An Arlington mom was struggling to keep up with her daughter’s busy schedule—so she invented a chauffeur service for parents.
As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” And perhaps that’s particularly true for frazzled parents. It was definitely the case for Karlyn Garcia, who was trying to juggle a full-time career and her daughter’s packed schedule as a single mom.
“It was really hard for me to work an eight-hour day and then get my daughter to all the places she needed to go. Soccer and ballet and birthday parties. It was hard to keep up with her social calendar,” says Garcia. “I thought to myself, ‘I wish I could get my daughter an Uber.’”
Uber and other ride-sharing companies don’t allow unaccompanied minors under 18 to ride in their vehicles—so Garcia decided to create a company that would.
Her Arlington-based company, Zoomee Rides, launched in November 2018. But it was a long time coming. She first had the idea in 2016 when she moved to NoVA. But the Navy vet had a demanding career as an IT engineer and, an entrepreneur at heart, another business idea she also wanted to pursue.
“The thing that finally lit a fire under me was I had another idea and I finally gathered the strength to go [pursue it], but someone else already had [the idea],” Garcia recalls. “That was the pivotal moment where I said ‘I’m doing this.’”
Her first step? Research. “I started taking Ubers just to go get milk. I must have taken 300 Ubers and Lyfts in the last two years,” she says. She also started taking night classes to get her MBA and put together an advisory board.
After that real-world research and ramping up, a company was born. It works like this: Parents create an online account for their child or children with relevant information like age and any instructions; for instance, parents can note if the driver can simply drop them off at their destination or should get out of the car and confirm another adult has greeted them. Once a profile is set up, Garcia herself has a phone conversation with the parent to answer any questions or concerns. Once the account is approved, parents may request rides on behalf of their children via the app. Riders must be at least 5 years old (“At 5 years old, I would feel comfortable putting my daughter in a car,” explains Garcia on the age requirement.) and younger than 18 years old. All Zoomee cars have booster seats and, of course, seat belts.
On the driver side, Garcia is also personally involved in the lengthy vetting process. All drivers go through a rigorous background check and meet with Garcia in person for an interview. Their cars must be inspected and they have to carry the appropriate insurance (in addition to the insurance Garcia carries for the company).
Garcia already has numerous drivers on staff, both men and women, and many of them “have their own kids or come from large families,” she says.
As a working mom, Garcia also wants to ensure that her drivers can balance parenthood with the Zoomee side hustle. “If a mom wants to drive, put your own kids in the backseat and bring them,” she says. Drivers make a substantial percentage from each ride fee—more than the ride-sharing industry standard, she says.
For now, Zoomee’s primary reach is Arlington, Alexandria and McLean, with a few special exceptions farther out in NoVA for regular riders. But her goal is to expand to all of NoVA and eventually “up and down the Eastern Seaboard.”
Garcia herself is also a driver and her daughter, now 9 years old, is a frequent rider. She’s also an unofficial employee. “It was my daughter who inspired [Zoomee],” says Garcia. “We brainstorm. She even helped me pick the logo!”
And while the company can ease the stress of logistics, Garcia said her goal is more meaningful than that.
“Quality time is important to [parents] and this will help them with that,” she explains. “Our focus is to help them so we’re not stressing out in traffic and you’re able to spend happy time with your kids.” // $12-$15 flat rate within five miles of origination
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