Anna Levin is relieved. She recently decided to participate in a competitive accelerator program, a mentoring, networking and investing opportunity that can take her start-up business to the next level. But as a working mom to a 3½ year old and also six months pregnant, the choice wasn’t an easy one for her.
To help her decide, she relied on her Jewish and Russian immigrant upbringing, her parents having arrived in the United States in the late 1970s during the first peak of immigration of Jews from the Soviet Union.
Her grandparents are Holocaust survivors. They met in the Minsk ghetto and managed to escape and join the resistance fighting force that was taking shape in the surrounding forests.
How does your Jewish upbringing influence your life and choices today?
I’ve always kind of identified myself more ethnically as Jewish,than religiously Jewish. I went to Hebrew school, but I think the Russian-Jewish experience… it’s more of a cultural experience than a religious experience.
My grandparents on my dad’s side — my dad’s from Minsk, and Minsk was taken over by the Nazis, and that’s how my grandparents met. They met in a ghetto and they escaped the ghetto, and actually fought in the Black Forest resistance.”
On top of being in Russia, where you’re a second-class citizen as a Jew, and then immigrating here, it’s just part of my family history. I think that rich, cultural, survival-mode — there’s an appreciation for where I am because there’s been so many sacrifices and so many people ost.
Also, it’s a pride thing. Survivors. My grandparents are survivors.
How did you get the idea for your business, Munchkin Mailbox?
It came from my own experience, I moved to D.C. when I was seven months pregnant with my first daughter and I had no idea how competitive it was to get into daycare. When I started calling around, I was shocked that I couldn’t get in, because the wait list was so long.
As a working mom, I thought, I can do everything online, how come I can’t do this? It just kind of dawned on me that I can apply to college online but I can’t apply to license childcare online.”
There is a childcare crisis happening right now, mostly surrounding cost. But I see this as helping with the cost, because I can take away the administrative burden from the schools, and maybe they don’t have to hire an extra person, or even have the owner taking away some of the things off his or her plate, we can hopefully create some change.
What do you hope for it to become in the future?
What we’re working on right now is what I’m calling the intelligent waitlist and notification system that matches parents to schools with availability and also will manage your wait list time, and give you predictions on how likely you can get into a school of your choice.
After that’s over, then we’re going to be doing enrollment, peer reviews, scheduling tours, and then in the future we’d like to expand beyond license child care into summer camp.
How do you like to spend time with your family when you’re not working?
We are big fans of the Natural History and Air and Space museums. We also like to take day trips to Annapolis, Cunningham State Falls Park and [Thomas Jefferson’s plantation] Monticello.
Laura Kelly is a Washington-area writer.