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Carpool Management Tip: Get Help with Boost by Mercedes-Benz (Giveaway)

Disclosure:  This is a press post. One ride credit was provided to me for review purposes but I also paid for another ride. All of my opinions are my own.

Too busy motherOn TechMamas.com l write about innovative services, apps and websites for parents on TechMamas.com. But just recently as I ramped up my own work,  I realized as a parent with tweens and teens that the main help I needed was driving my kids to and from school/activities after school. I have carpools, but that does not always work because kids go to different activities afterschool. I tried to fit in work during school hours but it seemed like my kids were either always waiting for me to finish something so I could drive them, or waiting to get picked up at times when I was running late from a meeting. Yes, driving my kids around was the one challenge getting in the way of me ramping up my work. So I set off to find a service, website or app that can help me find a solution to my carpool challenges. As would have it, I was lucky enough to see an email from the folks at Boost by Mercedes-Benz on their new innovative transportation service for kids.

 

Boost by Mercedes-Benz

Photo Credit: Boost by Mercedes-Benz

 

Here is the information from Boost by Mercedes-Benz on the story behind their innovative transportation service. The current zip codes covered are in California – Palo Alto (94301, 94302, 94303, 94304, 94305, 94306), Los Altos – 94022, Menlo Park – 94025 and Mountain View – 94043:

 

Story behind Boost By Benz:

Busy schedules and the stress of scheduling for today’s youths seem to be part of the daily family life. Boost by Mercedes-Benz was developed to address that challenge. Boost by Mercedes-Benz (www.boostbybenz.com) is a proof-of-concept business launched by the Business Innovation Team at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development in Sunnyvale. This youth transportation service is designed to transport children safely and reliably to and from the educational and recreational activities that fill their day.

 

 

Knowing how important it is for children to balance school and extracurricular activities, it can be very tough for parents to get their kids from place to place – safely and on time. The goal at Boost is to make parents’ lives easier, while enabling children to participate in more activities. In addition, Boost hopes to minimize the number of vehicles on the road (and in the school driveway) by providing a safe, reliable youth transportation alternative for parents.

One of the goals in Business Innovation is to change the way people think about transportation and with Boost; the team has already seen this shift taking place.

 

 

Technology story behind Boost by Benz:

 

Innovative technology is the backbone of Boost by Mercedes-Benz. We built a seamless system that handles route planning, notifications and updates to allow our Boost Dispatcher, Driver and Concierge to focus on what’s most important, your children.

 

 

We kept a parent’s busy schedule in mind when we built our scheduling and notification system. A simple, three-step process guides you through the one-time, online account setup. Once your family’s info is in our system, simply schedule a ride online by selecting riders, pick-up and drop-off locations, and ideal pick-up and drop-off times. Confirm your child’s ride and you’ll get an email confirmation with the ride reservation details.

 

 

The rest is even easier. We’ve built custom tablet apps for our Boost Team to allow you complete transparency throughout your child’s ride. You’ll be notified via SMS or through our iPhone app 24 hours before the ride notifying you of our arrival time. Then, the day of your child’s ride, we’ll notify you that we’re on our way to pick up your child. When we arrive, we check them in via our technology and you’ll be notified that they’re aboard Boost. If so inclined, you can log in to your account while they’re aboard Boost to get a birds-eye view of their ride. Lastly, we’ll notify you to let you know they’ve safely arrived at their destination.

By blending the ease of technology with the best in transportation, you’ll rest easy knowing your kiddos are safely bound to their next adventure.

 


Overview of Business Innovation:

Business Innovation initiated in 2007 is Daimler’s ‘think tank’ for innovative solutions beyond the core business of car manufacturing. The team deals with future trends and technological, social and cultural developments to create profitable business models. Tested and evaluated on a pilot basis, success stories like car2go and Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy started here as proof- of-concept projects and have subsequently become prosperous businesses. Business Innovation teams are also located at the headquarters in Stuttgart, in Beijing, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires and Sunnyvale, CA. Business Innovation at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, Inc. started in 2012.

 

 

Boost by Mercedes-Benz

Photo Credit: Boost by Mercedes-Benz

 

 

Details:

To sign up visit https://boostbybenz.com/. The hours currently are Monday through Friday from 12noon to 7:00pm.  The trips are scheduled online but there is also an Boost by Mercedes-Benz iPhone app and they send texts (I have an Android phone so I used the text option). Pricing will depend on the package you get, but for me it was cheaper then hiring a sitter for their minimum amount of hours per day. Instead I was just paying per ride which worked for my kids schedules.  In the van there is a driver (of course) and a Concierge that is in charge of watching over the kids and walking them to their destination from the car.

