A Tale of Friendship, Family, and Entrepreneurship...and Billy Joel

By Alexandra (Torres) Fung, '03

Alexandra and friends at a Billy Joel concertCommunity, friendship, and family have long been defining values at Notre Dame, embraced by the Domers who will always call it home. So perhaps it really isn’t all that surprising that the two strangers randomly assigned to Room 117 Lyons Hall with me our freshman year would quickly become like family, from sharing in epic college adventures like our finals week road trip to a Billy Joel concert, to celebrating some of life’s most precious moments, including serving as each other’s bridesmaids and welcoming nine children between us.

While Kelly, Erin and I no longer pull all nighters at La Fortune powered by milkshakes and Chex mix, it has been even more fun to experience the many and surprising ways that our friendship continues to bear fruit over the years. Perhaps most surprising? Working together on an exciting start-up venture, developing a website to help parents discover and share inspiration for family fun.

Three years ago I was serving as an attorney at a Chicago non-profit, loving my work but struggling to find balance as a mom of two young kids. A close friend had begun working on an innovative project to create a website where parents could share family-friendly content with one another, filling a gap in existing resources that did not harness the knowledge of the parenting community itself. Knowing - as any Domer would - the incredible power of family and community for inspiring and improving our lives, and craving such a resource as a busy mom of two (now three!), I knew this was a big idea that I wanted to help bring to fruition. And I knew exactly who I needed to help me do it. A perfectly timed reunion (we lived in three different states most of the years since Lyons Hall) at our second Billy Joel concert became the backdrop for the start of our latest adventure: working together on Upparent.com

Over the last couple of years Kelly, Erin and I have worked, along with a small team of fellow parents, to make Upparent a reality. Rather than featuring content created by a single author, the website gathers recommendations from the community itself about things to do, places to go and products to try as a family, making it easy for users to weigh in with their own votes, comments, and favorites so that content is dynamic and always improving. It is a space where parents can discover other parents’ trusted recommendations on things like the best games for family game night and kid-friendly instant pot recipes.

For parents living in 15 markets (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco and Washington, DC), it is also a place to learn about local favorites like restaurants offering kids eat free deals, or the best birthday party venues. Perhaps best of all is that content displayed on Upparent is always tailored to each user’s specific location, with interactive features that make it easy to find recommendations most relevant to each unique family - no more spending hours combing through various sources!

Working together on Upparent has been incredibly fun and an unexpected opportunity to remain closely connected even across great distances and the busyness of motherhood, career, and life that make it so difficult to nurture and sustain friendships over the years. It has also been an incredible testament to the unique power of Notre Dame in encouraging, fostering, and instilling a deep appreciation for family and community - perhaps the most important lesson we learned in our four years there!

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