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Meet Erin Beck of Wana Family Network in Glendale

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erin Beck.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I didn’t think I would fall in love with LA. I’m a Midwest girl turned city dweller that still thinks it isn’t barbecue without the sauce. So I filled up a backpack and did 15 months around 5 continents with my husband and my camera, with odd homes and odd jobs. We taught English in a rice paddy village in Indonesia, worked as scuba divers in the Med researching climate change and learned Aussie football from a punk rocker in the Outback (where they also leave the sauce off the barbie).

And when it was time to come home and to start a family, there wasn’t any home that fit us better than right back here in LA. We’re a city of transplants, of crazy dreamers, of world-seekers, and there isn’t anywhere else like it.

I rejoined the Dragon team at SpaceX, where I’d started my LA story designing, testing, and operating the spacecraft that resupply the International Space Station. I shed the all-white head-to-toe bunny suit for a black blazer, skinny tie, and flashy headset as Mission Director and Launch Conductor, one of the few how-can-I-be-this-lucky people who count down from 10 and push the big green GO button.

And then I launched a startup, bound for the transplants and dreamers just like me. It’s an online network of families called Wana that trade babysitting with each other, for free, so everyone can have access not just to affordable childcare, but to all the benefits of a balanced lifestyle: active career, vibrant marriage, social kids, close friends, plenty of me-time. I believe being the best parent I can be means being great for my family, my community, and myself, It doesn’t take rocket science to have everything; it just takes each other.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As a woman in engineering, I have to admit that I never felt I was at a disadvantage. I worked hard, was respected by my peers, and if I was at the top of my game, I was rewarded for it. And then I became a mom.

My employers were outstanding. They were flexible, understanding, and provided ample care for nursing time, sick time, anytime. But what I longed for was baby time; suddenly the traditional workplace was no longer for me.

But neither was just being at home. I had never intended to become a parent and give up the rest of what makes me because that part of me is just as special and essential a teacher to my daughter as the part that nurtures her basic needs. I was so in love with my little girl. But I was also angry, grieving, and lonely, in that quiet but persistent place moms try their best to disregard.

How can you work and be present for your home at the same time? How do you grow adult relationships while involving your little as an equal? Can you be a leader for both your children and your community?

Yes, so much yes, and the more I talked openly about it, the more I found how each parent navigates their own personal solution. For me, it takes two parts. First, running my own business, so I can create great work and still be in control of my time. Second, providing a tool that makes sharing childcare within a neighborhood flexible, fun, and free.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Wana Family Network – what should we know?
On Wana, instead of dollars, we trade in points. You sit for me, I give you points; I sit for you, you give me points. You can find friends you already know or meet someone new through your work, school, or interests. It’s free to join and free to use, so if you give as much as you get, it is actually, for real free.

And I’m firm on that. There are other services out there to help you manage a babysitting co-op, but with Wana, there is no subscription fee, so you can sign up yourself, your book club, your preschool, anyone you want to be closer with as a community, and there are no strings attached. To me, if you’re giving your own time, that should be enough.

How does the company sustain itself then?
If you run out of time or desire to reciprocate the sits for your friends, we’ve got you covered. You can buy points directly from Wana to keep booking sits within your trusted network, and it will still average out to less than the cost of traditional care.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Why does finding new parent friends feel so much like dating? I was so used to being self-sufficient that I was shy to say hello at the playground, shy to host the first playdate, shy to ask for the first sit. Who likes asking for help anyway? But … who loves giving help?

Pretty much everybody. And by not reaching out, I was denying a lot of would-be friends the joy of being, well, friends. So I’m learning to ask. I’m learning to receive as well as give. And I hope my little girl is watching; what better way to teach than to learn?

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jose Acain, Izida Lukmanova

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