For many people the ridesharing apps Uber and Lyft have been a significant help in getting between Points A and B. However, both services have rules that prohibit carrying passengers under the age of 18 unless they are accompanied by adults. And while it is no secret that Uber and Lyft drivers have given rides to minors despite the rules of their respective operations, not every parent is comfortable in trusting their children with drivers who have no problem breaking company rules.
And that’s where Marta Jamrozik comes in. Last June, the Norwalk-based entrepreneur launched VanGo, a rideshare app focused on providing transportation to minors.
“We provide safe rides for preteens and teens with very safe and vetted drivers,” she explained. “Our drivers go through a very rigorous screening process. The driver is background checked (and) driver-record checked. We fingerprint our drivers and send them through vehicle inspection. We talk to at least two references and every one of our drivers has at least two years of experience working with kids. We only accept a very small percentage of the drivers who apply.”
VanGo is the latest business venture for Jamrozik, a former Forbes “30 Under 30” honoree who co-founded Claire, a fashion tech startup that performed A/B testing for brands, in 2016. The inspiration for VanGo was Jamrozik’s mother, who maintained a full-time career while running a household.
“I really wanted to build out a product for working moms,” she said. “They need a support system to help balance their career and balance their working times.”
Working mothers also play a major role in VanGo’s driver base. “A really cool thing is that over 85 percent of our drivers are moms,” said Jamrozik, adding that these parents-turned-chauffeurs were a mix of stay-at-home mothers and working women with extra hours in their schedules for part-time assignments. “In my opinion, it is support for women provided by women.”
VanGo has roughly 50 drivers who cover Fairfield County. Jamrozik said she has received more than 1,000 downloads and sign-ups for the app since its launch and averages “hundreds of rides per week.”
Costs start at $17 per ride and are priced based on the time and distance required for the trip.
While Jamrozik has invested in Google Ads and other marketing vehicles to spread the word, she has found that half of her new customers are word-of-mouth referrals.
“There are people who are really excited about this and they are telling their friends,” she said.
The needs of VanGo’s youthful passenger audience have formed a pattern of peak-hour use.
“Weekdays are busier than weekends,” Jamrozik observed. “If we are looking at weekends, Saturday is the more popular day. Monday through Friday, it is fairly consistent. There are two spikes: one in the morning going to school, 6:30 a.m. going until 8 a.m., then we don’t really have rides between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. because kids are in school, unless there is an early dismissal or a doctor’s appointment. Then it picks up around 2 or 2:30 and goes all the way until around 9:30 p.m.”
Jamrozik noted that while VanGo is the only service of its kind within this region, there are a number of similar services around the country. Zemcar in the Boston metro area, Zum in Los Angeles, HopSkipDrive in Denver, Bubbl in Dallas and Kango in San Franciso are among the best known in this growing sector. While VanGo’s near-future focus is strictly on Fairfield County, Jamrozik admitted that she is considering expanding to other parts of Connecticut and elsewhere in New England, and might even consider exploring other markets around the country.
“I’m not ruling anything out,” she said.