairly for both parents and drivers? We had to think through a lot of things that weren’t part of the original model.
Our CareDrivers really appreciated that and felt that we are a company that listens to them and is trying to create community for them and an opportunity for them. We think that it’s worth it to pay them a little bit extra to make sure that they’re doing the best job that they possibly can with the kids that they carry.
What have you learned about culture while doing good?
Our CareDrivers love kids, and they’re caregivers at heart, so this is an opportunity for them to participate in the sharing economy and to have a flexible income opportunity while also doing something that they love. We are constantly reaching out to our CareDriver community — talking with them, holding meetups and trying to engage them. We don’t think of our CareDrivers just as supply.
What advice do you have for other businesses looking to do good?
Make sure that there’s a real need, make sure that you’re solving it in a way that’s making things better and constantly check in against that. Listening to our customers, our CareDrivers and our own team and reacting to the feedback that they’ve given has enabled us to grow more than anything else.