What started out as Jen Levinson sharing information she came across with friends has evolved into “Jen’s List” and grown into an 8,000+ person e-mail distribution of moms in the Los Angeles area. The mother of five boys – yes, five—and two sets of identical twins, somehow found the time to answer Breezy Mama’s questions on how it all came about.
First off, you have five kids, ages six and under. How do you find the time to do your list?
Jen: My three older ones are in school –the 6 year old in kindergarten and the 3 year olds are in preschool from 9-12. The babies nap in the morning and I utilize that time to start going through the e-mails received from the evening before. The rest of the day, here and there, I will try to stop at my computer to go through the e-mails that come in and then the real work begins at about 8pm when my entire house goes to sleep…including my husband! I spend the next four hours answering the 200+ e-mails from the day and putting together the next day’s newsletter.
With files on topics like baby/toddler products, baby nurses, twin info, enrichment classes, gift ideas and birthday party essentials, what is your favorite topic to cover?
Jen: It’s hard to say what my favorite is. I LOVE anything that has to do with family/kids. It is super cool when a mom e-mails me about a class that she saw on Jen’s list that she never knew about before or someone who found a nanny that has become like a part of their family on Jen’s list. The information is endless!
Have you ever missed a day and gotten any backlash?
Jen: It is rare that I have missed a day. Even when I gave birth to my twins 10 months ago, I put together a week of newsletters before I went into the hospital and my husband sent them out for me! There was a day or two when I had computer issues but I would not say that there was backlash, BUT I did, however receive MANY e-mails wondering where the daily newsletter was!
What’s been the best experience since starting your list?
Jen: Oh my gosh…BY FAR, the best experience since starting this list has been the people that I have met, the families that Jen’s List has helped, the animals that have found homes and the lives that have been enriched by the information shared.
Any nightmare stories?
Jen: When I started Jen’s list, my skin was VERY thin. HOWEVER I learned a few hard lessons over the years, that if I was going to be putting myself out there to almost 9000 people a day, I had to toughen up and realize that I am not going to make EVERYONE happy, no matter how hard I try. Tears were shed and sleep was lost, but in the end I am stronger from the experiences and I know now not to take what other people say so personally.
What do you look for when creating your list and where does your information come from?
Jen: Anything that I feel will enrich someone’s life in some way, shape or form — and that is not harmful — I think is valid and useful info to share.
At what point did you realize your list was growing beyond just your friends?
Jen: I used to send my e-mails via Outlook, however Outlook only allows you to e-mail 99 people at a time otherwise they consider it spam. So, with the 100th person, I was sending the e-mail twice. I was up to 1900 people, sending the e-mail 19 times before it dawned on me that maybe this is something bigger than Outlook and that I have to do something about it! Hence, www.jenlevinson.com was born. In just July of 2007 there were almost 900 people on the list. Today, there are almost 9000.
With all the information you have gathered, can you tell us about one of your favorite birthday parties you’ve thrown?
Jen: I think birthday parties are about celebrating with your friends and family. A lot of the places these days have a limit on the amount of children that you can have attend. It makes me sad to not be able to include someone. So, my most favorite party that we had was held at DeAnza Park in Calabasas. They have a huge room, with tables and chairs for everyone and a full kitchen. The price is SO reasonable and the facility is terrific. Right outside the room is the park’s play area. We had food, a craft table, Buzz and Woody came to entertain the kids and it was a blast. There were 150 people there and knowing that it was a weekend and weekends are family time, it was awesome to see that everyone was together.
Any plans for the future for Jen’s List?
Jen: I try to imagine where Jen’s List is going to go. The possibilities are endless. I get asked all the time if I am going to move into other cities, franchise the idea, sell or quit. At this point, all of those mentioned are options…but right now, I will plug along, as I do daily until I feel ready for a change!
Breezy Tip: To learn more and to sign up to receive Jen’s List, click here.