Macaroni Kids
Jo Beth Bootz, Alicia Boston, and Erin Smith are connecting families to Evansville events, activities, and places for kids. The women decided to bring the Macaroni Kid digital platform to Evansville after noticing an information gap between local happenings and parents. As true momtrepreneurs, these women juggle rigorous schedules and always make time for what really matters — friends and family.

Meet Jo Beth

I was born and raised in Evansville; I grew up on the West Side. I graduated from Reitz High School and then ended up going to Indiana University for college, which I absolutely loved. And then after graduation, I actually moved to New York City. My husband and I decided that we really wanted to come back to Evansville because we wanted to have a family. And this is a great community to raise kids and to become the kind of family that we wanted. 

Meet Alicia

I am also originally from Evansville, from the North side. My husband is as well; we both graduated from Central. We have always known we were going to stay in Evansville. My husband has gotten work opportunities to move to bigger cities, but that’s just not the feeling that we like. We’ve both been involved in a lot of things in Evansville, and we know a lot of people and our families are here. My daughter goes to the same elementary school that I went to, and it’s just really cool to go back in there and experience it as a parent. It’s just been a lot of fun to see her grow in the same school that I went to as well.

Macaroni Kid

What is Macaroni Kid and how did you bring it to Evansville?

Jo Beth: Macaroni Kid is a digital platform for parents all around the country. It’s a resource for them to get information about local events, recipes, parenting tips — it’s an information hub. A few years ago, we found that there was a disconnect. There were events and wonderful things going on, but parents didn’t know or they weren’t getting the information until later. You would constantly see on Facebook, 'I never hear about these things. There’s nothing to do with our kids.' And we knew that wasn’t true, but it was a matter of closing that gap and getting information to parents. So it made sense that some sort of hub needed to be created. With Macaroni Kid, there was already a brand and a system in place that we could bring here to Evansville and make it hyper-local. We control the content and we get to parents on a really personal level. And, we have some amazing resources at our disposal. We have access to other publishers around the country, so we’re able to bring great ideas that are going on in other communities, here to Evansville.

How has becoming a parent changed you?

Alicia: It has changed basically everything in my life. The things that you thought being a mom would be like — it’s those things, but it’s also a lot more. I absolutely love watching my kids grow, and they’re very involved in activities, which has introduced me to things that I never did as a kid. I’ve just loved seeing them learn and grow and do things that they love.

Jo Beth: When my first daughter was born and she was put into my arms, I seriously thought, 'Wow, my life is totally different!' And I remember when she was strapped in the car and we were leaving the hospital, I was shocked that someone would let me leave with a child! I thought, 'I don’t think I’m equipped to do this! I don’t know anything about being a parent.' And I started to look at myself differently. Parenting changes everything about you. It really sheds some light on who you really are as a person. You start to look at yourself very differently, and I think because a lot of your characteristics shine in your children, and you start to see a lot more of yourself, maybe the good and the bad.

Macaroni Kid

What fulfills you about the work you do?

Jo Beth: For me, Macaroni Kid Evansville is mission work. Most of my career has been in the nonprofit sector, and the reason I loved that work so much was that we always had a very specific mission— something that was near and dear to my heart, the hearts of employees, and the people that we served. So, transitioning to Macaroni Kid was very simple. Our mission is to really empower parents and to give them resources. It was really easy to step into that role because it’s something I’m passionate about. Everything that I do whether it’s answering an email, interacting with other parents, or updating our events calendar is all mission based for me. I’m so passionate that we’re able to provide such an essential service to parents of the Tri-State.

A recent Harvard Graduate School of Education survey asked 10,000 junior high school students what their parents cared more about: if they get good grades or if they are kind. 80% of children said their parents care more about them getting good grades. What do you think is the cost/benefit of today’s competitive culture?

Alicia: I think that there’s always going to be competition, and being competitive in some aspects is a good thing. My daughter has gotten my husband’s competitive side for sure. She’s very motivated, and I tell her, 'You have to do your personal best.' And we’ve learned a lot about that in the sports she’s participating in — it’s great to celebrate victories, but you have to do it in a way that is compassionate to other people. You still need to congratulate other people and tell them they did a great job; maybe tell them what they did well. And focus on that; it can’t always be about you winning.

Jo Beth: I personally think that if you pulled together people from the Evansville area, their response to that survey would be very different. I feel like one of the best things about growing up in this community is that we all really strive to teach our kids certain values — being respectful, being honest. I think we all want our kids to be successful — we live in a culture where we’re go-go-go all the time. We’re all trying to make time for every little thing that’s going to give our child the extra advantage. And children these days, have to start sports early if they want to be competitive. But I think really, at the end of the day, we want our children to be happy, we want them to be good people, and I think parents here really feel that way. 

In today's 'selfie' culture, how do we teach kids about humility and empathy?

Jo Beth: We’re very interested in ways for our kids to be involved in hands-on activities. For them to learn the idea of empathy and service even when they’re young. There are lots of organizations that love to work with children because they understand that the best thing you can do is to get them out there — get them learning about those things. 

