Jessica Chang of WeeCare: They Told Me It Was Impossible And I Did It Anyway
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Just because everyone is doing one thing, doesn’t mean you can’t do another — Starting a new part of our business during a global pandemic runs counter to what most observers think is possible, however we have been successful and proven the naysayers wrong.
As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing….Jessica Chang, Co-Founder and CEO of WeeCare.
Jessica Chang is the co-founder and CEO of WeeCare, the largest childcare network in the United States. Jessica is also a mother and a preschool owner. She has always been passionate about childcare. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a dual degree in Psychology, with a focus on Early Childhood Development, and Economics. When Jessica was pregnant with her first child, she began touring daycares only to discover that all spots were full with long waitlists and exorbitant costs. Unable to comprehend why there were so few spots available and so many parents searching for childcare, she decided to dive into the childcare space and become an investor and owner of a preschool. From her work as the COO of Affinity China, as a principal investor at Macquarie Capital, and VP of Marketplace at Radpad, Jessica applied her background in finance and business to streamline the school’s operations and grew it to full capacity within months of ownership. Jessica co-founded WeeCare in 2017 to empower educators and daycare directors to start, fill to capacity, and efficiently operate a licensed home daycare business. WeeCare eliminates parents’ stress of finding a quality daycare by matching them with the best small home daycare environment for their children. In addition, Jessica is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the Early Childcare Planning Committee of LA County and the Santa Monica Early Childhood Task Force. Jessica lives in Los Angeles with her husband Witt and two children, Maddy and Teddy.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?
I’ve always been interested in childcare and early childhood education. After applying my economics studies in various finance and business roles, I saw an opportunity to tackle the challenges of the childcare landscape and improve the outcomes for parents, providers, and of course, children.
After starting WeeCare in 2017 with my co-founders Jesse Forrest and Matt Reilly, we focused on our big vision which involved creating a marketplace for parents and childcare providers so families could easily find high-quality, affordable care that meets their needs while caregivers and educators would have the support to grow their small businesses and solve the childcare crisis in the process! Our team and WeeCare’s reach have grown considerably since then as we scaled up operations and hit many new milestones. In 2020, we became the largest childcare network in the United States! Today, we are partnering with employers across the country to offer childcare benefits to their employees, which is so crucial for working families.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, our work expanding childcare benefits is a very exciting project as it helps both employers and their employees. Employers face serious challenges when trying to implement childcare benefits for their employees, from costs and set up time to limited childcare availability and inflexible options for their working families. WeeCare’s Childcare Benefits program is solving these issues. We have created the only childcare benefits program built to enable employers of all sizes to cost-effectively offer employees and team members the most options and support for their childcare needs.
WeeCare has developed flexible childcare benefits options that employees actually use and are seeking from their current and prospective employers. WeeCare’s innovative technology platform matches families with the right providers able to offer care tailored to a family’s specific needs, increasing the value of the benefit to both employer and employee. Childcare benefits are key for decreasing employee absenteeism, increasing team satisfaction, and reducing employee turnover. And as we’ve seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, childcare is more essential than ever with so many parents and working families struggling to simply get by, let alone thrive in the face of serious challenges.
In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?
What makes WeeCare stand out from the crowd is that our nationwide network of childcare providers offers affordable, flexible options for employers looking to provide their employees with childcare support. We have the largest breadth of coverage across the nation, covering urban, suburban, and rural areas, so WeeCare’s network can provide access to care wherever employees live and work. Our primary childcare supports full-time, part-time, back-up, drop-in, weekend, and overnight schedules.
The other big differentiator is that through WeeCare’s Childcare Benefits program, organizations can test the waters to see what works best for their workforce. Our Childcare Benefits program provides flexibility for employers and is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?
Even with WeeCare being successful and established at the time, many people thought it was impossible to add a whole new offering during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we did it anyway and have seen positive impacts through our Childcare Benefits program. Employers are seeking these benefits that help increase retention and recruitment, boost productivity, reduce absenteeism and presenteeism, and improve wellness. Working families need care for their children and WeeCare’s Childcare Benefits are making a difference in families’ lives across the country.
When we began building our Childcare Benefits initiative in the summer of 2020, naysayers deemed it a bad time because so many companies, organizations, and entire industries were still shut down. There was uncertainty everywhere you looked. Our team at WeeCare overcame this by buckling down, analyzing data and trends, determining the most useful options for employers, and realizing that working families were going to need childcare more than ever — it was up to us to make it work so that we could support those families.
In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? :-)
In the end, we were able to prove all the naysayers wrong with the success of our Childcare Benefits program, as it continues to grow and make an impact for employers and their employees. Additionally, the WeeCare Marketplace has continued to thrive, keeping childcare providers open and in business during the pandemic. Our family childcare model, with smaller class sizes and stringent health checks, not only survived but grew over the course of the pandemic. WeeCare’s Marketplace works in tandem with our Childcare Benefits team to help employer clients and their workforces solve the childcare puzzle in real time and create tangible results.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have to shout out my husband, Witt, here :) He has always been incredibly supportive and understanding throughout my career, but especially during COVID he has really stepped up and been even more helpful. He has been incredibly patient, regularly taking time out of his busy schedule to tend to the kids, care for them if they’re sick, pick them up from school, and generally shoulder a larger burden of the child-rearing so that I can continue to focus on my work and be as productive as I need to be.
It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?
Earlier in my career, I used to work in investment banking. There is an extreme where you can push yourself and in this field, that extreme was tested for me. I remember one time vividly when I worked for four days straight without going home, despite living very close to the office. That was pretty extreme, but I think it helped me build resiliency that I can lean on now when new challenges are presented as our team at WeeCare works together on solving the childcare crisis.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)
- Telling yourself that you can — Raising capital while being pregnant is no easy task, nor is starting a company when your first child is under 6 months old. Yet telling yourself that you can do it and reinforcing this tenacious belief can lead to incredible results.
- Just because everyone is doing one thing, doesn’t mean you can’t do another — Starting a new part of our business during a global pandemic runs counter to what most observers think is possible, however we have been successful and proven the naysayers wrong.
- Being okay with not being safe — Leaving a cushy job and becoming a founder, for example, exemplifies this strategy. There are inherent risks and you should make peace with leaving behind the reliable in exchange for the uncertain.
- Making time for yourself — This can mean mandatory dinner dates, with just yourself (or maybe your partner). Use these times to reset from the hectic day and mentally prepare to tackle the impossible again tomorrow.
- It’s okay to ask for help — This is true all the time, but especially during COVID we’ve seen how critical asking for help can be for mental health. You can’t take on everyone else’s mental health responsibilities and not take care of your own.
What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?
The quote, “Nothing will work unless you do” from Maya Angelou speaks to this concept. Let’s take action and get things done — resiliency will be built through our actions.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I think it’s the movement to solve childcare that would have the biggest impact on the greatest number of people — working families, getting women back in the workplace, supporting children so that they can develop and reach their full potential, and backing care providers that do one of the hardest jobs in the world every single day. This idea of solving the childcare crisis is going to do vast amounts of good and change the lives for countless people around the country.
Can our readers follow you on social media?
Absolutely, readers can follow me and our work at: https://twitter.com/weecareco, https://www.linkedin.com/company/weecare-inc/, https://twitter.com/jessicajchang and https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessica-chang-1010402/.
Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!