Recently, Atlanta has become one of the main hubs for human trafficking. With access to an international airport and a culturally rich location, Atlanta is the hunting ground for sexual predators. These predators have disguised themselves as Uber and Lyft drivers to target young women and members of the LGBTQIA community. While driving apps like these pride themselves on being safe, another app is ensuring the safety of female and LGBTQIA customers.
Kiersten Harris is an Atlanta native and the co-founder of HERide, a rideshare app serving the majority-female community, providing safety and awareness. Kiersten’s entrepreneurship journey started at 15-years-old interning as a social media director for a non-profit organization. Before her 20s, she published two books on marketing and branding and was in the works for something greater.
As a survivor of sexual assault and being aware of the high human trafficking in Atlanta, she paired up with an app developer and launched HERide.
“We both wanted to create something,” says Harris. “Whether it’s an organization or an application to try to educate people.”
Building HERide and her purpose.
The purpose of the app is to create safety within rideshare and to educate people on sexual assault and human trafficking. This purpose, plus understanding what it takes to create a successful app, made her service strong. Harris and her team set and exceeded their goals of 100 passengers every few months. However, after HERide’s launch, they had over 9,000 passengers.
When comparing HERide to the other rideshare platforms, Harris saw what her competitors did to launch themselves and the trends within.
“Our slogan is ‘choose to be unbothered,’ so everyone has a choice to choose between us, Uber and Lyft,” says Harris. “And we never try to say their names because we want all platforms to be an option for others.”
Harris and her business partner also noticed the low ratio of male to women drivers as well as the lawsuits against other platforms. Most of these complaints came from the drivers.
“We have to make our drivers a priority,” says Harris. “The drivers are technically the foundation of our brand.”
Ensuring safety on and off the road.
Harris and HERide take safety precautions when selecting drivers that are more extensive than other platforms. They are also in the works of pairing with other organizations and advocacy groups for self-defense classes, as well as introducing “safe place” training for assault victims and assisting the LGBTQIA community. Harris says that understanding how to handle sensitive situations and communicate properly will help their customers feel safe and helps them market to their target audiences correctly.
HERide’s target drivers are mainly female for the safety of their customers, even with the backlash they’ve received about it. She even points out that in other countries, it’s normal to see women-only transportation. HERide also sets a capacity of how many drivers are in one city.
“We’re trying to be very strategic and tight-knit on our drivers, overall,” says Harris. “To make sure our passengers have a good experience and our drivers are able to make as much as they want to.”
Kiersten Harris, advocacy and the future of HERide.
Outside of HERide, Harris is an advocate for women in all aspects, especially Black women. Conversations about violence, disrespect and double standards are sensitive but nothing she shies away from.
“No one wants to bring up the issue that Black women are the most disrespected women in the country,” says Harris. “But ‘we can’t do that right now because it’s a very sensitive topic because Black men are dying’. We understand it and respect it, but when it comes to Black women, we’re always at the bottom.”
Harris also adds that she speaks up on colorism and uses her privileges to do that. Although she may have a better chance at speaking out than someone of darker complexion, she’s still a Black woman.
In the future for HERide, Harris hopes to implement more of the educational aspect of the app. She wants her customers to have a platform where they’re updated on everything going on around their area. She also wants to provide more career opportunities with the company and partner with another company to provide vehicles. Harris’ vision for HERide is greater than just a rideshare app.