Alicia: For example, one day we collected canned corn outside of a Schnuck’s for the Evansville Rescue Mission. We stayed out there with our little girls, and they approached people as they went into the store asking them if they would buy some canned corn and bring it back out to us so we could donate it. And of course, they’re cute little girls, so people tend to do that. But it made them feel really good, they were really excited about it. They spent the time doing it, but they didn’t get anything physically in return for it except knowing that they helped someone. And that gives you a good feeling as a parent — when your kid understands that; so we try to do just little simple things like that to teach our kids.

How do you define success?

Alicia: I always tell my daughter to set a goal. And it’s great when you meet that goal, but there are sometimes when you don’t. That's just a reality, and it will continue to be a reality. You have to learn from those experiences regardless if you met that goal or not. And I believe that even those experiences mean success because it can help you with success in the future.

Jo Beth: I feel like success is happiness. And it may seem very simple; but like John Lennon, I really feel like that’s the basis for everything. I feel that if I’m happy in a situation, I’ve earned that success or I’ve gotten to that point. It gives me butterflies — it gives me that excitement. I’m generally a happy person; I’m very upbeat. That’s what I strive for — to feel happiness in the things that I’m doing. 

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from your children?

Jo Beth: Time management! I used to think I was really good at managing my time, but my children have taught me how to do it even better. How to really look at time, to organize things, and to get them where they need to be. And organize my own time and look at a day much differently.  

Alicia: I would say, enjoy the simple things. We are very busy all the time. We’re not home a lot. When I was a kid, I was involved in a lot, but we were home a lot more than I am with my kids. The other day it was raining and I said, 'Go out and play in the rain.' You know, just the simple things. Kids are stuck on tablets and phones and tv a lot, and you forget about just some of those simple things that we used to do when we were kids even. 

What do you love most about living in Evansville?

Jo Beth: Evansville is so much fun as an adult! Even if you grew up here, it’s a completely different world when you become an adult and you have kids. It’s kind of like you re-fall in love with the community; you rediscover all these great things that you didn’t even know are here. Every single day there are tons of things to do; there are new experiences to be had and there’s really never a dull moment. And we’re just lucky that we’re in the business of finding all that information and getting it out there. It’s really exciting to know that this community is thriving and there’s so much for families to do. I think that’s why people love it here. 

What assumptions have we made about life in Evansville that we need to test?

Jo Beth: Before we started Macaroni Kid, one of the things that we heard from parents, quite frequently, was that there’s nothing to do with their children. They were stuck at home, there’s nothing to do, there’s no place to go. I feel like we’re hearing that less and less, but it is still something that’s instilled in people’s minds. I think adults feel that way, even if you don’t have children, you think there’s just nothing to do here. And maybe if you’d grown up here that was sort of instilled in your mind at some point in time. But the wonderful thing is, this community is thriving and there’s so much to see and do. And once you get out there and see those things, that assumption goes away. You think, “How did I not know about all this?! This is great! This is a wonderful community! I love it here!” And so it’s just taking that step to see all the wonderful things that are around you. Because sometimes we have blinders up and you don’t see it.

We have always known we were going to stay in Evansville. My husband has gotten work opportunities to move to bigger cities, but that’s just not the feeling that we like.

How would you define e is for everyone?

Jo Beth: The e is for everyone initiative, to me, means experience. When I look around at what really drives families and creates those special moments and memories, its experiences. One of the best things we can give our children are experiences — go out and try new things, learn, and explore. And we live in an environment that really promotes those wonderful experiences. I love taking my kids to a local event, museum, or concert and watching their faces light up. Where they’re experiencing something for the first time. It’s just so much fun! So when you’re looking at that "e", experience is at the core of what this community can provide, and it’s one of the reasons why we love living here so much.

Alicia: Regardless of your background or your interests, there are things for everyone to do in Evansville. Arts, music, sports, all kinds of things that can be a lot of fun.

Jo Beth: Yoga. Everything! You name it, we can find it! It’s here — it is here. There are so many things in Evansville, if you have an interest, you’re going to find it here.

What do you know for sure?

Jo Beth: What I know for sure about life and about people, is that we all have an amazing creative capacity. One of the things that I love as an adult is meeting people and discovering what makes them tick. What are they passionate about? What are they excited about? What gets them out of bed in the morning? Everybody is creative in so many different ways. It’s really fun to meet people and explore that more in depth. You find people with assorted talents and when you put them together, it’s this wonderful mix. And I think when we start to see people as sort of these vessels of creative capacity; we really start to appreciate them and what they’re doing in the community so much more. 

Alicia: What I know for sure is that family and friends are most important. You have to make yourself happy. All the extra things in life — activities, work — they all can change and differ, but at the end of the day being with my friends and my family is what makes me happy. Of course, you want to find success and fulfillment and happiness from those other things, but I know, no matter what, that my family and friends — such as Jo Beth here — will always bring that for me.