 

Boost by Mercedes Benz

Photo Credit: Boost by Mercedes Benz

 

 

Above is one of the press photos of the Concierge that rides with the driver. I used Boost to take my boys to an exercise class. The Concierge greeted me for pickup and then at drop-off walked my boys into the facility and to the class instructor per my instructions. The driver waits with the other kids in the van while the Concierge delivers the child being dropped off. In my experience, both the driver and the Concierge were very friendly and my kids enjoyed using the service (which is the most important thing!).

 

 

Now I just need to figure out my schedule in a way that I can plan the rides in advance.  Boost By Benz usually recommends scheduling rides at least 1-2 weeks prior but some time frames may be open if you need to schedule closer to the date needed. Boost also requires 48 hour cancellation to receive a 100% refund.  They will also be running over the summer! In fact, there is a special promo going on now dedicated to summer booking. Parents can use the discount code “SUMMER15” when they register and checkout on boostbybenz.com to receive 15% off rides (expires on April 30th).

 

 

I am thrilled to know that transportation services like Boost by Benz exist to help busy working parents manage carpooling challenges!

 

GIVEAWAY:

 

Please share your family carpooling challenges in the comments and we will randomly choose one comment to win ONE RIDE CREDIT received when they sign up for Boost by Benz.

 

1. One Blog Post comment per person. One Blog Post comment is equal to one entry (so only one entry per person)  2. Winners are limited by zip codes valid to Boost by Benz stated above and to US residents only 21 years of age or older. 3. If a valid email address is not provided in the entry, another winner will be chosen. 4. The prize is not redeemable in cash and must be accepted as awarded. 5. Approximate value of prizes may vary. 6. All decisions are final 7. By entering any giveaway on this website you release Techmamas.com from any liability whatsoever, and waive any and all causes of action. 7. Contest ends May 6 2014 -10am pst. Winner will be announced by May 7 2014.

 

 

 

Disclosure:  This is a press post. One ride credit was provided to me for review purposes but I also paid for another ride. All of my opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Women Entrepreneur Spotlight: Sofia Keck of Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs

Sophia Keck & TechMamaI reached out to a California Mom Bloggers Facebook group asking if any bloggers in San Francisco wanted to come to a local tech event and was delighted when Sofia Keck (SK) responded enthusiastically yes. Even though the tech event started at 10pm, she attended to help support a fellow blogger  which I appreciated! I was thrilled to also learn about her bilingual blog American Vida, which shares her food, amateur photography, the latest technology and essays on family and culture. I  especially noticed Sofia’s delicious looking food posts, so when she said she was opening up a restaurant – I was not surprised. Her new restaurant is called Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs and the location is 3224 ½ 22nd Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. To learn about her new business and her entrepreneurship tips, I decided to interview her. So here it is!

 

1. What inspired you to start your own business?

 

SK: “I got laid off during my maternity leave in 2009 while working for a tech startup company. I was very disappointed with “the system.” The economic crisis was evident, however it was hard for me to understand how employees could be so disposable.  I was holding my 2 week-old baby girl when I got the call and it was devastating. Since that moment I promised myself that I would never put myself in a situation where no matter how hard I worked I could be gone the next day.  I was happy that I got to stay home with my baby. I started a consulting business from home and I have been a business owner ever since.”

 

2. Why did you start a food business?

 

SK: “I love food, I cook and bLos Shucos Latin Hot Dogslog about food.  My restaurant is Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs, which are street hot dogs from Guatemala, my country of origin.  Shucos are a staple food item in Guatemala and internationally known by foodies and travelers and you used to be able to find them only in Guatemala. One day we were walking on the street with my husband and I told him I was craving a Guatemalan hot dog and that I wished they would have them here in San Francisco, my husband then said to me “well, why don’t you sell them”? So now I do.”

 

3. Tell us more about your restaurant.

 

Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs

 

SK:Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs is located in the heart of the Mission district in San Francisco, California. We sell Guatemalan hot dogs, called Shucos and other Latin-inspired creations.  Our flavors are unique, we make our own bread, we serve hand made chorizo and imported sauces.  Hot dogs will NEVER be the same! Check out the story at www.LosShucos.com and our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/losshucos.”

 

 

2. What advice would you give to other moms wanting to start their own food business? Sofia Keck responded with these tips:

 

  • “Remember it is not only about the food: Make great food but keep in mind that marketing, location, great customer service, a strong business plan and financial resources are all part of the equation.”

 

  • “Ask for help: You will need help at home, more if you have children.  You will also need help in your business, so get a mentor or advisor.  I shadowed a couple of chefs to learn from them. I had lunch and coffee with other restaurant owners. I still ask questions to line cooks, to high end chefs, to other business people and to investors. I ask for help. You can also go to your local small business administration (SBA) or an organization that helps you start your own business. They will teach you how to apply for a loan, how to write a business plan, and other important aspects  of your business that you may not have considered.”

