Kimberly Evans grew up with the warning “stranger danger,” so when rideshare services like Uber and Lyft came into the picture, Evans was hesitant to use them.
Then, on March 29, 2019, Samantha Josephson, a 21-year-old student at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, ordered an Uber and mistakenly entered the wrong car. She was kidnapped and stabbed to death by the driver.
A little over a year later in June 2020, Evans launched Just Her Rideshare — a woman-founded and Black-founded for-profit rideshare organization with a mission to build a safe community for women — in Charlotte.
“That story impacted me emotionally,” Evans said. “It hit home, and it kept me building this company because I wanted to be able to provide a safe place for women to at least have options to choose how they experience riding with other people.”
Evans spent those two years building her team and technology, and in 2022, she launched the Just Her Rideshare app on the Apple Store and on Google Play.
“We were going through Covid building a business,” Evans said. “There was no real rush to market because everything was shut down, so we took some time to grow and develop.”
Evans has more than 20 years of business ownership experience with a background centered on quality assurance and client support. Prior to Just Her Rideshare, she worked 21 years in the postal service in various roles including carrying mail and processing claims. She also worked in software sales for a few years, and she started and ran businesses on the side, including a personal high-end fashion service and a call center.
Just Her Rideshare is still far smaller than bigger and better-known companies such as Lyft and Uber. In its first few months, roughly 2,000 people signed up. By comparison, Uber says it has 131 million active riders, and Lyft has 20 million.
Evans’ company is still in the start-up phase, and she said the Charlotte area is the central focus right now. There are also drivers in Raleigh, Durham and Greensboro, N.C., and Columbia, Greenville and Charleston, S.C.
There are 125 drivers in the Charlotte Just Her Rideshare pipeline. In total, there are 400 drivers.
Right now, riders have to schedule rides three to five hours in advance to ensure a driver is available, but the goal is to eventually provide rides on demand.
Although Just Her Rideshare markets toward women, anyone can use the app. Men can become a driver, but Evans said they can’t guarantee it will be lucrative. Women can choose not to accept a ride from a male driver. And, female drivers can choose not to pick up a male rider.
Raising the funds: Just Her Rideshare began as a bootstrapped company, Evans said, which means it funded itself without outside resources. Now, the start-up is in the process of raising pre-seed capital of $700,000 and has also received small investments and grants.
The start-up received a $5,000 grant from Innovate Charlotte’s Ignite Pitch Competition, $2,500 from the 53 Ideas Business Pitch Competition with South Piedmont Community College and a grant from the 3R’s program with 1863 Ventures, a Black-led business development nonprofit accelerator and venture capital fund. It also received $10,000 from the NC IDEA Foundation last year.
Just Her Rideshare’s team has grown over the past two years to include 15 positions other than Evans, eight of which are contracted fractional positions. Evans said she hopes to grow the team with permanent people soon.
Kimberly Evans, founder of Just Her Rideshare
Compared to other apps: Similar to other rideshare apps, Just Her Rideshare requires photo identification for both the rider and the driver to ensure safety. There’s also a decal sticker required to be on the windshield, and in North Carolina and South Carolina, the decal also has to be visible near the vehicle’s license plate.
Just Her Rideshare’s pricing works the same as other rideshare companies in that the price of the ride depends on the distance. However, Evans said Just Her rideshare rates are anywhere from $3 to $7 cheaper depending on the size of the vehicle selected.
Last December, customer Cami Cacciatore was looking for a safe transportation option to get her home from her work holiday party in Huntersville. She wasn’t sure if Just Her Rideshare provided rides in Huntersville, so she called the number online to ask. Evans answered the phone.
Cacciatore told Evans the time and location she would need a ride, and Evans quickly found a driver, scheduled the ride, and sent Cacciatore the driver’s contact information.
“I really appreciated that they were willing to make arrangements to make sure that I got a ride that I felt comfortable with,” Cacciatore said. “Their rates are really not that much different than what I would have paid for Uber or Lyft, so that made me feel a lot better to you know that it wasn’t costing a ton more money and that I was getting this specialized service.”
Building a safe space: Back in October, Concord resident Betty Crowder needed a ride to the airport for a 5 a.m. flight to Los Angeles for her sister’s funeral, and she didn’t feel comfortable riding in an Uber while the sun was still down. Crowder remembered seeing Just Her Rideshare on the news.
Evans didn’t have a driver in Concord yet, but she was determined to get Crowder where she needed to go. Evans picked up Crowder in her own car and drove her to and from the airport.
“What she did early in her business, she went out of her way to make sure that a senior citizen got to the airport back and forth for her sister's funeral,” Crowder said. “You feel more comfortable as a woman when somebody comes to get you.”
Just Her Rideshare is not only unique because it was built by women and for women, but it offers more than just rideshares.
“We’re a community,” Evans said. “We built a community where we support our drivers with incentives and bonuses, and we can get them gas cards and food cards. They’re more than just their vehicle to us. ”
It’s called Just Her Hub, and it provides a community for drivers, riders and any other women interested in joining. Whether it’s to chat about trending topics or to ask for mechanic recommendations, women are invited to log onto the hub and connect with each other.
Just Her Hub currently has more than 200 members and over 600 invites sent out.
“Our mission is to be able to solve every transportation need that every woman, every cluster of women, every marginalized community has,” Evans said. “We are hoping to build a community of women supporting each other supporting other women in business, as well as our social initiatives. With that being said, we partner with organizations that support women's social issues, domestic violence, sexual assault, test trafficking or displaced families.”
Looking into the future: The goal is to eventually expand nationwide. Evans said Just Her Rideshare currently has waiting lists across the country in cities like Miami, Houston and Chicago to gauge interest.
“At some point, we could potentially have a collaboration with another company,” Evans said. “So, if there is another company that wants to come in and can help us get to that level, we will certainly be open to that as well.”
Evans has had to overcome obstacles that not every entrepreneur has to encounter.
“Having the desire and the passion to build a company and to hit brick walls when it comes to fundraising and when it comes to being a Black woman tech founder and not having the same opportunities — that has been my biggest challenge,” Evans said. “My biggest life lesson is to just continue pushing forward, doing what you have to do to get the job done.”