The idea behind new Charlotte startup Just Her Rideshare is a simple one — transportation for women, by women. Founder Kimberly Evans is no stranger to the entrepreneurial life. After spending more than 20 years working for the United States Postal Service, she opened a consulting business and became owner/operator of a logistics company alongside her husband.
In 2019, Evans and a cofounder decided to start a ride-share company, but after less than a year in the ideation phase, she said the cofounder pulled out. Evans, however, was all-in, and decided to move forward with the concept. "I've never taken a ride share without my husband because of the fear and feeling uncomfortable," she said. "I found that there were a lot of women out there, like myself, who feel more comfortable with women drivers."
When Evans decided to relaunch Just Her Rideshare earlier this year, the concept took off more quickly than she could have imagined. Within 30 days, she'd raised $31,000 in a friends and family round of funding and participated in a customer discovery program at UNC Charlotte.
"I went into the study with the hypothesis that all women were afraid... We ended up sort of invalidating that and realized that women looked at safety differently," she said. "Fifty-two million women use ride-share apps each year, so we had to discover who, of those women, our customer segment would be."
Evans said they determined most women fell into one of three buckets — Some who were cautious using ride shares and felt uncomfortable not like they were in danger, some who said they were always afraid and a small segment who said they never felt unsafe. "Many women told us that if choosing a female driver was an option, it would be a no-brainer," she said. "We heard stories about male drivers making women feel uncomfortable by asking them on dates or calling them after the ride was over." "I knew we could create a space for women to feel safer," she added.
Once Evans' solidified her customer discovery, she and her team got to work developing the platform. The mobile app, she said, is in development and just weeks away from completion. Evans plans to launch the beta version in Q2 of 2021 and test it for 30 to 45 days before a widespread launch.
"We know we have one shot to do this and do it well, and that starts with the tech being exactly what we need it to be," she said. "If we put a ride-share app out there it has to work."
Part of the beta test launch will include on boarding drivers and giving away free rides in exchange for honest feedback on customers' experiences using the app, as well as the ride and drivers.
"Our goal is to acquire a little over 200 drivers within our first year, and the plan is to launch in Charlotte and four or five other cities in North and South Carolina," she said. "We want to start small and see where we grow from there."
As utilization of the service begins to pick up, Evans said the safety of riders and drivers is of the utmost importance. Drivers will be vetted through virtual interviews and background checks, and drivers must adhere to current state and local Covid sanitation guidelines.
Though Just Her Rideshare is geared toward women, Evans said Men will still have the opportunity to use the service.
"If you're a woman calling for a ride and your partner is a man, he will be allowed to ride," she said. "There will also be some women who don't mind transporting a male passenger, so if a man wants to try out our service, we'll try to obtain that driver for them."
"Our focus, however, will always be creating a community of women drivers for women riders," she added.
Perhaps Evans' favorite feature of Just Her Rideshare is "Her Hub," a community within the mobile app where women can connect and engage, rider to rider or driver to driver. It will also resources for important social topics like domestic violence and sex trafficking.
"It's something I'm really hyped for," she said. "Even though we're a for-profit company, we're also socially driven."