- My DailyFind Down in the Valley
- The Yenta Report Weekly Interview ith L.A. Insiders
- Mom’s Like Me Q&A: “Jen’s List” Blogger Jen Levinson
- Forbes.com Mom’s Connect on the Internet
- Interview on Broad Topics is now available for download: (starts about 1:13 min.’s into the show) www.latalkradio.com
- The Athena Fortune Show – The show that gives insider secrets and wisdom to grow your business today! www.blogtalkradio.com
- Making a Difference in Your Spare Time – By Flavia Colgan blogs.phillynews.com
DING! DING! YOU’VE GOT MOMMY E-MAIL
WOMAN OFFERS ADVICE, TIPS
July 20, 2007
BARBARA CORREA Staff Writer
WEST HILLS — It’s a Tuesday afternoon at Jen Levinson’s home and, as on most days, she is juggling requests from her 5-year-old son, 2-year-old twins, the nanny and the dog.
The kids have just finished baking cookies. The twins are fighting over a plastic golf club, and their brother is running sprints in the hallway. In the middle of it all sits a lone laptop in a forgotten corner of the dining room. It is the last thing you would notice in the crowded space. But it has transformed Levinson from just another stay-at-home San Fernando Valley mom to a go-to source of information for local parents.
The five to 10 messages Levinson sends daily to about 900 individual e-mail addresses in greater Los Angeles are chock-full of useful tidbits about baby products, kid stores, toy recalls and fun things to do. She passes along articles and tips about schools and services and, of course, nanny referrals.
Levinson, 36, is unique in that most local mom e-communities are either Internet groups that post messages of interest, or full-fledged Web sites.
Parents like Levinson’s tips because they land directly in their e-mail boxes, requiring little effort on their part. And they appreciate that her list is more personal than a big Internet group offers.
“Her list is more exclusive because it’s smaller,” said Laura Laser Galperson, a mother of two and an interactive-advertising executive who lives in Westwood. “It’s like you had to know someone who knew her to get on it. She definitely seems to know everybody.”
Levinson’s local knowledge was a big help with school information when Galperson and her husband were thinking about moving to the Valley a while ago. “She’s really a trusted adviser,” Galperson said. “She’ll write back to you and do research just because she enjoys it.” The family ended up staying on the Westside, but Galperson said the information on Valley schools that Levinson sent was invaluable.
Using her list of recipients, Levinson has organized practical events. Last month, she got one of her friends — Woodland Hills Children’s Orchard owner CatalinaLopez, a Los Angeles Police Department officer — to demonstrate car-seat installation at Levinson’s house.
The demo was a hit, both from an educational standpoint and also as a networking event. Many of Levinson’s postings are about networking and bringing people together in some way. But she’s also a valuable source of news for parents who don’t have the time to keep up on what’s happening beyond their own backyards.
For example, Levinson sent a message in June about a nanny agency, Mommy’s Domestic Agency in Woodland Hills, that was caught faking references to get nannies hired. Levinson said that message received more replies than almost any other she has sent.
Levinson did not plan to become either a mother of twins or a community builder. The lifelong Valley girl, who grew up in Encino, was ordered on bed rest 2 1/2 years ago during her pregnancy with Josh and Ben. With time on her hands, she started e-mailing a small group of friends about kid-related things she found on the Internet.
“I would see a cool baby product or find something to go to. I’d think, Well, I can’t go, but maybe you guys would want to go,” she said. “So I’d e-mail five to eight girls, and then they would e-mail it to their friends, and then those friends would e-mail me and say, ‘Could you just e-mail me directly?’” Friends predicted that after having her twins, Levinson would back off the e-mailing because she wouldn’t have time. Not only did she continue the messages, she appeared on an episode of The Learning Channel’s “Bringing Home Baby” the day after she left the hospital. And a day after that, she threw a barbecue for her extended family.
Before having her kids, Levinson worked as a fraud investigator for an insurance company, so scouring the Web comes naturally. She has always been a night owl, which helps. But her real secret to keeping up the list is that her house is quiet by 8 every night, and that’s when she does most of her research and e-mailing. Levinson’s husband, Mike, a dietitian and author of a new book called “Buff Dads,” retires early to make his daily 4 a.m. workout sessions. Like so many other stay-at-home moms, Levinson gets a lot done during children’s naps and while her older son is in preschool.
Still, it’s a constant juggling act. And aside from unsolicited products she receives in the mail from time to time — and help securing tickets to a taping of “Oprah” — she hasn’t seen any compensation for her work. Her list is a labor of love. “The (feedback) I’ve received from people just makes my day — thanking me for the work I do and information I provide, and that’s enough for me,” she said. “That may sound corny, but it’s true.”
Still, when the twins start summer camp soon, she may start looking into monetizing what she does. For now, she is enjoying her local fame as mom’s best e-mail friend. She said she is beginning to get recognized by recipients who have seen the pictures of her family that she occasionally sends out.
“I was at the movies the other night, and this girl behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Are you JenLevinson? I’m on your list. Can I just give you a hug?’ “The more I do this,” she said, “the smaller the world gets.”