For working parents, finding the right childcare option is often harder than you’d think. Aside from basic questions like availability and location, parents want to make sure they’re picking the right learning environment for their child.
In fact, according to Laurie Felker Jones, an Austin-based consultant and the founder of JuiceBox Hero, many families spend as much as nine months looking for the right provider.
“It takes about the same amount of time for a CEO to search for a new chairman of the board,” said Felker Jones. “That’s what families are doing with childcare. It’s a highly emotional decision in a fragmented market.”
Her startup wants to help cut down the time — and stress — of choosing a provider by offering an online marketplace for care services.
The idea for JuiceBox Hero goes back to when Felker Jones was pregnant with her first child. At the time, she tried googling daycare options using her zip code as a qualifier.
“I got over 70,000 results, and I was completely overwhelmed,” said Felker Jones.
The experience inspired her to toy around with the idea of a filtered, geolocation-based search engine that could help parents cut through the noise. After a few years of consideration, she decided to team up with a friend, an experienced CTO, to turn the idea into a reality.
The platform lets parents narrow their daycare options down using more than 30 filters. Popular criteria include location, the child's age, activities offered and religious affiliation. Users can also narrow options down based on pedagogical approaches, like language immersion or the Montessori Method.
To start, JuiceBox Hero will primarily focus on care options in Austin.
“We really respect this challenge faced by parents, and we want to get it right,” said Jones. “Once we do, then we’ll go to Houston and Dallas. We have the ability to go nationwide, but we need to start here.”
Still in the beta stage, JuiceBox Hero is slated to launch soon. For now, Felker Jones herself is one of the company's most active users.
“Our children are in a program now, but our circumstances have changed and we’re back in,” said Felker Jones. “I have been using our beta platform for my own problem — and have been driving my dev team crazy.”
In the future, Felker Jones hopes to take JuiceBox Hero to the B2B sector by connecting with companies that want to give employees access to childcare resources.
Felker Jones said companies have begun recognizing the importance of accommodating working parents. Austin Chamber hosted a discussion about the topic last November that addressed the importance of early childcare and how businesses are stepping up to meet demand.
Panelists at the event shared that when businesses provide visibility and support for childcare options, the companies see a return of $16 for every dollar spent on early childhood education programs, Felker Jones said.
“People have to go to work and employers need employees,” said Felker Jones. “There’s an incredible opportunity for awesome companies to expand their brand value with women and modern fathers by prioritizing childcare.”