Newly-divorced and raising four kids, George McEncroe needed a new job - so she turned to Uber. Now, she’s the CEO of multimillion-dollar women’s-only rideshare service, Shebah.
Shebah works like Uber, but with women-only drivers and women-and-children-only passengers. And passengers are able to book cars equipped with child seats, for drivers to pick up children from school or daycare and transport them safely to their parents or guardians.
And while McEncroe admits it is groundbreaking, she doesn’t think it should be. In fact, she believes that thinking of services from a woman’s perspective should be key.
“What about all those women in my position who are newly-divorced, had no super, had raised kids and been in and out of jobs...and are looking at poverty at the age of 50?” McEncroe told Yahoo Finance.
As a former radio host, McEncroe also wondered about women who had to seek flexible work in order to look after children and parents
“I was broadcasting on the ABC, and I would receive text messages from the school telling me to come pick my child up. No, I’m on radio - I can’t.
“So, it was this need - who looks after people when women can’t? There’s got to be a service that can transport children.”
While Shebah works like any ride-sharing app, Shebah drivers also have Working With Children checks, which enables them to go into childcare centres and schools and pick up children for parents who pre-book the service.
The unspoken problem in the ride-sharing industry
Before she was a CEO, McEncroe herself applied to be a driver at Uber, but something stopped her - twice.
“I registered twice, and twice I just felt like it was just such a risky thing to be doing.
“Every time I thought of myself just picking up drunk men, I thought as a driver, I’d feel really anxious about it.”
It was then McEncroe realised there was an ‘unspoken problem’ in the driving industry.
“Why are only 6 per cent of taxi drivers women? Why are only 10 per cent of rideshare drivers women?”
And while gender inequality was a big issue in the driving industry, sexual harassment was huge, McEncroe said.
“Why is it seen as accepted behaviour that asking a woman for sex or hitting on a woman in a car when she’s had too much to drink is okay, or a perk of the job?”
This led McEncroe to “be the change you want to see in the world,” and start a GoFundMe page, which caught the eye of an investor.
Together they formed ‘Mum’s Taxi,’ but a dream led McEncroe to change the name to Shebah.
“I studied her in theology classes and philosophy, and you know, she's kind of like the Beyonce of the Bible. She was a single mum, she was rocking, and she went and challenged the wisdom of King Solomon. So, she was kind of the original disrupter.”
From GoFundMe to $3 million campaign
Despite trending in the App store and a booming business, McEncroe admitted it wasn’t easy to get people on board initially.
“It was a bit tricky,” she said. “People were like, ‘Oh we don’t get it, I’m not sure. Do women really need this service?”
But her first crowd-funding campaign on Birchal raised $3 million - and broke an Australian record. Now, a few days into her second round of crowd-funding, Shebah has raised a further $417,000.
It’s better business for drivers - and passengers
It wasn’t just investors who liked the idea - drivers loved it too.
“I always wanted our drivers to be shareholders, and we’re a very egalitarian business. If we change policy, we survey our drivers first and see what they think about things. We try and engage them as much as possible, because we want them to stay with us.”
Drivers get an 85 per cent cut of each ride, which is larger than Uber and Ola provide.
“We don’t spend a lot of money hiring new drivers, because we don’t have a huge driver churn. Our drivers stay because they know we’re in it for the long haul, and that makes a big difference.”
On top of that, drivers have Working With Children checks, which enables them to go into childcare centres and schools and pick up children.
And the cost is competitive with Uber, McEncroe stated.
“It’s less than a cab, but it’s not a race to the bottom for our drivers,” she said.
“We’ve never had anyone complain about costs.”
Make your money work with Yahoo Finance’s daily newsletter. Sign up here and stay on top of the latest money, news and tech news.