Ed’s note: This post was written by guest editor George McEncroe, founder of Shebah.
It was never my intention to create an all-female, ride-sharing platform app.
I’ve been an attendant in the disability sector, a high school teacher, a broadcaster, an investigator for the war crimes tribunal, a writer and a successful comedian. My speciality throughout all these roles was working in-between and around the schedules of my four kids and my husband.
I like to tell [women] that it’s okay, you have permission to create your own wealth.
When my marriage ended, I was left with four teenagers still at school, working various part-time jobs and still needing extra money to build enough income to be approved for a home loan. Uber driving seemed a logical answer to my dilemma, so I registered twice and decided the risk outweighed the benefit – I didn’t feel safe driving with men (particularly drunk men) around at night alone. Then it struck me: if I felt this way, chances are other women felt the same.
I am often approached by girls’ schools to speak to various year levels and ask them many important questions that I wish had been put to me as a young woman. Raising questions about running your own business, smashing the fears and myths that young girls often hear about money, and repositioning themselves as creators, opposed to consumers. Telling young women that they might be the creators of Instagram instead of the subject of Instagram. For some reason, many women exclude themselves from maximising their financial wealth and are not taught financial literacy. I like to tell them that it’s okay, you have permission to create your own wealth.
I decided to take my own advice, not only to provide myself with the job I desperately needed, but to allow other women financial independence and the ability to thrive in a male-dominated industry. This is when Australia’s first all-female ride-sharing service, Shebah, was born. I knew from my time as a teacher that I could learn just about anything. I knew from radio that when I was feeling or thinking something, it was extremely likely that others were feeling the same way. I knew from being a comedian that the only thing worse than failing was not having a crack. Courage I can live with, but cowardice kills me!
I knew the demand for a service like Shebah was higher than ever. It is disturbingly easy to find a woman who has had a bad experience in a taxi or ridesharing service. Shebah is not just about getting vulnerable women home safely at night, it’s also about children travelling on their own, passengers with pets, people with disabilities, trans women who need a safe space to travel, and older passengers who may not feel comfortable with men.
I knew from being a comedian that the only thing worse than failing was not having a crack. Courage I can live with, but cowardice kills me!
Once I set my mind to it, I was determined to get Shebah off the ground. Within the space of nine months, I set up a GoFundMe page, which raised more than $11K and led to more than one million dollars from private investors, built a sophisticated, technologically sound ride-sharing app, established an office with 10 staff, accredited 850 drivers and had 50,000 women download the app.
Shebah is a mechanism that enables women to keep earning money when they are up to their eyeballs in caring responsibilities. I wanted Shebah to give back to women on another level, so one per cent of every fare is split between three charities targeted at women, which include NCASA (Northern Centre Against Sexual Assault), Women’s Housing Ltd, and PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia). Shebah isn’t taking anything away from anyone; instead, women can work between the gaps, earn a wage without feeling unsafe, and have the option of travelling with another woman.
George McEncroe, who still continues to drive today, is the founder of Shebah, Australia’s first ride-share service. Shebah is now available nationally and has completed over 18,000 trips since its launch in March 2017.