As a single mom with three kids, Sierra Young understands that life can get hectic shuttling children around.
To and from school.
To and from extracurricular activities.
To and from the mall.
Knowing that busy parents could use a helping hand sometimes, Young has launched Kid Chauffeur Express, a rideshare service designed specifically for children. Unlike Uber and Lyft, which have policies not to let kids under the age of 18 ride without an adult, the Akron-based Kid Chauffeur Express is all about catering to the younger set and allowing children to ride alone.
Young jokes that her business is a “kiddie Uber.”
“It’s a service that everybody needs,” she said.
Started in late 2017 in Akron, the business now boasts 15 drivers and more than 35 active families. Kid Chauffeur Express is covering the Akron, Barberton and Cuyahoga Falls communities, but is looking to expand its territory, including offering rides in the future in Canton and Cleveland.
Kid Chauffeur Express isn’t the first child-focused transportation service in the country, but it’s apparently one of the first outside a major metropolitan area. Others include HopSkipDrive in Los Angeles, Shuddle in San Francisco, Züm in Southern California, and Zemcar in Boston.
Harry Campbell, founder of The Rideshare Guy (https://therideshareguy.com) and author of “The Rideshare Guide,” said he’s aware of only a handful of kid-focused transportation services in the country.
“It’s definitely a need in certain areas,” he said. “I’m surprised that this rideshare niche hasn’t grown faster.”
Needing a ride
Akron mom Alicia Butler, 34, of Akron realized she was in a pickle when she started a new job and the hours conflicted with her two kids’ school schedules. She worried about the looming expense of after-school daycare.
Then she spotted a Facebook post about Kid Chauffeur Express and jumped at the chance for some help. Her children Aliece Daniel, 8, and Deshawn Daniel, 6, now use the transportation service each day during the week. Aliece attends the I Promise School, while Deshawn is at the King Community Learning Center in Akron.
Both children are dropped off at grandmother Doris “Nana” Warren’s house after school and picked up by Butler when she gets out of work.
“It’s just a wonderful thing for parents who can’t pick up their kids from school,” Warren said. “It’s just so convenient. I hope it thrives and keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
Aliece and Deshawn both said they enjoy the rides and like talking with their driver, 27-year-old Ciera Matthews.
Young, 30, who grew up in Akron and graduated from Firestone High School in 2007, runs the private business out of her home. In addition to running Kid Chauffeur Express, she still works a full-time job at a local car dealership.
Kids Chauffeur Express is making a profit, she said, while declining to provide specific financial numbers. Her hope is to transition full-time to Kid Chauffeur Express.
As for the Kid Chauffeur Express name, it just came to her.
“It’s catchy. It’s cute,” Young said. “For awhile people couldn’t say it. A lot of people couldn’t spell it.”
She also designed the colorful company logo. It features a yellow school bus filled with children and the letters in “Kid Chauffeur Express” written in different colors.
Campbell, the rideshare expert, said he doesn’t see Uber or Lyft getting into the business of providing rides for children because the drivers “aren’t heavily vetted” and there aren’t in-person interviews to be a driver for those services.
“Typically a lot of the rideshares for kids services are much more thorough [with] background checks,” he said. “Personally, as someone who has been in the industry, … I wouldn’t be too comfortable with [my son] riding alone in an Uber or Lyft until he gets a little bit older just because I know how lax the background checks are.”
Young has several safeguards in place to make sure that parents are comfortable. For starters, she performs background checks on the drivers and conducts personal interviews before they are hired as independent contractors. The drivers use their own vehicles and she checks on insurance. There even are random drug tests.
She makes parents sign a contract that highlights emergency contacts and any special issues with the child such as allergies because some drivers like to hand out snacks during the rides.
Young also arranges a face-to-face meeting in advance so the parents and children can get to know the driver and look over the vehicle.
The goal is to have the same driver matched with the same child every trip.
“We won’t have a kid get in a car with a stranger,” Young said.
While other rideshare services arrange trips through mobile apps, Young now books rides through phone calls, texts and email. (330-808-7674 and firstname.lastname@example.org) She is working on developing an app. There is an app available that allows parents and caregivers to track where their children are during the ride.
Kid Chauffeur Express will provide rides on a regular basis to and from the same location or one-time trips. The cost is based on mileage but a typical ride costs about $12.
Young used to drive when she first started the business, but found that she needed to cut back to spend more time with her own children: Saniyah, 10, Savanah, 8, and Sarenity, 2. She said she designed the business so it treats kids the way she would want her children treated.
“The main thing that everyone loves is the relationship the driver has with the kids,” she said.