These 3 Moms Turned Their Carpool Woes Into a Ride-Sharing Service for Kids

A photo of the founders of HopSkilDrive. Photo courtesy of HopSkipDrive

Do you have trouble toting your kids across town — from dance to soccer to karate to T-ball?

Little ones keep full schedules these days. You’re forced to keep up, which might require you to take time off work or hire a babysitter — which is expensive and not totally necessary for a 12-year-old.

Or say no, no you can’t be active and make new friends. But that sucks.

And unfortunately it’s illegal to hail your child an Uber or Lyft to take them to the soccer field. (You’ve got to be 18 for that, and it probably wouldn’t be the safest option anyway.)

A Common Parenting Frustration Inspires a Thriving Startup

In 2013, the after-school logistical nightmare was the center of conversation at a kid’s birthday party, where a group of Los Angeles-based working moms huddled together and discussed their options.

“For me, it was feeling guilty because I had to tell [my son] no because I couldn’t get him to karate at 3 o’clock on a Tuesday,” one of the moms, Joanna McFarland, explained. “Then, as [my kids] got older, we didn’t need and didn’t want to spend the money on full-time help.”

The other moms concurred — it was too much.

“We should all pitch in and buy a van and hire moms to drive our kids around,” McFarland joked.

But wait — that wasn’t a terrible idea.

McFarland’s long-time friend, Janelle McGlothlin, saw the spark of a brilliant idea. She, too, struggled to get her three kids from Point A to Point B… to Point C. So the duo started meeting weekly to map out a solution.

The solution evolved — and so did their team. Carolyn Yashari Becher had been working on a similar idea before meeting McFarland and McGlothlin, so the mom of three joined the venture.

Altogether, the three moms have eight kids who participate in everything from karate to gymnastics to tennis. They understand the struggle — and the need for safety.

They also each have more than 15 years of experience in their respective fields, from product management to branding to law.

In late 2014, the trio put their heads together to really plan and execute their idea. In March 2015, their new product hit the internet: HopSkipDrive.

HopSkipDrive Aims to Help Busy Parents with Active Kids

Photo Illustration: A person shows how the HopSkipDrive app works. It is a ride service for kids. Tina Russell/ The Penny Hoarder

HopSkipDrive is an online ride service platform that helps parents schedule rides for their kids ages 6 and older. Right now, it’s available in Los Angeles, Orange County and the San Francisco Bay Area (but there are plans to expand!).

Let’s say you, a working parent, have two kids. Your daughter goes to tennis practice right after school. You’d schedule a CareDriver to pick her up in the carline and drop her off at the country club.

Then your other daughter does ballet. She goes to an after-school program for an hour before attending practice. You’d schedule another CareDriver to come sign her out of after-care and deliver her safely to the dance studio.

You’d log in online or through the app to schedule the rides (by 7 p.m. the night before). You also have the ability to make these rides recurring, so you don’t even have to think about it for the rest of the week — or school year.

At the specified time, a CareDriver shows up at the school (or your home, the soccer fields, wherever) and delivers them from point A to point B.

OK, but you ask: Is this actually safe?

What’s Involved With Becoming a CareDriver?

You have to remember three moms created the service — and each of them use it in their everyday lives.

To select potential CareDrivers, HopSkipDrive has a 15-point driver certification process to fully vet individuals.

You must be at least 23 or older, have more than five years of childcare experience, pass a criminal record check, pass a vehicle inspection and ace an in-person interview with the HopSkipDrive team.

The safety measures continue.

Once a ride is requested, the parent receives a photo of their assigned CareDriver, which the parent will then show to their kid. There’s also a personal code word that CareDrivers must use to confirm with the kids at pickup.

Then, you — as well as the folks at HopSkipDrive — can monitor the drive in real time through the app.

Each CareDriver must also wear an orange vest and have the appropriate stickers on their car (which are provided).

Parents can add specialized directions for the CareDrivers. For example, McFarland requests that each of her CareDrivers go into her sons’ school and sign them out of aftercare.

“CareDrivers are caregivers first and drivers second,” McFarland says. “They’re caregivers on wheels.”

How Much It Costs to Have Someone Drive Your Kid Around

Pricing varies by location, but in Los Angeles/Orange County, it’s a $16 minimum fare for a “single family,” which can include multiple passengers for each family (like siblings).

However, there’s a carpool option, where you can work with other parents in the area to schedule group rides. For example, if your son plays soccer with four of his classmates, you can coordinate with the other parents and get them a ride for $7 a family (minimum).

If you want more specific pricing, you can use the price estimate tool to type in specific addresses.

It’s also important to note that, in many instances, parents are able to use pre-tax dollars to purchase rides, which means they don’t have to pay tax on the service.

A Family-Centered Mission

“Our mission is to make family lives better,” McFarland says. “We’ve seen that on both sides of the platform.”

She cites a few examples — one mom finally had the time to start her own company, while another got a promotion at work. A third mom wrote to let the team know that her daughter made her prestigious traveling dance team because she never missed practice.

McFarland and company are proud of the platform they’ve created and hope to see it soon expand to other areas — though she’s going to keep the details a secret for now.

If you’re interested in knowing if HopSkipDrive is coming to your town, you can sign up for email updates. If you already live in Los Angeles, Orange County or the Bay Area, read more about the service online.

Your Turn: What do you think of HopSkipDrive? Would you use it?

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She hopes this ride services expands into her area before she starts popping out offspring.