the only eco-friendly rideshare app.
Today, we are so excited to introduce you to the creator of Earth Rides, Raven Hernandez. Earth Rides is the only eco-friendly rideshare app available, offering Tesla rides to anyone in Nashville, Austin, and Los Angeles. Though the app is only available in these three cities, before you know it, it may be available where you live.
When it comes to renting a luxury vehicle, many first impressions about this app are, ‘Oh, riding in Teslas– that must be expensive!’ Surprisingly, the company actually has extremely competitive rates with other ride share apps. I’ve personally used the app, and the costs are no higher than what I would’ve paid on Uber or Lyft.
We had the fantastic opportunity to speak with Raven about the process of creating the app from the ground up. Follow along for a conversation between myself and Raven.
Alex Mars: So, to start your interview: what inspired you to start Earth Rides?
Raven Hernandez: I mean, it was an accumulation of life experiences. I would say it is similar to you, actually. I love music and am very passionate about ensuring that artists are being respected and appreciated, not only financially, but in their reputation, and all of the other things that come along with the industry. And so, originally, I had thought that I’d go into entertainment law. So, just as I started attending law school, I got really sick, and I’m trying to read sixty pages a night, or something ridiculous like that. I could barely look straight ahead, let alone read a sentence. I was just so sick! And so my health really had to take the front seat in my life. It was like, I need to focus on this and that’s it.
Then, I really started diving into health. I also looked into all the different ways people and artists are manipulated, as well as how we as humans are manipulated by things like marketing tactics. For example, you get an ad saying that you need to buy all these products because they’ll make you clean and germs are scary and bacteria is bad, but the products are ridden with chemicals. And once you really dive into how to heal your body from within, you realize that most of the things that people told are not true. So, I started just eating healthier and caring about myself. It was just like an upward spiral from there, but you also open your eyes to all the negatives of how health is advertised and such. I started to realize, “Oh, my God, everything is toxic, everything!” And with that in my mind, I cleaned up everything in my life. Now, all my food is clean, my products are clean, my makeup is clean, and everything around me is clean. And at the time I was in school, I was living in L.A., and the air conditions there are hazardous. I realized that when I would go outside, I would be out of breath. I couldn’t control that, you know, like not breathing the air. And so that sparked the passion of like, well, how do I clean the air? And in order to do that, it’s not just the decisions I make. It’s your decision. It’s your mom’s decision. It’s global corporations. It’s everybody.
I started thinking– how do we affect change really on a large scale? And to me, that was where Earth Rides came in. Then I asked myself, how do I indirectly encourage people to do better, but also give them a better experience with something that they’re already doing? And so that’s where clean transportation came in. Earth Rides is very simple. It’s an eco-friendly alternative version to Uber and Lyft. We only use electric vehicles. A large portion of our drivers are employees, and we never offer hybrid vehicles, nor do we offer gas powered ones. We want to make being healthy and creating an ecosystem of health cool. And people are getting excited about it! You know, people get in the car like, ‘Oh, my God, this car is crazy!’ I’m like, “Oh by the way, they don’t have any carbon emissions. If that’s not something you’re into, it’s cool. I’ll watch out for the air. You just enjoy the ride!’
AM: Yeah. I think it was so smart that you guys got artists like Tay Keith for your promo. It was actually funny, because when I first saw the photos, I saw them on his page. Then, I started to see other hip hop artists in the area posting pictures with your Earth Rides Teslas!
So, moving on to the next question: what’s the company’s mission statement?
RH: I would say similar to what I said. ‘Earth Rides is here to make healthy cool again.’ And though that’s only the short version, we are also leading the way in using electric vehicles, only using essential oil based cleaners in our cars, and truly caring about our drivers. And speaking of our drivers, we pay them an hourly rate. They’re not independent contractors like with many similar programs.
We also keep our rates super affordable for front line communities, because oftentimes clean technology doesn’t make it to communities that really need it. Take this as an example. The University School of Nashville, which is a private school, I want to say it’s a K-12, is one of the only schools that has solar in all of the city. While it’s great they have that, where does solar and clean energy really need to be? Near industrial areas with high pollution, where people need the clean, green air the most. And making this product accessible to everybody is super important to us, where we can make being healthy cool again. And those are a couple of avenues that we do that with.
AM: What was developing the app like?
