Kingwood native Claudia Pinto found out about VanGo, a ride-sharing company for kids that recently expanded to Houston, on care.com. Mother to a teen and young adult, Pinto was looking for a flexible schedule and a way to bring in some extra income.
So she became one of the first 10 VanGo drivers in Houston.
“I started work this July and it’s been great,” Pinto said. “I’ve had a lot of theater-camp kids (as riders) and now it’s cheer camps and band camps. Most of my clients are in the West University area, but as more people know about it, I’ll pick up more rides in my area.”
Getting the word out is Marta Jamrozik, a Brooklyn, New York resident with a technology background who made Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” list. Jamrozik founded VanGo in June 2018 “to tackle the working mom’s second shift.”
The business kicked off by offering a ride-share program in Fairfield, Connecticut, and now has expanded to Phoenix and Houston. Jamrozik said those two cities were top picks of parents who downloaded the app and responded to a query about preferred locations for ride booking.
Jamrozik said her mother worked full-time and also did the majority of the child care and housekeeping.
“VanGo was built entirely to support working moms and to facilitate relationships in a community,” Jamrozik said.
As Pinto put it, her clients are old enough to ride with a stranger but too young to drive. Jamrozik said kids 8 years old and up can ride on VanGo.
The app requires 48 hours of advance notice, and parents can mark preferred drivers as favorites and have first access to them. There are options for one-time rides or repeated trips.
The cost of a ride is 15 to 20 percent more than Uber or Lyft, but Jamrozik said the vetting process for VanGo drivers is much more rigorous. She said drivers must have more than three years of childcare experience. Background checks, finger printing, vehicle inspection and referrals are also musts.
Drivers get paid on a per-ride basis and can make $100-$200 per week. Jamrozik said VanGo’s Houston drivers are coming from all over the city.
“We’re actively adding drivers,” Jamrozik said. “We’re gearing up for August, September and October. Over 85 percent of drivers are moms themselves.”
Next up for Jamrozik is finding ways she can assist working parents with household tasks, meal prep and homework help.
VanGo can be downloaded on the Apple App store or Google Play. For more information, visit ridevango.com/.