Being a single, working parent—or a parent, period—has its challenges, including the frustrating inability to be everywhere at once. This is one struggle Stacy Shannon knew well as the then-single mom of three children: she found she couldn’t give her son a ride to lacrosse practice while she was at work.
From this problem she created a solution: Cary-based startup GoKart, the ride-sharing platform for kids.
“I was like, why isn’t there Uber, but for kids, where all the drivers are moms and dads and background-checked and all that?” Shannon said.
Now there is. Shannon researched and planned for GoKart, taking entrepreneurship classes and finally quitting her fulltime job in May 2016. She hasn’t looked back.
Carly Hemminger became a second Co-Founder of GoKart when she and Shannon met through Chapel Hill’s Hyperspace Ventures, a web and app development company that built GoKart’s platform, and where Hemminger then worked.
GoKart allows parents to use its app to book rides for children ages 6 to 17 with full clarity on who their driver is and when the ride begins and ends. Parents and drivers can easily contact each other. All drivers must have at least five years of childcare experience—being a parent counts—and are background-checked and interviewed in person.
About 95 percent of the site’s drivers are in fact parents themselves. And the destinations they drive to would be familiar to any parent.
“I would say most commonly it’s to and from school,” Shannon said. “But we drive kids to the orthodontists, to their after-school jobs, to practices, tutoring—just wherever kids need to go.”
GoKart has grown significantly since its September 2016 launch. The startup has more than 2700 customers, charging parents a flat rate of $17 for the first five miles and $1.75 per mile beyond that. Originally a web-based platform, GoKart has been a mobile app since September 2018. Currently it serves the Triangle and its outlaying areas, Charlotte and Wilmington, and is looking to expand to outside of North Carolina soon.
“Back when GoKart first started, I had to dispatch every ride and know where drivers were, what day, what time—which was really hard to grow,” Shannon said. “With the app, it can really grow anywhere, so our technology has really helped streamline the process. Just like with Uber, the parents can see the ride live so they can see where the car is.”
The startup also received a $50K grant from NC IDEA this May, one of six startups state-wide that made the cut among 151 applicants.
“That’s really helped us with our tech, to build things right then that would have taken us longer, and also helped with marketing,” Shannon said.
From last October to now—so over the past 12 months—Shannon said GoKart has more than doubled its sales.
“It really helps us with word-of-mouth and social media and parents telling other parents about our service,” Shannon said. “That has really helped us grow. I think in the beginning, parents were wary about it. But now schools know us, and we’re just more well-known and a trusted resource.”
GoKart has also worked to drive kids in the foster care system, something Shannon said is very rewarding.
“I hope that the impact that we have with GoKart is helping parents get their kids from A to B and not worry about who their driver is, and to know that that they’re safe and will get to where they need to go,” Shannon said. “We want to be that partner with parents to help get their kids all the places that they need to be.”