RH: We partnered with an international entity, and created every single page on the app. Every single page! We designed everything in-house, and wanted everything to look so, so smooth. The product the entity gave back to us was just was just like somebody telling you they can paint like Picasso, but in reality, they’re having their six year old paint it. It was terrible, and that all happened right before we were supposed to launch! So we get this product back, and we have it in beta testing and we’re like, ‘we can’t use this!’ We didn’t have a team of in-house developers helping keep our costs lean. We just worked with outside developers. So, we went back to the drawing board and really researched until we found an entity based in Canada that already had a code that used the concept behind shared mobility. We partner with them and utilize their code, and as we grow, we will continue to assist in developing that code to fit our needs.
AM: What was the most challenging part of creating the app? Was it the actual coding, or creating the user experience? Was it something with brand consistency? How did you solve all of the problems that came along?
RH: Developing an app has become really accessible, if you know where to look. Of course, that’s with everything, right? In truth, you can find individuals who have a type of code you’re looking for, then you tweak it to fit your needs. One of the difficulties that we’re finding with the code we’re using is that it can be difficult to tweak. The code we started with was utilized for Metro buses, and what makes it so different from our product is that rather than picking people up from a predestined stop, our drivers pick up clients from their neighborhood. It might seem like a simple fix at first glance, but it’s actually a lot more intricate than one would imagine, even down to adding in just one more message on the app face. That’s a whole another page that you have to code.
Also, when it comes to expectations of timelines, there should be no such thing when it comes to technology. That’s why you’ve seen Elon Musk setting a release date for one of his Tesla models, then instead, two years after that date, it’s finally in production. And it’s a similar situation with a lot of electric companies. Things get pushed back because once you first start utilizing that technology, the bugs and issues start showing up. There’s always going to be bugs, right? I mean, Apple’s always developing improvements for their products. And there’s always improvements that need to be made. So having patience has become really important in this business.
AM: Yeah, lots of patience. What was it like starting an app in 2020? Did you face any specific changes or challenges with quarantine? How have you been able to make people feel safe in such a close proximity?
RH: Yeah, that’s a great question! So we had originally planned on launching Earth Rides on Earth Day, and that didn’t happen. We had to watch how things were going and have been monitoring the whole situation of this year. Thankfully, I had a stable career where we could keep our personal finance afloat while also keeping the new company afloat. I wasn’t making any money, so I’m thankful for that stable career. It was a blessing in these times. Also, we were able to really look at what our business plan was, critique it, bring in an advisor, and bring in some new individuals onto the team. While we grew our team, during April-August, we had the opportunity to reevaluate some of our plans. Upon the launch, we realized that we can’t offer the ‘pool’ option, as well. Even though the vehicles are pretty spacious and we make sure to clean them frequently, finding out the logistics in the middle of the pandemic has become more of a headache. There is too much to worry about with our client’s safety without even thinking about trying to pool riders. All the drivers have organic essential oil based spray and rags in the car, where they are always wiping them down, vacuuming them, and just really ensuring that the car is left clean for the next passenger.
AM: So Earth Rides owns the cars. It’s not like it’s other people’s cars signing up like Uber. That’s something that makes it different!
RH: Exactly, yeah! What’s great about the model is we own the vehicles, we employ the drivers, and we can ensure safety and quality control. So we vet all of our drivers, who go through–depending upon the person– one to three interviews, and they all get FBI background checks. They all are fingerprinted and licensed to the city. So there’s a lot more steps that are taken to ensure safety. As we move forward, we plan on having a mixed model of independent contractors and employees; involving employees that drive our cars, and independent contractors that have their own electric vehicles. But we will always go through the same interview and background check process. Our client’s safety is important to us. When someone is getting the address to your home or job to pick you up or drop you off, it puts the client in a vulnerable position, especially if the ride is after a night out, it’s two a.m., and you’ve had a couple of drinks. We have to put our trust in our employees to make sure the client is always safe.
We find that when we’re able to just add a couple of additional safety measures, it goes a long way to easing people’s minds. And when you have your driver, Stephanie, for instance, you see her a couple of times a week. You start to build that rapport with her. And it’s not just a driver, it’s a human being in your community. And connecting our product with the community is one of the reasons why, you know, we put drivers ahead of riders because as a as a business owner, if my riders are number one in my drivers or second, I’m not in the car every single day. I can’t be in every ride. And I need my drivers to be first so that they can put the riders first. I need the drivers to feel appreciated, valued, and respected, so that they start out their day with a positive mindset. I want to make this the best ride possible for every single person that gets in the car.
AM: That’s amazing. I love that business model. It’s really thoughtfully planned out and considerate, you know what I mean? Do you guys do a test drive? Is that part of the onboarding process for a driver, or do you just check the licenses? For the interviews is there an in-the-car experience during the vetting process?