 

  • Love what you are cooking: Make sure you really love what you are cooking, because it’s one thing to cook it once a week for dinner with your grateful and loving family.  It’s another thing to cook hundreds per day for an audience that demands a high quality product every time. For example, I am not a vegetarian, so it took me a while to find a vegetarian option for my hot dogs. I wanted to find a vegetarian hot dog that I would love no matter what it was made of.  I could never sell something that I wouldn’t eat myself.”

 

  • “Don’t feel guilty: It’s ok if you can’t cook homemade meals for the family every night, whether because you are at the restaurant or just because you tired of cooking the whole day. It’s ok to take a break and do nothing for a change. By taking a break you are doing something for yourself.  It’s also ok to immerse yourself in your business and forget about the rest of the world for a while. It’s ok to follow your dreams.

 

  • “Keep going: Like most great food ideas, the idea for my business came from hunger.  There will be many challenges but you have to keep going, because if you really want it you will not be satisfied until you get it done.  Opening your own food business is really hard work.  But as a mom you already know what hard work is all about, so you can do it.

 

3. Besides food, what other interests do you have?

 

 

Sophia Keck

 

SK: “I love kids. I have two of my own, an 11 yr old son and a 5 yr old daughter. I love pets, I have 3 dogs. I love spending time with my husband, I’m passionate about Guatemala, technology, meeting new people, social media, being involved in the community, attending conferences of all sorts, reading, coffee and tea which are technically not food but drinks” 

 

Check out Los Shucos – Latin Hot Dogs in San Francisco.. I know just looking at the pictures on the website are making me hungry!

 

 

Photo credits: Lonny Ivan Meyer or lonnymeyerphotography.com

 

 

 

The Importance of A “Tech” Travel Checklist

Heading out the door to catch a plane, like many busy working moms, I stopped on the front steps and went through my mental packing checklist. Airplane tickets were in my briefcase, as was my trusty little technology bag. Arriving at the airport 45 minutes later, I discovered one of my most important travel tools was missing. I had left my AT&T Unite  plugged into its charger, forgetting to pack it in my tech bag. Public and hotel Wi-Fi can be unreliable and lack proper security. Time for Plan B.

I decided to jot down some notes and write the blog post later at the hotel. Arriving at my destination several hours later, the slow and spotty hotel Wi-Fi forced another change of plans. I quickly acknowledged that my writing, like many day-to-day tasks, depends on access to online research and I was starting to hyperventilate, thinking of missed work deadlines due to poor quality connectivity. I longed for my mobile Wi-Fi device on my desk back home, realizing just how dependent I am on that small piece of electronics and how confident I felt with it in my briefcase.

 

Now whether I am heading out to work, meetings or business trips I review my technology travel list before heading out the door. Here’s my technology travel list – what on your list?

 

TechMama Tech Travel Check List

 

1. Tech Devices: I usually bring my laptop with me on business trips but powerful tablets may change that habit. I also bring other devices such as a video or digital camera depending on the event.

 

2. Smartphone: It’s like one of the family.

 

3. Backup charger: My favorite is a universal charger that works for both my laptop and my smartphone.

 

4. Mobile WiFi: Uninterrupted work on the go requires connectivity. The AT&T Unite (powered by Netgear) not only gives me a secure network but it also has a battery life up to 10 hours, which is enough to get me through my day.

 

5.  Travel Cases:  Keeping technology like chargers, cords and memory organized is essential. I have a stash of different zip cases and travel bags with zippers to store technology within my laptop bag and stay organized on the go. One case contains power cords, another has my smartphone, mobile Wi-Fi, backup battery and digital camera.  A final small case holds my extra business cards. In my purse I also have items separated in zip cases. One case contains my lipsticks and face powder. Another case holds odds and ends like mints, pens, bandages, pain relievers and basic travel items. For trips require a large amount of technology (such as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas), I put my devices in separate cases with their chargers and accessories. Or sometimes I put all of my technology accessories in a few cases of their own.

 

 

6.  Travel Documents: As a backup, I have paper printouts of key travel and work information I need on the business including hotel reservations, driving directions and meeting agendas.

 

7. Memory:  Even though I store my documents in the cloud, I like to bring an extra flash memory cards (if I bring a camera) and USB Flash drive. Having a second copy of my presentation on a flash drive gives the comfort that if something goes wrong I always have a backup copy. But there is something ironic about having “memory” as a step in my checklist to remember what to bring to business trips.

 

8. Power Plug: I find that many hotels do not have enough plugs to charge up my tech each night. So I travel with a plug that has three outlets and two USB slots and that plugs into one wall outlet. Of course, if I am traveling in a different country, I bring the international plug.

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I received an AT&T Unite as part of my sponsorship. My words are my own.

