Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

Would You Put Your Kid in a Car With a Stranger? This Startup Hopes So.


"How do I know my kids will be safe?" As a worrywart helicopter parent of three, this was my first question to Joanna McFarland.

The busy mom of two is the co-founder and CEO of HopSkipDrive, an Uber-like service that dispatches drivers -- that are technically complete strangers -- to take kids from place to place when their parents can't.

Image Credit: HopSkipDrive

As you can imagine, McFarland faces this critical question all the time. Her answer: "We do far more than most families do when vetting a babysitter or a nanny, and so the guiding principle for everything we do is "Is this safe enough for my own kid?' and "Would I put my own kid in this car?'" It is and she does, she says.

Related: Facebook May Have a Ridesharing Service in the Works

McFarland launched the South Pasadena, Calif.-based startup in March 2015 with two fellow working mothers, Carolyn Yashari Becher and Janelle McGlothlin. Between the three mompreneurs, they have eight kids, ranging between the ages of 4 and 13. Collectively, they attend six different schools and are involved in a head-spinning lineup of extracurricular activities.

"They are the reason we created HopSkipDrive," McFarland says, "We started the company to solve our own problem -- getting our own kids from point A to point B."

Image Credit: HopSkipDrive

The idea for the business, which, in fact, started as a joke, came to McFarland and McGlothlin at a child's birthday party. They were venting with other parents about how challenging -- and downright exhausting -- it can be to constantly schlep their kids to and from school and everywhere else, before, after and sometimes in between. Being that being in two places at once is impossible, it's a major pain for most moms and dads, especially those with multiple children.

Related: My 10-Year-Old Son Almost Made Me Late for a Meeting. How I Reacted Made Me Money.

McFarland and her co-founders know the struggle all too well.

"We were all scraping together solutions that weren't really solutions," she says. "We were sneaking out of work early, arguing with our spouses over whose job was more important that day. We were cobbling together a myriad of carpools for each child, for each activity, and then praying nobody's child got sick, causing the carpools to crumble. And sometimes, we were just not signing our kids up for things because we couldn't figure out a way to get them there."

Enter "CareDrivers" to the rescue, HopSkipDrive's specially-insured way to get kids there. They're called CareDrivers because, as McFarland puts it, "they're caregivers first and drivers second." Taking a page out of Uber and Lyft's playbooks, some 500 CareDrivers use their own cars to shuttle thousands of kids (ages 7 to 17) all over a combined 5,000-mile expanse spanning both Los Angeles and Orange counties. (The company is slated to announce its expansion into Orange County this coming Monday.)

Image Credit: HopSkipDrive

Related: Randi Zuckerberg's Simple Secret for Juggling Career and Kids

Mile after mile, parents are able to track their precious cargo en route via HopSkipDrive's free iOS and Android apps. Tip: Make sure your little ones use the loo before they hop into a HopSkipDrive. Potty stops aren't permitted. Drivers can, however, pull over if your child gets sick or "misbehaves" in a way that requires "their immediate and undivided attention."

Should issues like these pop up, CareDrivers are well-prepared to handle them, McFarland says. Each is at least 23 or older and has a minimum of five years of childcare experience. "That means they're moms, they're teachers, they're nannies," she says. "They're used to working with kids."

Further raising the rider-safety bar, HopSkipDrive says all drivers undergo a rigorous 15-point certification process. This includes everything from fingerprinting to checking their backgrounds, references and driving records, to interviewing them in person and beyond. Digging deeper, drivers are also vetted for sex offense and drunk driving convictions.

Flush with a fresh $10.2-million dollar series A funding injection led by venture capital firm FirstMark Capital last January, HopSkipDrive has eyes -- and cash -- for expanding its service "into the rest of Southern California," McFarland told The San Gabriel Valley Tribune. To help drive the ambitious effort, the company hired Eyal Gutentag, the former general manager of Uber L.A., as its chief operating officer.

Related: 10 Single Mom Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Business Advice

Firstmark Capital managing director Rick Heitzmann sees the value -- and potential for exponential growth -- in the service, not only as an investor, but as a parent as well.

"I have three kids aged 1, 5 and 11, and the movement of children around is a huge issue in our lives," he told the Los Angeles Times. "Whether it's soccer or ballet or school, all of that is a big issue, so it was a pain I'd felt personally."

HopSkipDrive rides are paid for and booked through the app at least eight hours in advance. They cost $20 each. An additional fee of $1 per mile is charged after five miles and $0.50 per minute after 30 minutes. Additional passengers, typically siblings, cost $5 each, though the first extra sibling is free.

Related: Busy Parents: Meet Shuddle, the Uber For Busy Parents

In a time when 60 percent of families have both parents working, and kids are increasingly overscheduled, HopSkipDrive is driving in the right direction at the right time, helicopter parent stranger danger fears or not.


These 13 Founders Share Their Number 1 Piece of Advice to Help You Set and Achieve Your Business Goals

From time management tips to shifting your energy these founders share their go-to business tips to help you thrive in 2023.

Why Founders Are Hiring These Two Coaches to Supercharge Their Business

Ankita Terrell and Emily McDonald share how they serve as strategic cofounders to help top female founders scale.

CookUnity CEO Mateo Marietti on Connecting Chef to Consumer

CookUnity CEO Mateo Marietti talks about founding the meal subscription service, a sustainable-minded business model, and becoming the "Spotify of Food Delivery."

Unleash Unshakable Confidence in 7 Days

In the cut-throat business world, self-doubt can be the difference between success and failure, costing you everything.

60 Second Business Tip: How to Stop Getting Ghosted

Business development consultant Terry Rice shares simple ways to win deals.

This Entrepreneur Created an Index to Help You Measure The True Value of The Real Estate Market

The CEO of Empowered Investor sits down with Jessica Abo to discuss the Hartman Comparison Index and his predictions for 2023.

David "Rev" Ciancio on How To Master Restaurant Marketing

Marketing Expert David "Rev" Ciancio discusses the importance of publishing honest social media video content, simple branding strategies, and creating a new type of restaurant conference that actually helps you grow your business.

3 New Ways to Develop Laser-Like Focus

To boost focus in the face of distractions, you need a new approach to success.

60-Second Business Tips: Three Ways to Boost Your Productivity

Business development consultant Terry Rice shares simple ways to get more done.

Ryan Peters of Peters Pasta on Making Content Creation into a Business

Interview with content creator and Peters Pasta founder Ryan Peters about going viral on TikTok, transitioning to full-time content creation, and picking the right brand partners for collaboration.

How This Entrepreneur Went From Broke to $2.3 Million in Sales

He used the '3 E Method' to turn around a failing business in a few short months.

Chef Joe Isidori of Arthur & Sons NY Italian on Finding Your Authentic Voice

Interview with restaurateur Joe Isidori about opening Arthur & Sons NY Italian, modern restaurant culture, and leveraging social media as a wellness tool.

The No.1 Most Bankable Skill You Must Have to Succeed in 2023

If you don't foster this skill, you'll fall behind the pack financially and professionally in 2023.

Discover Entrepreneur Series

Whether you need advice on how to get your business off the ground or you’re just looking for inspiration, our video series have something for everyone. Browse our library below to find a series that speaks to you and your interests.