Austin-based Laurie Felker Jones has spent the last 15 years winning really hard things. She’s designed and implemented non-profit, for-profit and political campaigns that incorporate strategic partnerships, fundraising, communications, community engagement, organizational development, and compliance. In 2017, she created JuiceBox Hero, a startup that leverages technology and public affairs to help working parents, providers, and major employers navigate a significant civic engineering challenge of the modern business world: access to child care.
How did you decide to start your own company?
The short story is that I had this problem and decided to do something about it. The longer version is that for fifteen years I worked in the field in leadership positions to forward major political campaigns for women — in Texas. That’s not easy! Along the way I had two kids under two. Also not easy! The only way it continues to work is with amazing child care partners.
But the search for child care stinks! The current situation is overwhelming and frustrating and it often takes months to secure care. Just try Googling “day care + your zip code,” and you’ll get more than 70,000 results! Then what?
In a time where we have AirBnB, Kayak.com, and Zappos to search, filter, and compare, I simply couldn’t believe we didn’t have market-specific tools to secure care for our most important people! I just saw the huge opportunity clear as day.
I had spent years steeped in data about the changing demographics of the American family, and it was my job to listen to and craft campaigns that pushed forward new possibilities for women and our families. And it was also my job to use digital tools to mobilize people to action.
I’d be skipping over a big important piece if I pretended that I leapt up one day and said, “NO MORE!”.
The truth is…I’m not sure I would have leapt into this had I not ran into an old friend and colleague at a party and (emboldened by some birthday bubbly) exclaimed, “Hey! I got this million-dollar idea!” An ace developer and the father of a toddler, he got it. He said, “Someone is going to do this. Do you want to sit at a BBQ in 5 years saying, ‘I had that idea’? Or, do you want to build this?” He had successfully built and exited a start-up. He shared his take on an initial roadmap of what to expect, and he offered to build it with me.
I had built major campaigns from a literal kitchen table. Why not this?
I talked with my family and those I draw counsel from. Along with encouragement, we set up structures, side-hustles, and plans to make our own parachute as we jumped out of the plane.
Of course, not all has gone according to plan! But, that’s normal! We’re all adjusting to the market, just as we’ve done in our past endeavors. We’re figure-it-out-ers; so, that’s what we’re doing!
What is the biggest roadblock you have experienced in building your company?
I’m definitely not unique in the challenge that every single founder has to find the best way to relate its product to the market.
But I think the gulf between my target market and a lot of investors is wider. What’s clear to us isn’t clear to certain folks in an older generation who didn’t take on care-taking or have modern consumer shopping tools like we do today.
So, I have to lead with the numbers, like:
- Every week in America there are 11 million children in day care — that’s the population of NY & LA, combined!
- 8/10 babies are born to millennials.
- The average spend on daycare is $10k per child per year — I can send my kiddos to University for that!
- The majority of households are now dual-income households.
- The majority of people in their prime working years have children under the age of six.
- The majority of the workforce is now bread-winning women.
- And, modern fathers are taking on new roles at home, and therefore at work.
These market forces are colliding and growing this $43B industry.
Hopefully, where folks are lacking the pain point from their personal lives or the anecdotes from friends & family, the numbers paint the big picture.
Then, “all we have to do” is execute towards our plan — and show those numbers. Easy, right?! Fun? Mostly.
Describe a perfect day.
Other than work, I like really simple things: walk’n’talks with friends or colleagues, spending time outside, goofing around with my kids, eating really fresh, delicious food, and listening to live music outside with my husband.
If people want to connect with you, how should they go about doing that?
I love meeting smart, creative people who are up to something. I’m a straight-shooter, and I do really well with an agenda. So, if you want to connect let me know what’s on yours. Don’t ask, don’t get.
Right now, I’m focused on meeting folks excited to grow JuiceBox Hero and the impact we aim to have for working parents and the bottom lines of business they serve. We like to think we’re smart & fun; we are definitely data-driven.
If you’re someone who wants to work on our team or a business leader who sees the opportunity that supporting working parents provides for your bottom line, let’s talk.
What’s next for you and your company?
We just launched! We’re proving out our model in our first market with both consumers and businesses. I LOVE hearing from and helping parents navigating their search. And we are in talks with our first business pilot; it’s a really cool business, and they see the value in an inclusive, family-friendly culture with both internal and external stakeholders (staff, consumers, investors, etc).
We’ve got a ton of demand and are eager to meet it. My team rolls their eyes when I say “teamwork makes the dreamwork,” but I believe it. If you want to come roll with us, holler!