For more information, visit att.com/Unite or connect with WiFi Family on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Life Hacks From Startup Co-Founder Vlada

Guest Post: If you are a parent and are thinking of starting a company, I have good news – you already have the world’s best entrepreneurial experience: you are running a family without any previous experience or a manual! Do you remember the endless questions you had when you (or your partner) were pregnant? Do you remember the anxiety you felt at your baby’s first doctor visit? Do you remember the pride you felt when your baby walked for the first time? Running a start up, in many ways, is very similar to running a family.  The hardest part is to figure out how to make time for both. The answer (unlike execution) is surprisingly simple, prioritize, prioritize, and prioritize.

 

 

Your first step was deciding to start a company, hopefully something that makes you leap out of bed every morning.  Your next step is to figure out your top few priorities, and deprioritize and potentially cut out almost everything else.

 

 

For example, one of my top priorities is to create a meaningful relationship between my kids and their family. Unfortunately, we don’t have the time or the budget to plan many vacations.  My tricks for staying close to the family is to leverage technology.

  • I’m lucky that my car has Bluetooth so I make most of the calls on my way to dropping kids off at school. My daughters love being part of the conversation and my family adores hearing from them. I love that I get to feel close without it taking up additional time in the day. If your car doesn’t have Bluetooth, try putting your phone on speaker, it works surprisingly well.
  • In addition to regular calls, we use Joya (www.getjoya.com) to easily send videos of our kids to our closest family and friends.  Thanks to the power of video, our family can feel like they are there when my daughter is learning to ride a bike. Or when my little one is eagerly “eating” yogurt by spreading it all over her face J. My kids also LOVE getting videos from their cousins and friends.
  • I use kids’ art projects for packages to send to family. I typically have 1-2 hours every morning with my girls. During that time we will usually do some sort of creative project. I love www.tinkerlab.com for really simple art ideas.  On project days I ask the kids who they are creating it for. Then, when they are done, I put it in an envelope and send it off. My kids love thinking of various family members, putting the stamp on the envelope, and “writing” a special note (i.e. combination of letters and scribbles J). The best part is then getting a video back of the family opening up their special letter.

 

 

In my experience, running a company and a family require a deep commitment and attention to how I’m living my life, almost on a moment-by-moment basis.  To be clear, I don’t believe that living a balanced life is a goal. To me it’s about living a consciously unbalanced life, being careful that nothing gets dropped for too long. Much like when a baby is first born, when you first start a company, it needs extra care.  So, that means you have to find ways to simplify, cut or get help for other parts of your life, and then over time everything gets adjusted.

 

 

When I think back to when I was pregnant and talking to my Mommy friends, I felt so scared, so unsure of how I’ll manage being a working Mom. I was truly in awe of my friends who were doing it. And then I became a Mom and then I had my second kid. It was hard but life adjusted and now I can’t imagine it any other way. I think it’s same when making a decision to start a company. Yes, it is scary, and yes, it’s hard. And it’s also worth every precious minute.

 

Guest post by @vladab :

 

Vlada co-founded Joya (www.getjoya.com), a mobile app that makes it delightful and easy to share mobile videos. Previously, she co-founded and sold AdNectar, a VC-backed ad tech company.

Vlada majored in computer engineering and art at Northwestern University. She has 10+ years of professional experience as product manager, designer and entrepreneur, building mass-impact products including MSN Messenger and Hotmail.

Vlada is also a proud Mom of two little girls who are the inspiration behind Joya. They pushed Vlada to dream about making staying in touch with family feel magically effortless, and so Joya was born.

Connect with Vlada: @GetJoya and @vladab and https://www.facebook.com/getjoya. Photo Credit: DharmaComics .

 

 

 

Tips To Plan For Summer Learning

Summer is here and while planning for what to pack for vacation may seem like a top challenge, planning for summer learning is another challenge. We have all heard about the summer slide, so what can parents do to make sure their kids enjoy summer while fitting in some learning (and don’t feel resentful)?

 

I am on the hunt for great ideas so please comment with your summer learning tips. Here are some to start the conversation going.

 

 

TeachMama has a great post with 5 sneaky ideas for sneaky learning and backyard fun, backyard book party and many more teach-able tips.

 

Live Do Grow suggested creating a summer contract (and gave a link to a edit friendly sample contract).

 

The Principal’s Post believes that “This summer, real learning can happen. Let’s make it a fun, hands-on, adventure for our kids!”

 

Edutopia has Seven Ways To Prevent Summer Learning Loss.

 

Education.com has information on summer slide and printable workbooks.

 

Huffington Post shared a Summer Reading List for Kids.

 

 

Good Reads has a section for Popular summer reading.

 

 

Dot Complicated has tips on how families can find tech life balance this summer.

 

Parents can also check any of the “must read K-12 blogs” for educational information – curated by Ed Tech Magazine (that includes one of my favorites My Paperless Classroom).