Buggy is steadily expanding our footprint in Miami, adding new schools every month to accommodate our growing client base. Next month, we will launch at SLAM Miami, a charter school servicing middle and high school in Little Havana.
SLAM is a unique school in that it has the first student-run SiriusXM Station. It's also known integrating sports-related themes in the classroom, hence the name "Sports Leadership and Management." The school is geared towards kids seeking careers in the Sports Leadership and Management industries. They also offer a vast array of afterschool clubs including Chess, Debate club, and the Environmental Club. Since it's centrally located, SLAM attracts kids from all over Miami-Dade, many of whom will benefit from Buggy transportation.
We are excited to launch at SLAM this winter and continue to provide transportation solutions to Miami families.
As we grow our transportation service and build the Buggy community, it’s easy to spot other verticals we could potentially enter. The childcare and child transportation space is one that has experienced minimal innovation in the past few decades and appears ripe for disruption. We noticed that the child transportation market is grossly underserved and that we can provide creative, tech-powered solutions to an age-old problem: who is going to drive the kids to school? However, we don’t plan on stopping there.
Afterschool trips and childcare are both areas of interest for Buggy’s expansion in the future. In fact, a few parents have requested that we start hosting “group outings” or even playdates for our Buggy riders. One mom came up with the idea for us to take a group of Buggy kids for ice cream in the summer, or to host a picnic. These are great ways to strengthen our community, provide additional hours to our drivers, and maximize Buggy’s profits. After all, why not have the same people who transport your children also provide childcare in an enriching environment?
Since offering parents flexibility is at the core of what we do, we see an opportunity to offer as-needed babysitting services to our Buggy clients. We’d partner with local childcare venues--trampoline parks, children-friendly museums, and indoor playgrounds to kickstart our service. Parents could opt to either have their kids dropped home, or taken to enriching facilities for a set amount of time. This would allow parents more leeway with their work schedules, or even to spend quality time with their other children individually.
While field trips is a natural extension of our service, we also can build a “child scheduling” app that enables parents to book all their extracurriculars in conjunction with their transportation. They’ll be able to select from a variety of activities that coincide with Buggy’s van routes, ensuring that their child can arrive on time. They will even have the option of booking “add-on” rides to take over the last-pickup shift. As we gather more data on the need and wants of our parents, building the right technology to serve them becomes even more important.
Buggy, who is capturing a large share of the transportation market in Miami, has an opportunity to leverage this community in a myriad of ways. Our focus would remain the same: making life easier for parents and children alike.
When we launched Buggy in 2019, we quickly realized that we had an opportunity to “elevate” the school bus. In a city like Miami, where there is heavy traffic almost everywhere, kids can easily spend an hour (or more) on the van. In light of this, we see a clear opportunity to provide entertainment and enrichment on the van. Instead of having this be “dead time” we can offer things like Spanish lessons, magic shows, or even modified yoga for the kids.
Basically, we see the future of Buggy as being an interactive experience, particularly for the younger kids. This is a great way to maximize their time on the van and keep fighting on the van at bay. We’ve already polled groups of our parents of pre-school aged children and nearly all of them are onboard with this idea. They are willing to spend up to 40% more of Buggy services that offer enrichment, which is telling.
While the younger kids benefit most from entertainment on the van, we can also make improvements for our older Buggy riders. This could includes upgrades to the van such as desks (like what the airplanes provide) and on-board ipads for convenient online searches. We already have WiFi on the van, which is an important amenity. We’re also looking into adding bathrooms on the Buggy for our kids on very long rides.
There are so many directions we can go in to enhance the Buggy experience. As we scale to different neighborhoods and organize more routes with kids of similar age ranges, we can offer more tailored activities to these groups. We also plan, eventually, to offer field trips and regular afterschool programming to our Buggy kids. Right now we may just be “a van service,” but with the community we are building there is so much opportunity to expand beyond that.
The Buggy Team
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that kids need socialization in order to thrive. While it may have been necessary during the pandemic, social isolation is very harmful to their overall wellbeing and can cause a range of psychological issues. During the height of the pandemic, doctors saw a troubling increase in suicide and depression particularly amongst teenagers. This underscored how integral social engagement is to the lives of children.
At Buggy, we are all about building community and fostering friendships. We want the bus to be a warm, welcoming place where kids can relax after school and connect with friends. We also love that Buggy opens up kids to extracurricular activities or even schools they wouldn’t be able to attend otherwise. Here are 3 ways that we promote socialization within Buggy.
