When you bring a new life into the world, your mind overflows with many new questions. Is he eating enough? Is she healthy? Should I take her to the doctor? And what doctor should I take her to, anyway?
The questions only multiply as the baby grows. How should I stimulate her? Why isn’t she sleeping? Is he ready for daycare? Where can I find the best caregivers? Will my little one be safe and happy with them?
After Leora Shoham Peters gave birth to her first daughter, she discovered that the answers to these questions are often elusive. Though she had lived in Jerusalem her entire life, she had no idea where to find the right doctors, the best daycare options, or the nicest activities. “I felt that in order to find basic information you have to do research and ask around, and work pretty hard, actually. Many times the most important and relevant information does not make it to the right places.”
Five years and two kids later, Leora decided to do something about this problem. She resolved to collect the information that new parents in Jerusalem needed the most, and present it in an inviting new website.
Leora’s decision took her away from her comfort zone and into the wilderness of new challenges and occupations. Her B.A in history of art and her background in administrative jobs did not teach her how to build a website from scratch. Though her husband, a content writer and web designer, helped her to get started, the first faze of her project was extremely challenging. “At first the work took hours. I spent every free moment, every minute the little one slept, working on the site. I did not see progress and I started to despair. One day, when I tried to add another daycare center to the list, the whole site crashed. By ‘crashed‘ I mean it completely disappeared. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.”
Ironically, this crisis became the turning point in Leora’s experience. Losing the site made her realize how valuable it could be, and she found the strength to start again. “This time around, I could learn from my mistakes. I started to believe in myself and in what the site had to offer.” One of Leora’s friends made a comment that strengthened Leora’s resolve: “After using my list of daycare centers she remarked, ‘You don’t understand what you are accomplishing here, you are organizing this huge mess on behalf of people like me, who have no idea what to do. You must not stop!’”
The difficulties were not over at that point. Leora had to learn how to promote her site on Google, and how to advertise through social media and word of mouth. But eventually the hard work payed off, and today, half a year later, Leora’s site is up and running (in Hebrew). For the first time, Jerusalem’s parents can find information about medical services, day care options, activities, and social rights, all in one place. The site includes also helpful tips for raising healthy children, communicating with them effectively, and staying healthy through pregnancy and birth.
I ask Leora what advice she would offer other people who embark on new and challenging journeys. “To talk with other people and listen to the people around them. To ask for advice instead of working only within their own ideas,” she answers.
Engagement with other parents was valuable for Leora throughout her journey. Her friend’s compliment early on encouraged her to keep going, and other people’s comments helped her to structure her site. “I knew my idea would only work if other fathers and mothers will use the site, and thus justify its existence. So after entering the information I thought would be most useful, I thought that maybe it‘s time to start understanding my target audience. What are people looking for? What is missing?” Leora used other people’s input to develop new directions and categories, effectively tuning her site to fit her audience’s needs.
Leora’s careful work payed off, and the site was received with great enthusiasm. Dozens of parents subscribed to Leora’s newsletter. The responses to the first installment were, in Leora’s words, “Overwhelming. I couldn’t believe it! Within a day the number of entries to the site was tripled. The level of interest and the number of emails and Facebook comments were crazy.”
Though the site is up and running, managing it is not without challenges. For one, Leora can only work on it after the kids go to sleep, since she works in a full time job during the day. In addition, some parents don’t understand the amount of work Leora undertook on their behalf and come to her with complaints and demands. “Every few days someone comes with a complaint. Why didn’t I post her article? Why is her daycare center not listed first? Why didn’t I call it a site for parents instead of a site for mothers?”
The positive feedback creates a different kind of challenge. Now that the site has a following and many people subscribed for the newsletter, Leora has to meet more expectations. “People are waiting for the Newsletter, and I can’t put out a product that is less than perfect.”
Working on the site deeply affected Leora’s life and self-perception. “First and foremost, I feel very content. Even though I enjoy my job and, of course, spending time with my children, for me working on the site is my real vocation. I feel like I’m developing myself and overcoming obstacles. Writing, for example. I never though I would like writing texts, but now I could do it in my sleep.” I ask Leora if the site was worth all the hard work and difficult transitions. Would she do it again? “Of course,” she answers, without missing a beat. “Absolutely.”
On a personal note, Leora’s story makes me optimistic. I started reviewing organizations that made a difference in our society because I wanted to see how to foster positive changes. Leora proves that we can change things even as private citizens. She overcame obstacles and made a difference to many people, all without an organization to back her or an investor to support her.
If you wish to receive Leora’s Newsletter, fill in your email address at www.jerusalemommy.co.il. You can contact her through the site also if you wish to buy advertisement space or promote your daycare center for a monthly fee.