Disrupters - Joanna McFarland, CEO & Co-founder, HopSkipDrive

With more than fifteen years of experience in product and brand management, Joanna McFarland is no stranger to the world of business. After earning her Bachelors in Economics from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, she graduated with her MBA from the Stanford School of Business. Joanna applied what she learned in the classroom to the real world. 

Joanna has worked for different companies in various roles—broadening her experience background. After working her way up from Director to Vice President of the Publisher Network for AT&T, she took on a Vice President role with One West Bank. She has also worked as Vice President of GM Consumer Finance. In 2014, she decided to step out of the finance and technology world and co-founded HopSkipDrive. 

HopSkipDrive was founded in order to help families transport their children when the parents are unable to. Joanna, along with her co-founders, understand the market and the need for families to have some backup when it comes to getting all of their kids everywhere they need to go. They created a dependable and safe transportation service in order to meet that need.

The drivers are expected to follow all of the safety requirements in place by HopSkipDrive. Drivers are to have at least five years of child care experience as well as pass a background and fingerprint check. Their vehicle must be no more than ten years old and pass an inspection by a mechanic. For added security, the parents and children have a code word to use between them and the driver to ensure they are getting in the correct car. Parents receive consistent notifications. Drivers wear a bright orange 

HopSkipDrive shirt. HopSkipDrive also monitors the driving in real time and meets every driver in person before hiring. Other safety measures are in place so parents know that their children are in a safe environment. 

Since this service is more personal, a trust between the company, driver, and parent needs to be established. After the trust hurdle is established, HopSkipDrive averages 2.4-3 times a week with driving. They have a 20% retention rate, and 36% of the drivers have more than one child on their account. Several rides, 35%, are weekly, repeatable rides. HopSkipDrive has kept 20% of customers who signed up prior to 2016.  When looking for caregivers (drivers), they find that stay at home moms, nannies, or empty nesters are most interested. Females make up 99% of their workforce. It is a part-time job and works well for someone in that kind of situation. Several apply, but there is only a 12% approval rate among those who apply. 

HopSkipDrive has branched out into three markets: Los Angeles, Orange County, and the San Francisco/Bay Area. They are continuing to analyze each area and grow according to the market. Over HopSkipDrive’s lifetime, Caredrivers have earned $2M, more than 40% still on platform eight months later, over 100K rides and more than 1000 Caredrivers. Even with a price increase in July 2016, customers have stayed on. Joanna and her team are growing their B2B service with nonprofits, schools, camps, and activities and are starting to focus on family carpool (offering 40-60% off). 

In this industry, it is important to ensure that supply and demand are growing together. They have raised $14M total through most firms in Los Angeles. From 2016 to 2017, their point to point direct to consumer market has gone from $30B to $50B. Their platform has been a little challenging, but they have learned quickly how to be successful. They focused first on the supply side. Some challenges they faced were that they weren’t paying drivers enough. They also learned that the drivers were the face and brand of the company so it is important to keep them happy. This business has taken a little longer to scale because it is important to go into each neighborhood and analyze the demand. The pricing starts at $16 and goes up by time and distance. This price is comparable to any babysitter or nanny. 

As with any business startup, it takes time for the business to be profitable. Joanna knows those challenges. She didn’t pay herself for the first nine months before funding. As the company grows, she realizes the importance of staying focused and not getting thrown off by changes in the market. She desires to continue to grow the company; and one of the best ways to do that is through referrals. They have utilized direct referrals, local businesses, direct mail, and Facebook. Unfortunately, Google has not worked as well for them as it might for other companies. But no matter the challenges, there is success. Each new neighborhood brings its own set of obstacles; but after learning the neighborhood, HopSkipDrive makes a great impact and helps those families with the transportation of their kids.