RH: Yeah! So, there’s a driver training process. A lot of our people that have applied have driven before, and so really we just do driver training to ensure that they realize that driving an electric vehicle is different because there are so many with things like regenerative braking– which is a completely different braking method. We have a ninety day probation period for employees to ensure that everything’s going smoothly. And oftentimes, we had one driver who wasn’t driving. He had an opportunity for improvement, and we just poured into him and did additional training in driving. Yes, it’s a skill, but it can be refined and taught better.
AM: What challenges have you faced as a woman in the tech industry? It’s so well known for being a very male dominated area of business. And one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you today, in addition to loving the business idea, is the fact that you are pursuing this. There’s a really limited representation. So I would love for you to speak a bit more about that for any women readers that might be considering pursuing it.
RH: Yeah, you know, it’s funny because I’ve had that question posed a lot and then people even go a step further and say, and then there’s definitely very few females in transportation. Like, that’s not transportation. Tech isn’t really neither of those fields. But as I was growing up, I always wanted a female role model. I always wanted to connect with women who I thought were doing really cool things. And in many fields, there aren’t a lot of women. And if there are, they’re very difficult to find because they’re not highlighted. It’s been a humbling experience because I have had several college students reach out to me and be like, ‘what you’re doing is amazing. I want to be an entrepreneur. I didn’t know if I could do it and you’re doing it, and you inspire me.’ And, you know, just that it’s a very humbling experience. I will say one of the challenges with being a female, being a minority, and not being in certain circles is that you don’t have those same connections. So I have to work a little bit harder to make the connections that boys growing up had as they worked and had other male role models to encourage them. So in most cases, it seems like they already know everybody they need to know to be successful and have their business broadcasted, where I don’t know those people. So I have to make an effort, but, you know, anybody has to make an effort if they want something to succeed. The networking, as well as the connections, have been a challenging aspect. But on another part, I see being a female and minority as something that is to my advantage, because it’s a unique quality I have that others don’t. And so oftentimes individuals will say, hey, I’d love to do a story on you. I’d love to talk to you specifically because you’re unique.
AM: How many cities has Earth Rides expanded to or is it just local?
RH: Nashville is our launch city, and it’s our proof of concept study. We did beta testing in August and September and then we fully launched on October 1st. So we’ve been technically open for over sixty days. And so what we’ll be doing moving forward is honing our energy around growth throughout Q1 of 2021, and a goal is that the growth is a large, seven figure number in order to launch in other cities, depending upon the places that we choose. We’re currently researching expansion anywhere from two to five cities in 2021.
AM: That’s amazing! Wow, that’s so exciting. I’m so happy for you! I really just love the whole idea that everything going on here. I have one last question if you. What piece of advice would you give a younger version of yourself?
RH: Something that I would say to my younger self and anyone is this: focus on consistency. When you focus on consistency, you blink and then you’re like, ‘oh, I just worked my butt off the last two years and I’m growing into a totally different place!’ You can’t just pick it up and put it down, pick it up and put down. Two years from now, you’d be exactly where you were, or maybe you’re only a couple of steps ahead. So just being consistent with what you want and your goals. For example, if you want to learn another language, they say all you have to do is invest twenty minutes every single day. Just do it, and in two years, you’ll have grown so much and learned so much in that consistency. I have this additional skill, whereas, you know, I do it once every blue moon, you know, it’s like you might as well not do it. So, yeah, I would just say brave and just be consistent with your goals and be consistent with your health practices, exercising stuff like that. Get into a rut where I will exercise every day for three months and then all of a sudden like a switch turns off and for a month and a half I don’t want to exercise, but if I was just put in a little bit of work every day, I would be able to maintain, because when you fall off of your consistency, you just slide back down. And all that work was for nothing. Yeah, it’s hard to, like, jump back into it. Like, when you work out, you don’t start out doing a hard core hour and a half power hour and you start out with, like building your strength back up.
AM: So I totally agree and appreciate you sharing that advice, maybe because I definitely think that that’s something more people should pay attention to, especially if you look at the Tik Tok algorithm.
RH: Consistency is key, actually. Like unless you’ve got crazy clout, and you’re Ariana or Justin. If you’re not consistent with interacting with your fans and putting out music, you slide off. There’s that next person who wants to jump in there and who’s going to put in more work. So, yeah, I would just say, like. Refining and perfecting your craft and putting in as much time as you can every day, whether that’s five minutes or five hours.