1. Buggy Playdates
We offer complimentary seating for playdates on all our Buggy routes. This helps us grow our community and encourages social interaction between kids. It also gives the playdate child a “taste” of Buggy, without causing any disruption to the route.
2. Meeting Local Kids
When you live in a driving city like Miami, it’s a little harder to meet kids your age than in let’s say, New York City. People often complain that Miami is not as “neighborhoody,” and it can lead to feelings of isolation from neighbors. On Buggy, kid who live the same area, who typically attend the same school, get a chance to connect. This is especially helpful for kids who recently relocated to Miami, of which there are many.
3. School and Extracurricular Choices
Buggy is all about helping kids expand their horizons, with us taking away the obstacle of transportation. Kids can navigate across the city as needed for their extracurriculars. This also means they can pick their school of choice with less constraints.
Buggy is committed to assembling a curated group of kids for each van, based on school and area. They say raising a child “takes a village,” and we aim to become an integral part of that for busy parents.
The Buggy Team
At Buggy, our vision is to help build a world where being a working parent, or parent to many kids, doesn’t have to be an overwhelming burden or expense. We aim to develop services and technology that streamlines the logistical aspects of parenting, and we see transportation as the ideal place to start. School and extracurricular transportation are pain-points impacting parents of kids for over a decade, up until the age where their kids can drive themselves around. With all the vast technology we have at our fingertips, we don’t think this problem is unsolvable.
When we examined the problem at hand, the most obvious place to start was with the Mercedes Sprinter van, the safest van on the market that holds up to 16 kids. Most kids will be transported efficiently by land, but we’re also thinking beyond that. In Miami, you can often get around faster by sea and so we are looking to launch a boat-transportation service in the near future. This could significantly cut down commute time for our Miami Beach, Key Biscayne, and Fisher Island kids. It could also help our Brickell kids avoid the treacherous traffic jams in the afternoon.
If we want to think even further ahead, there’s the possibility to launch a helicopter service for kids going very long distances. In fact, the idea of “Buggy Air” was floated by a Fisher Island parent, who felt badly about how early her child has to be on the ferry in order to get his school in Coral Gables on time. This would be a very costly service, and certainly not affordable to most, but it’s worth exploring as a potential game-changer for kids with long commutes.
These are all very ambitious ideas that take a lot of planning and logistics, but none of them are unachievable. If we are serious about living up to our mission,“schoolcommutesolved,” then we are going to have to think outside the box. Buggy is all about pushing the envelope in terms of finding transportation solutions for families. Who knows, we may just transport kids by land, sea and air in the future!
The Buggy Team
While most parents find us through schools, or by searching online for transportation, a few heard about us from an unlikely source-their building management. In fact, Buggy has been approached by numerous luxury apartment towers in Miami over the past year to help market their units.
Many of the Brickell and Miami Beach condos saw a surge in sales during the pandemic, with New Yorkers and other Northeasterners eager to relocate. These families often come without the support system they had back home. Not to mention they are used to dense cities like New York, where your life can be contained to a 10 block radius. The thought of navigating a spread-out city like Miami is intimidating to any newcomer, traffic notwithstanding.
When you consider where the luxury Miami condos are situated with respect to the top private schools, it makes sense why their management is reaching out. Buggy can be a huge asset in convincing prospective owners to buy into their building. Buyers can move in knowing that their child’s transportation is taken care of. They can enjoy the benefits of living in one of these condos---close commerce, nightlife, and culture--without the burden of a long school commute.
Eventually, through partnerships with large condo buildings, Buggy can start to build express routes to popular schools. It’s already happening on a smaller scale, with buildings in Brickell Key and Downtown offering Buggy to their tenant, and we can really see that relationship flourishing.
In an ideal world, we can all live close to both work and school, but the realities of life are often very different. That’s why Buggy aims to provide a solution that makes life convenient for families, so they can choose where they want to live without worrying about the impact on their children’s education.
The Buggy Team
The Buggy team--and our service--has come a long way since 2019, when we launch at Gulliver Academy with 1 van and exactly 5 kids (2 of them mine). I had researched the market and had (mostly) anecdotal evidence that parents needed this. Every so often I’d survey the moms groups on Facebook, which provided extensive feedback and encouragement that my idea was solid. Still, I had no idea that the idea would take off, much less capture the interest of the Wall Street Journal a mere 2 years later.
Parents, I found, truly wanted this service, and some were desperate for transportation help. But I made a few assumptions about our target customer that proved untrue. For one, working parents weren’t our only demographic. Buggy was needed by working moms and stay at home moms almost in equal proportions. Kids had conflicting schedules, and many parents relied on nannies to make it all work.The second assumption was that private schools would comprise 90% or more of our business. It turns out that charter schools and even local public schools also attracted Buggy clients.
I hadn’t realize how many groups were left out of the public school bus system, including families with divorced parents and those who chose schools outside of their district. Many parents were making great sacrifices to get their children to school, enduring longer commutes to work, or having to negotiate with bosses to arrive late (or leave early). I could feel the strain in so many of our parents voices when they called Buggy, and it relieved me to know that we had a solution.
We grew fast but steadily from servicing one neighborhood, to servicing over 20. Our ridership has increased over 10% month over month, and we’ve been overwhelmed by the reception to Buggy. Without the parent engagement, we could not have gotten this far---and we have so much further to go.
So, this Thanksgiving, I want to thank our community of Buggy Coachies, riders and parents. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday filled with warmth, joy and family.
Isabel and The Buggy Team
Buggy is first to market with the tech-powered school van concept in the country, at least that we are aware of. As a result, the market for door-to-door service is wide open and largely under-served. With Uber and Lyft having all but solved adult transportation, new startups are looking to tackle the obvious missing demographic: children. Notable companies like HopSkipDrive and ZumRides have been addressing this issue on the west coast with an Uber-for-kids model that is costlier than Buggy, but also provides quicker rides.
When I first heard about these companies, I thought “amazing idea, but not an ideal setup for small children”. The reason being that little kids in particular feel more comfortable having the same driver, or at aleast a rotation of familiar ones. While these companies do attempt to connect kids to a steady driver, it seems that there’s a lot of variability, simply by virtue of being “on demand.” They are selling flexibility and convenience, with less commitment required of the parents than Buggy does. The appeal is clear, but whether they can penetrate the market of preschool or young school aged children remains to be seen.
While committing to a full year can overwhelm some parents, it’s a necessary component of the Buggy model. This allows kids to adjust to their new route and get to know both the driver and fellow riders. For the parents, it provides continuity in the route so they can better plan their child’s morning and afternoon schedules. While our “competitors” allow parents to hop on and off the service, that simply doesn’t work when you are operating Mercedes Sprinter vans.
Another aspect of Buggy that differs from competitors is the vehicles we procure--Sprinter vans. These cans come equipped with sophisticated collission interference software, and by their sheet size are safer than your average car. Zum Rides and the uber-for-kids models rely on drivers’ vehicles on their platform. This means that your child would be sharing their ride with 2 or 3 kids, as opposed to 10 like with Buggy. It also means that your children are riding in a van that has merely been vetted by the platform, not managed by a company. I’m sure they have methods for ensuring their vehicles are safe, but it’s definitely not the same level of oversight as Buggy has.
Buggy’s model doesn’t scare quit as easily as a platform, but we are convinced that operating luxury school vans that we own and manage provides the safest transportation option for your precious cargo.
The Buggy Team
Buggy is in very high demand in Miami, and for good reason. The traffic and layout of the city lend themselves to relying heavily on transportation services. It’s simply impractical for working parents to shuttle their children to activities and school without support. We launched back in 2019 with full knowledge that Buggy would take off here in Miami. But as we look to expand Buggy into other markets, here are four qualities we look for in a city:
1. Population Density
Buggy works best when routes are efficient and express-like. You can only do that, realistically, in cities with high population density. It doesn’t need to be New York-level to work well, but routes would be harder to put together in, let’s say, the suburbs. Miami is dense enough that we have routes where we pick up 3 or 4 kids from one building. High levels of need also create a “network effect” within a city, where parents see the Buggy in their neighborhood and then sign up.
2. High Commute Traffic
Needless to say, the demand for Buggy increases with higher levels of congestion, particularly around schools. That’s why we’ve grown the quickest at schools like Gulliver Prep, where just dropping your child in the morning can easily be an hour-long ordeal. When you look at cities like LA or New York, where commute times are exceptionally long, the burden of dropping kids at school and getting to work on time can be a challenge. Buggy helps alleviate some of the morning stress that families feel.
Buggy is not--and likely will never be--the cheapest transportation option for families. For one, we’re door to door, which means that each child adds more time to the route than say, a school bus. Buggy will even walk kids into their extracurriculars if required. That individualized attention paid to each child, not to mention the flexibility of our services, make it costly to run. We are currently more affordable than the Uber-for-kids type services (like HopSkipDrive) but still at least double your yellow school bus.
While we may not be cheap, the value Buggy offers to families is exceptional and often allows them to pick their school of choice. Some families who join don’t quite realize how indispensable Buggy is to their lives until they start.
The Buggy Team